Two journeys: mobilising through grassroots networks. When Anna and her family of four were evacuated from Inhulets in Mykolaiv Oblast (southern Ukraine), they left their entire livelihoods behind to relocate…
Andra-Lucia Martinescu is a Research Fellow with the Foreign Policy Centre and Co-founder of The Diaspora Initiative, a non-profit based in Luxembourg, specialising in migration and diaspora research. After completing her MPhil in International Relations at the University of Cambridge, Andra continued with a part-time doctorate focusing on the geopolitics of the Black Sea region (which she has yet to submit). She previously worked in various research capacities for the British Army (Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research) and think tanks such as RUSI (Royal United Services Institute for Security and Defence, London) and RAND Europe (Cambridge). Since 2014, Andra conducted extensive fieldwork in the region, including the Republic of Moldova, Transnistria, Ukraine, and Russia. As of February 2022, she helps coordinate humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and from abroad, whilst researching the impact of decentralised/distributed networks in crisis response.
The Political Geography of In-betweenness
There is often a complex relationship between Diasporas and their homelands. This issue was previously examined in the first paper of the ‘Understanding the Romanian Diaspora’ series, particularly explaining how civic activism increasingly shapes the organisation of Romanian communities abroad. Surfacing in response to social and political dynamics affecting the home country such forms of political mobilisation are only beginning to shape diasporic identities. Protests across Europe brought to the forefront the civic and political demands and aspirations of those who decided to migrate towards better economic opportunities, or simply, where stability helped them build more manageable livelihoods, comparatively free from uncertainty. The effects of this widespread mobilisation echoed transnationally, and helped internationalise otherwise localised, domestic issues.
During the 2019 European elections (and national referendum on anti-corruption laws), as Romanians yet again queued for hours on end outside embassies expecting to cast their ballot (a great many did not vote), I was frequently asked about more viable alternatives to the long and frustrating wait (voting by post, for example). Why were there so few voting stations across the country? Were Romanian authorities oblivious to the turnout? Was the poor organisation intentional, with bureaucratic hurdles deliberately imposed so as to hamper the process? Unaccustomed to such exasperating voting practices other citizens were baffled by our democratic enthusiasm. Almost every passer-by asked if the turnout was to be attributed to the Communist, authoritarian legacy, with people now eager to exercise a previously denied constitutional right. Such instances always make for interesting conversations because they open host societies to political, historical or even cultural realities, which in absence of transnational mobility would have remained peripheral. They also show how host societies tend to perceive and understand the multifaceted political contexts in which Diasporas are anchored, in relation to the state of origin, but also as a strategic constituency within countries of destination. Voting extended the participative space beyond the homeland into the very fabric of host societies, but perhaps more insightful to external audiences was the way in which the (voting) process itself was sanctioned and conducted by Romanian authorities.
The mismanagement of polling stations abroad amply demonstrated how Romanian state institutions and a government captured by a ruling, but largely contested coalition wilfully acted to disenfranchise this foreign-resident segment of the population. It also showed how homeland institutions tend to perceive the diaspora, thus exposing a fraught relationship and amplifying a tension that at the same time consolidated the political and civic identity of those abroad. Asked about the failure to foresee such a substantial turnout, the Minister of Foreign Affairs deflected accusations by stating that ‘nobody knows how many Romanians live abroad’. Over the years, there has been no consistent, institutionally-driven effort to gather data or engage in a nation-wide, informed conversation about migration. The statement is also revealing, because it epitomises a deeply entrenched institutional bias that governs official attitudes towards the diaspora. The more the diaspora becomes instrumental to regime change, demanding political accountability, the more officially sanctioned discourses curtail its actual influence. Consequently, lacking a knowledge basis, homeland engagement policies mostly stem from transitory, politicised interpretations of what the diaspora constitutes.
Yet, the rift between homeland institutional narratives and the shared, transnational reality of the many who decided to migrate persists. The fracture is also visible in Romania’s pivotal strategy towards its diaspora, which centres on repatriation (relocation to the home country). The diaspora’s supposed return is incentivised through different schemes of relocation, spanning from business opportunities and tax rebates to funding for start-ups. There may be some nominal benefits attached to this, but even so there are no official statistics to help us gauge the effectiveness or merit of such policies. Despite the much-invoked nostalgia for the homeland, often subject to opinion polls and emotional populist pleas, structural impunity and systemic corruption continues to socially disempower and drive people away. As mentioned in our previous brief, the diaspora is perceived as a financial resource, and depending on electoral cycles, either as a threat or an opportunity. This myopic view seeps into official narratives and political actions.
