Negli ultimi giorni ho lavorato ad un ‘concept paper’ sul tema dell’integrazione dei Rom in Kosovo. Si tratta di uno degli ‘output’ del lavoro che sto svolgendo al momento in Kosovo per EAR (European Agency for Reconstruction) in supporto al governo locale per la stesura e implementazione di una strategia nazionale per l’integrazione dei RAE (Roma, Askhalija and Egyptians). A partire da alcune riflessioni generali sul concetto stesso di integrazione sviluppate soprattutto nell’ambito della sociologia delle migrazioni (forzate), ho provato – e si tratta di un primo draft – a proporre alcuni interventi sul terreno che permettano, tenuto conto della situazione locale, di realizzare un’integrazione reale e effettiva dei Rom. 

Per gli addetti ai lavori (accademici, soprattutto) non si tratta di niente di nuovo, quello che forse puo’ interessare e’ il passaggio dal piano teorico a quello pratico, con l’individuazione di una serie di obiettivi strategici in relazione alla dimensione e esperienza kosovara a cui sono associate alcune proposte di azione. Queste proposte non sono ovviamente esaustive, ma vogliono piuttosto complementare il lavoro che e’ stato svolto fino ad ora da altri attori (KFOS e OSCE in particolare). 

Concept paper: Integrating minorities in a post-conflict society

Nando Sigona

Aims of the paper

The aims of this paper are threefold:

          to provide a brief overview of the debate on minorities’ integration in the European context;

          to frame the discussion around the draft strategy for RAE integration within the broader debate on migrants’ and minorities’ integration;

          based on previous discussion, to suggest some ways forward to enhance effectiveness and efficacy of the strategy.

Defining integration

The concept of integration requires some definition to avoid ambiguity. It is used to denote varying social policy approaches which are informed, in different countries, by their particular philosophies of nationhood, social order and citizenship (Zetter et al, 2002).

For Soysal (1994) the modes of inclusion exercised by nation states in relation to foreign populations and ethnic minorities hold the key to understanding the processes of citizenship and integration. The argument here is that the way states incorporate these individuals and communities reveal the structure and function of membership systems or incorporation regimes. These regimes comprise legal rules, policy frameworks, and administrative and organisational structures. Incorporation regimes are historically encoded outcomes of the divergent and contrasting ways in which states have come to define their understanding of membership and belonging.

Castles (1995) has proposed three models to categorize more accurately the treatment of ethnic minorities. He defines differential exclusion as a system which incorporates minorities into some spheres but excludes them from other areas. The second model, assimilation, aims to incorporate migrants and minorities into the dominant society “through a one-sided process of adaptation” so that they become culturally and socially indistinguishable. Castles’ third model, pluralism, implies that immigrants and ethnic minorities “should be granted equal rights in all spheres of society, without being expected to give up their diversity”. In practice, though, most countries’ policies are based on a combination of these different approaches.

Penninx (2000) adds another dimension, by exploring what are the distinctive features of citizenship and, more particularly, what are the channels of mobilisation available to immigrants and ethnic minorities in a state. Dwelling on the key benchmark of citizenship, he suggests that this can be differentiated in terms of three rights-based spheres:

  • Judicial and political rights: eg formal rights of citizenship
  • Socio-economic rights: eg employment rights, welfare entitlements
  • Cultural and religious rights: eg inclusion of migrant organisations, multi-cultural education

Defining citizenship in terms of these three distinct spheres of rights enhances the discussion considerably. It makes clear the modalities, by which citizenship and incorporation are enacted, whilst simultaneously indicating the policy environments within which these rights should be developed and protected.

Empirical research illustrates many points of contact between the experiences of minorities and migrants, however a number of critical factors distinguish the experience of forced migration for refugees compared to other groups and thus the implications for integration. Amongst the key variables are: the forced removal (either directly or indirectly expelled) from membership of the former ascriptive group; the predominance of political rather than economic imperatives to migrate; the loss of ‘home’ that makes return often a further displacement.

Richmond (1994) introduces two additional perspectives to the integration process. First, he captures the essential contrast between refugees and other forms of migration in terms of degrees of autonomy in the migratory process – refugees are reactive migrants as opposed to proactive in the latter case. This critical distinction impacts most obviously on the propensity to migrate and the predisposing factors. But the significance of Richmond’s analysis is to show, moving the focus from the state to the individual, how the variables creating the impetus for migration also condition subsequent reaction to protracted exile and the processes of return and reintegration.

Reinforcing and developing this point, Berry (1980, 1997) also locates the migrant/refugee/ethnic minority individual at the centre of the analysis. His conceptualisation of acculturation from a psychological perspective focuses on the range of possible strategies pursued by, or available to, actors (see table below).

Berry’s Acculturation Strategies

Is my cultural identity of value and to be retained?

Are positive relations with larger (dominant) society to be sought?














Adapted from Berry 1980

In later work Berry (1997) develops the multidimensional character of acculturation. He points to the significance of mediating variables at both individual and group levels, the differential pressures for change emanating from the dominant group level  and the non-dominant group level, and distinguishing between the way these two levels moderate the process prior to and during the acculturation  process.

Conceptualizing lack of integration is equally difficult, since the dominant society cannot be viewed as a homogeneous and static entity. Debates of marginality and social exclusion go some way towards recognizing the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of outsider status.