It is also reminiscent of the Streetlight effect, an observational bias that ensues when individuals only search for something where it is the easiest to look. In the same way, institutional actors (in Romania) opt to perceive migration as temporary, and the diaspora through the benign prism of its ethno-cultural identity. Strategies of repatriation appeal to this affective component of belonging, the return to the homeland, without much consideration to the root causes that drive the ‘exodus’ in the first place. Diaspora engagement policies also lack an informed basis, a knowledge gap that became evident when we started researching the phenomenon.
If migration is considered to be temporary then entire spaces of exclusion emerge, with home institutions negating the capacity or the will of certain segments of the diaspora to fully integrate and partake in the political and civic lives of their host societies. Evidently, not much is being done in terms of assisting with the process of integration, or even encouraging political participation, apart from sporadic volunteer-based initiatives, both underfunded and localised. Consequently, despite its considerable demographic presence across Europe (but also North America) the diaspora’s transnational impact, reach and influence remain limited. The Romanians’ representation and participation in the politics of host countries are equally modest.
However, the two spaces inhabited by the diaspora, that of origin and of destination, are not mutually exclusive, but profoundly intertwined. As we have often witnessed in the many instances of mobilisation abroad, homeland-oriented politics are very much a reality lived and breathed within host societies; and perhaps more importantly, a reality that is continually mediated and conveyed through dialogue, albeit informally. Diasporic advocacy thus creates a hybrid political geography, an ‘in-betweenness’, where identity and agency are constantly negotiated. However, protests as repertoires of social action are, in Charles Tilly’s words, cycles of contention. Civic mobilisation does impact governance in both countries of origin and destination, but it essentially remains an act of contestation, since institutions may or may not take heed, as is often the case.
The Strategic Dimension of Diaspora Communities
This is precisely why, we set out to explore new structures of opportunity that could enable a deeper engagement with host societies, by enhancing the civic and political participation of (Romanian) diaspora communities. We also investigate whether the diaspora itself can effectively advance Romanian foreign policy and strategic interests (as a non-state/ transnational actor), and to what extent bilateral relations (between countries of origin and destination) can be mediated through diaspora initiatives. In a nutshell, the upcoming publication and network analysis, examines the strategic dimension of diaspora communities, as a means of bridging civic activism with national interests, pertaining to both the homeland and the countries of residence. This work aims to achieve several objectives.
Firstly, we hope to challenge home country institutional attitudes and induce a strategic shift in policymaking. If repatriation has been the main objective so far, how can we broaden these assumptions to encapsulate other types of diaspora contributions that nonetheless benefit the homeland (through expertise, know-how, work ethos and professional networks to mention but a few)? The institutional willingness to formulate policies beyond the requirement of geographical presence (in the state of origin) and innovatively utilising this vast social capital will certainly pose challenges.
Such a shift would require dismantling the centralised approach and entrenched patronage structures that govern the relationship between state and diaspora. Moreover, inter-institutional coordination, especially integrated funding mechanisms that support capacity building for Romanian associations abroad ought to replace the bureaucratic processes that lack in transparency and hamper initiative. The institutions of external representation (embassies, Romanian cultural centres, etc.) are often passive, thus failing to meet the specific needs of diaspora communities. The preferred mode of engagement is mainly focused on the promotion of cultural and traditional events that, on the long term remain largely inconsequential. The cultural-populist model of engagement promoted by homeland institutions reduces otherwise complex and heterogenous diasporic communities to mere appendages of an ethno-linguistic/religious identity.
This reductionist view from Romanian institutions also confines bilateral dialogue to mandated tropes, official discourses frequently disconnected from the grievances and aspirations of those seemingly represented. It is no wonder then that the voting queues create a more effective space of critical dialogue and exchange with host societies than most government endorsed public diplomacy efforts. How can bilateral dialogues, even the culturally oriented ones, have any meaningful impact in absence of legitimacy? How can diaspora communities wholeheartedly act on behalf of the same homeland institutions that repeatedly curtail its democratic freedoms? Both aspects require first and foremost engaging in a process of building trust. Therefore, a failure to acknowledge and empower the diaspora as a political, strategic and civic actor, will only perpetuate a sense of disenfranchisement from national aspirations, in both Romania and host countries. Instead, diaspora communities will continue to engage in this dynamic of contestation, attuned to the homeland, through protests and civic mobilisation, but incapable of fully contributing towards its development (from wherever they may be).
Secondly, through our vast mapping study of the Romanian diaspora, we hope to provide an institutional resource for host societies. Although the geographical scope is global, each analysis is tailored to reflect specific online as well as offline interactions in each country of residence. We analyse the different modes of association, the networks that emerge and their impact, whether local, national or transnational. We look into the scope and outreach of Romanian diasporic associations not only in countries of destination but also in relation to the homeland, by examining financing patterns and evaluating the effectiveness of diaspora engagement policies so far. The networked approach also helps us visualise levels of political and civic participation in host societies and thus, the extent to which Romanian communities, access and navigate the structures of opportunity available to them.
Findings from the Network Analysis
Most importantly, we depart from the monolithic view that anchors Diasporas in the emotional rhetoric of identity politics. Our findings show a complex web of interactions, albeit fragmented. The overall network is centralised in its relationship to the home country, particularly with diaspora funding bodies, such as the Ministry for Romanians Abroad. The institutional preference for cultural engagement centred on folklore and traditions is also reflected in the financing trends. Associations purporting to organise culturally themed events have been the main beneficiaries of funding.
We are not dismissing altogether the significance of cultural capital as an instrument for social cohesion (amongst members of the diaspora), as well as public diplomacy. Promoting and preserving the culture, language and traditions of the homeland are indispensable in mediating an understanding of national identity. However, so long as state-sponsored discourses focus exclusively on the cultural dimension to define and structure the relationship between the homeland and the diaspora, then the latter’s de facto influence will remain limited.
The implications are far-reaching. Despite its considerable demographic presence, the diaspora’s associative models so far have had a limited impact. Besides its sporadic political mobilisation, transnational influence remains modest, which could also be attributed to reduced organisational capabilities, low visibility and online presence. The disproportionate interaction with host country institutions and low participation in the public sphere show that diaspora communities are not a fully-fledged political actor. As a consequence, the diaspora’s strategic dimension is yet to be realised. Part of the solution resides in changing the political geography of scope and aspirations. The diaspora is politically and civically anchored in the homeland, but institutions have done little to absorb and utilise its potential. In effect, its capacity to act has been limited to the repertoire of protest and contestation.
These forms of political communication are undoubtedly useful and necessary, but they ought to be expanded. Homeland institutions (so far influenced by the different parties’ priorities and interests) have duplicitously politicised the diaspora, capturing initiatives through patronage, and often weakening the autonomy of diaspora associations by preferentially allocating funding to those most amenable. The centralised network also shows increased dependency on government support, which in turn (and given the circumstances) encourages a tactic of subsistence. As a consequence, since their priorities are misaligned, many diaspora organisations become disengaged from their communities, embroiled instead in a competition for political favours, or the outright syphoning of public funding. Leadership rivalries within and amongst associations further erode legitimacy and discourage participation from public life. The impetus to collaborate or even seek commonalities of interest remains low, and so does the impact. In many instances, diaspora communities tend to perceive associations as an interface with their host societies and public institutions. However, in absence of more structured support, people primarily rely on personal, mutual assistance networks. Provided their priorities are not misaligned, diaspora organisations can and should be viewed as a gateway towards active engagement and participation in the civic and political spheres of host countries, because they are uniquely placed to enable access to these structures of opportunities.
For example, in the UK civic initiatives with a transnational impact (across multiple states or even continents) are more prominent than in other countries. This means that certain associations, even if volunteer-based, seek collaborative projects or partnerships with organisations beyond the UK (and not necessarily with other Romanians). Most diaspora associations in the UK have an online presence (website/social media or both), which fosters better communication and outreach. We found that online presence also increases the frequency of collaborations and partnerships amongst diaspora associations in the same country and beyond. Interactions with government bodies or institutions indicate some degree of participation in the host country’s public life and a more nuanced appraisal of local/national politics. This also demonstrates that communities are significantly more attuned to the structures of opportunity present in their host societies.
The networked approach is not rigid or static, because the diasporic ecosystem, with its association patterns is constantly transforming. Our aim is to render diaspora organisations as well as state institutions more self-reflective, capable of identifying opportunities for engagement with wider publics and building the kind of legitimacy that would foster influence. We hope that with strategic foresight and collective support, we can use the diaspora ecosystem in the UK to build a case study of good practice. Given the current political climate, there is renewed urgency in exploring ways of maximising the diaspora’s relevance in the public sphere, by engaging in a strategic dialogue that could essentially shape the future of bilateral relations between Romania and the UK. Opening such a conversation would also make institutions more cognisant of the diaspora’s political remittances, of how the diaspora can innovatively contribute towards leveraging its countries’ strategic role and international posture.