Contemporary discussions of social exclusion have emerged at a European Union (EU) level to analyse the processes which lead to inter-related situations of unemployment, poverty, unequal access to education, low social status, powerlessness and the denial of rights. Although most countries apply fragmented policies targeting the separate manifestations of exclusion, there is an awareness that the ideal response should involve multi-dimensional approaches which reflect the complexity of the factors involved.

The Council of Europe has defined integration as a two way process whereby individuals change society at the same time as they integrate into it. The World Development Summit in 1995 prescribes the goal of integration as “a society for all” in which all people have the right and the ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives.

A key role is also played by underlying assumptions as to what is, or should be, a desirable social order and what is constitutive for the internal cohesion of a society.

Successful integration policy requires working towards the creation a welcoming and inclusive society. Those who feel threatened by or excluded from the society, instead of striving to belong, may seek to emphasise their difference through isolating themselves in their own communities.

The development of an inclusive and welcoming society is a key prerequisite to the successful integration of RAE minorities. However, the creation of a welcoming society which encourages and fosters the integration of these communities requires determined action on a number of fronts.

Trust and solidarity between different groups in society are crucial for a successful integration process. Governments, politicians and their parties, the media and educational institutions all have a role to play in fostering understanding and solidarity.

To conclude, three different, but equally relevant, components can be singled out to describe integration:

a)      It is dynamic and two-way: it places demands both on the society and the individuals and/or the communities concerned.

b)      It is long term: rather than understanding it as an ending status, integration should be understood as a process which requires continuous commitment, action and adjustment from all parties.

c)      It is multi-dimensional: it relates both to the conditions for and actual participation in all aspects of the economic, social, cultural, civil and political life of the country as well as to individuals’ own sense of belonging and membership in the society as a whole.

Promoting RAE integration in Kosovo

It is estimated the RAE population currently in Kosovo is roughly one third of that before the turmoil of the 1990s and the war of 1999. Displaced RAE are settled mainly in the Balkan region, with Serbia being the main country of asylum, and Western Europe, where the largest RAE population is settled in Germany.

The prospect/possibility of (mass) return of RAE to Kosovo in the near future has several implications for society in general and for policy makers. Being able to anticipate some of the possible outcomes of such return migration flow and to plan in advance in order to facilitate the resettlement of the returnees is crucial for the success of the Strategy.

Understanding and acknowledging the experience of exile and forced migration and its various impacts on RAE communities is a crucial starting point for policy makers. Existing research on return programmes highlights the importance for successful reintegration into society to address, together with socio-economic needs of returnees, the very cause of refugee flight and to promote civic reconciliation and trust among all components of society, and within the RAE community itself.

This argument resonates in the interviews carried out in April with RAE activists and organisations in Kosovo and abroad who pointed out how trust and reconciliation, together with security, are important foundations for a positive development of inter-ethnic relations not only for displaced RAE but also for those in the country.

Policy aimed to promote the integration of minorities, in particular in a society which experienced in its recent history war, conflict and violence, should include the issue of community relations, social cohesion and reconciliation into its scope. As previous discussion as shown, integration is a two way process in which different parties participate and contribute towards a common goal: a welcoming and inclusive society for all.

Limiting the scope of the Strategy to RAE only, without addressing the broader society, may cause tension within the society, as it may raise enmities between ethnic groups based on the allocation of limited resources and fail to address uncertainties and pressures due to the general political situation in the country.

In order to broaden the scope of the Strategy initiatives and opportunities for RAE organisations and civil society to contribute and participate in the development, implementation and monitoring of the Strategy should be organised and facilitated, as it was initially done through the working groups. The involvement and participation of RAE communities and civil society in general in the different stages of the process is crucial for reaching the goals of the Strategy.

Developing trust into institutions and positive community relations should be not only one of the main aims of the Strategy, but is also a fundamental prerequisite to its success.

Policy goals and implementation

The following table develops more in details some insights based on the previous discussion and suggest some additional goals and possible measures which would enhance the Strategy’s effectiveness and efficacy.


Policy goal

Proposals for action

  • an effort to mainstreaming RAE policy and broadening its scope to include local authorities, civil society actors and society in general;
  • Organising a high-profile national conference with the participation of local authorities (involving high ranking representatives) and civil society organisations (including RAE organisations) to present and discuss the government vision and strategy for RAE integration
  • Organising training sessions with local authorities’ civil servants and local RAE NGOs on the Strategy and its implementation;
  • Developing media strategy with the participation of mainstream media
  • addressing the issues of reconciliation and security for ethnic minorities in the discussion on RAE integration in society;
  • Effectively implementing anti-discrimination legislation;
  • Making sure minorities are adequately represented in police/military forces;
  • Effectively enforcing the rule of law and protecting minority rights;
  • Effectively prosecuting racially motivated crime;
  • Promoting public debate on reconciliation through mainstream media
  • Building ownership in the Strategy and trust in the institutions in charge for its implementation among RAE communities;
  • Allocating adequate funding from Kosovo budget to the implementation of the strategy;
  • Effectively monitoring the implementation of the strategy with the involvement of civil society, in particular RAE organisations;
  • Effectively implementing the Strategy, setting baseline data and clear indicators/targets;
  • Creating an focal point in the Office of the Prime Minister in charge of the overall coordination of the implementation of the Strategy, liaising directly with senior officials in ministries and local authorities;


  • including RAE organisations abroad in the development of the Strategy;


  • organising an international conference with RAE organisations and activists based outside Kosovo;
  • create a moderated online forum where to invite NGOs to discuss the Strategy;
  • commission a research into needs and expectations of RAE abroad.