Contributions by Catalina Moisescu (University of Fribourg).
Research from the Romanian Diaspora project - Funding for Romanian Diaspora Associations 2014-2019 - can be found here: https://public.tableau.com/profile/andra.lucia.martinescu#!/vizhome/RomanianDiasporaProjectsFunding2014-20192/Dashboard1
 Andra-Lucia Martinescu and Rares Burlacu, Understanding the Romanian Diaspora, FPC, February 2019, https://fpc.org.uk/understanding-the-romanian-diaspora/
 The Parliament, dominated by the Social Democrats (PSD) voted to selectively amend the judicial system, particularly the code of criminal procedure by lowering sentences for some offences and the statute of limitations. The pervasive aim was to put an end to several corruption investigations and ongoing court cases involving high-ranking politicians and dignitaries (including then PSD leader Liviu Dragnea). Centre-right President Klaus Iohannis called for a non-binding referendum in a bid to combat the government’s (Social Democratic Party - PSD) controversial justice reforms, set to pardon and confer amnesty over graft-related crimes. Voters were asked if the government should be barred from using emergency decrees to change legislation on justice and whether they supported a ban on any amnesty for those convicted of corruption. 85% (including the Romanian diaspora) voted against the government holding such powers.
 There are no official statistics as to how many Romanians failed to vote (in the diaspora), but estimates suggest tens of thousands.
 A coalition led by the Social Democrats (PSD), which included ALDE (the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Party) and UDMR (the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania Party). The coalition dissolved in August 2019 leaving PSD in charge of a problematic minority government.
 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was tasked with organising elections abroad; the same Minister (member of ALDE Party) was in charge of the 2014 Presidential elections abroad, which resulted in the same public outrage because of the poor organisation and misallocation of resources.
 Translated from Romanian by the authors, original statement available online at: https://www.g4media.ro/ce-stiu-autoritatile-despre-numarul-romanilor-care-traiesc-in-afara-tarii-cea-mai-buna-estimare-vine-de-la-autoritatile-din-tarile-gazda-38-milioane-de-romani.html
 Symptomatic of both homeland and at times host-country institutions.
 Charles Tilly & Sidney G. Tarrow (2007). Contentious Politics (Boulder CO: Colorado). Passim. Within social movement theory, the term cycles of contention, also referred to as protest cycles or cycles of collective action, traces waves of protest and social mobilisation from their incipient phase to the very end, looking at outcomes, changes in participation and the tactics deployed by the different groups involved in the protest movement.
 Soon to be published by Foreign Policy Centre the study analyses the Ecosystem of Romanian diaspora communities in the UK.
 An analysis of funding patterns (allocated by the Ministry of Romanians Abroad) for diaspora associations can be accessed here (soon, in English): https://public.tableau.com/views/RADIALFinantareAsociatiiDPRRPStat/Romania?:display_count=y&:origin=viz_share_link; the graph shows which diaspora associations and what type of projects received funding (granted by the Ministry of Romanians Abroad). Based on the approved projects’ scope, we are able to gauge the government’s priorities in its policies of engagement, as well as the countries of residence where the diaspora associations which benefited from funding, are located.
 Here we refer to the mostly volunteer based associations created by Romanian diaspora communities and officially registered in the countries of residence. They vary in scope and outreach, with most catering for local Romanian communities, offering legal support upon settlement, organising events and generally enabling socialisation (with varying degrees effectiveness).[post_title] => Understanding the Romanian Diaspora: A Strategically Important Network [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => understanding-the-romanian-diaspora-a-strategically-important-network [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-03 17:12:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-03 16:12:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=4220 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3229 [post_author] => 60 [post_date] => 2019-02-21 15:53:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-21 15:53:25 [post_content] => Diasporas have been researched extensively, in both current and historical contexts. This essay is the first in a series that aims to deliver a fresh perspective by focusing on the complex relationship between homelands and diaspora communities. Bureaucratic and institutional practices in the home country have shaped to certain degrees, at times considerably, how diaspora communities interact, associate and organise themselves abroad. In particular, by examining the Romanian diaspora we can glimpse into larger issues of governance and more specifically, into Romania’s fight against corruption.For over a decade now, the authors of this study have been part of an expansive diaspora. And whilst fully integrated in the societies that have welcomed us and made use of our expertise, we remained committed to bringing about positive change in our home-country. This is precisely what motivated our current project, which explores in-depth how diaspora communities interact, between themselves, with home and/or host country public institutions as well as other entities (i.e. civil society, media and businesses). Moreover, this networked approach (employing Social Network Analysis methodology) helped us visualise the impact and geographical scope of diaspora initiatives worldwide. We believe such an endeavour is relevant in the context of evidence-based policy-making, in both the homeland and countries of residence. By mapping the associative models of diaspora communities, the principles and motivations for their organisation, as well as the scope of their initiatives, the analysis places diasporas at the confluence between the homeland and their host societies. Diasporas should be viewed as a strategic resource, uniquely positioned to benefit from the ever-expanding geographies of interconnectivity, and thus capable of advancing the nation-states’ resources and foreign policy interests, at a transnational level.This introductory brief examines the Romanian diaspora in light of the more recent political events and the widespread civic mobilisation, which demonstrates a shifting diasporic identity. The study also explores the response of home country institutions and the different strategies of engagement that shape diaspora involvement in policy and decision-making processes at home and abroad. We also focus on the Romanian institutions’ perception of diaspora issues and identity, by examining the strategies and state-sponsorship of diaspora organisations. We argue that civic activism is gradually becoming an organising principle for Romanians abroad, largely in response to the political turmoil affecting the home country.The Romanian Diaspora. Aspects of civic mobilisation and political activism Civic mobilisation has been commensurate with a collective perception of the importance of particular issues. In other words, what takes precedence in a nation’s consciousness that makes civic and political activism possible? In the case of Romanians living and working abroad, the fight against corruption at large, or against the constant political meddling in the justice system, has bolstered public dissent and led to widespread civic mobilisation. The impulse to emigrate in the first place is also attributed to the precariousness of home country politics – a lack of stability, of prospects or economic security. Such dynamics are interwoven. On the one hand, Romanians emigrate in search of a stable future, but in most cases, they remain attuned to homeland politics. On the other hand, and quite paradoxically, it has been the same protracted uncertainty of home country politics, public mistrust in institutions, and the past experience of communist dictatorship that made Romanians abroad weary of political involvement and active participation in their host societies.On the 10th of August 2018, diaspora communities organised an anti-corruption protest in Bucharest. Participation was wide and not limited to the diaspora: public intellectuals, members of the opposition, civil society organisations, Romanian citizens at large congregated in Victoria Square (where the Romanian Government is headquartered) to voice dissent against a regime that is perceived to encroach on democratic values, particularly the rule of law. The protest made international headlines also in light of the repressive use of force deployed by security forces (the Gendarmerie) to disperse the crowds. The continued lack of accountability for the events that unfolded on the 10th of August infuriated the court of public opinion, both Romanian and European.The anatomy of this protest is particularly interesting because it indicates a convergence of interests: Romanians in the home country and those abroad hold similar grievances with regard to Romania’s political trajectory. Moreover, the protest and the exposure it received acted to internationalise home country politics. Those who could not mobilise in Bucharest assembled in European capitals in solidarity with the movement at home. We witness a complex dynamic by which diaspora communities export the sets of communitarian values and good governance principles internalised in host societies back into the home country. Thus, a system of political and civic expectations emerges, at a transnational level. Of course, this is not to idealise host societies in their entirety, but rather to emphasise the context of reflexivity, which diaspora communities experience through livelihoods in more developed societies. Invariably, a comparison is drawn in relation to the homeland and the perceived vulnerabilities or disparities (social, economic, political) that drove the decision to emigrate in the first place. Home politics are therefore internalised, stimulated and reshaped through these new experiences and the perpetual aspirations that arise through migration.Homeland Institutions and the Romanian DiasporaAlthough the mobilisation of Romanians abroad has been significant, particularly in response to the fight against corruption back at home, transnational initiatives stemming from diaspora organisations are relatively modest. In the same vein, political activism remains sporadic, construed as a reaction to political events in the homeland. Our analysis indicates that diaspora associations are less prone to cooperate, partly due to their limited organisational capacity, and lack of online visibility. To a certain extent, the same mistrust in institutions translates into apathy when it comes to formal organisation. In explaining the weak transnational impact of diaspora initiatives, institutional attitudes towards Romanians abroad, are perhaps the most relevant. The various but largely ineffective engagement policies are characterised by a lack of evidence and publicly available information on the Romanian diaspora. Upon embarking on this research project we became aware of such caveats, particularly the institutional urgency to produce new strategies in absence of an informed basis.Despite having an institutional framework in place, with a Ministry for Romanians Abroad, Presidential Advisors, as well as substantial European funding available for diaspora associations abroad, little has been achieved in terms of addressing this persistent knowledge gap. Moreover, engagement with the diaspora so far mirrored the patronage practices that largely characterise Romanian politics. Funding allocation, administered by the Ministry for Romanians Abroad has often lacked transparency and failed to address the most pressing issues facing communities abroad and the domestic effects of continued migration. We partly attributed this to a persistent cognitive dissonance in how the Romanian diaspora is perceived inside the very institutions that seek to represent its interests.Another issue pertaining to institutional attitudes is that diaspora communities are pre-eminently viewed as a financial resource. Although, financial remittances constitute a significant contribution to the country’s economy, the defective administration and distribution of resources towards the public sector (education, healthcare or infrastructure, for instance) render such cross-border flows almost inconsequential for actual domestic growth. To complicate matters further, domestic authorities advanced a bill proposal (April, 2018) requiring Romanians to provide justifying documents when sending back sums exceeding 2000EUR, despite Romania’s heavy reliance on the steady influx of remittances. This largely attests to the politicisation of diaspora issues within Romanian institutions – if the voting preferences of diaspora communities are clearly not favouring the current government, then the vast bureaucratic apparatus is selectively deployed to suppress dissent, wherever it may stem.The disproportionate funding of events promoting traditions and culture abroad (without any standardised framework of how such events should be organised in the first place) shows that Romanian institutions tend to favour a cultural-populist model for diaspora engagement. Concerning the capacity to access funding, our study shows that many diaspora organisations across different countries are dependent on governmental funding, thus exposing a dynamic by which, associations align their objectives with those elaborated or at times, dictated by Romanian authorities, irrespective of the needs of those communities they aim to serve. This has led to an entrenched patronage system and increased politicisation of diaspora issues. In many cases, these funding patterns led to a mushrooming of diaspora organisations that opportunistically syphon public funding, with the knowledge and tacit consent of domestic public authorities. This is precisely why an evaluation of such practices becomes momentous also within the wider context of anti-corruption measures. We are not completely discarding the role of diasporas in promoting and conducting cultural diplomacy, however, we consider that in the current political and social climate institutional priorities are severely misaligned. More importantly, these state-driven policies had so far negligible impact on strengthening the (political) representation of Romanians abroad, in their homeland and elsewhere.Similar to other CEE (Central Eastern European) and Balkan countries the Romanian diaspora has a significant demographic presence, not only in Europe but also across the globe. Despite this, its organisational capacity remains precarious and Romanians abroad are poorly represented in their host countries. Political representation seems to be equally poor in Romania. With an official estimate of 3.5 million Romanians living abroad, they are represented by only four deputy mandates in the Parliament’s lower house and two senators. Ever-changing electoral procedures have increasingly hampered diaspora voting. The more recent Romanian Presidential elections (2014) saw innumerable queues forming in front of voting stations across Europe (mainly Romanian Embassies and Consulates), diaspora communities waiting for hours on end to cast their ballot. Apparently, not enough voting stations were made available by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (tasked with organising the elections) and a great many did not get a chance to exercise their constitutional right. This failure and lack of institutional accountability fomented dissent and led to an almost unprecedented civic mobilisation. To put this into perspective, political participation, particularly diaspora voter turnout, has been low, in the previous elections not exceeding 9% (abroad).ConclusionThis introductory brief aimed to emphasise the many paradoxes that epitomise the relationship between the Romanian state and its diaspora. Such caveats partly stem from a persistent cognitive dissonance, with institutions consistently failing to build the trust needed for a civic-public partnership. Our research showed that Romanian institutions tended to endorse what was perceived as a benign form of diaspora engagement, centred on promoting a specific ethnic-cultural identity abroad. Current state policies largely, albeit intentionally, ignore the civic dimension of diasporic identity. Despite this, civic and political activism increasingly forms an organising basis for diaspora communities. Common themes such as good governance and the fight against corruption have become rallying points for collective mobilisation, at home and abroad. The following briefs shall expand on the networked approach in studying diasporas, as well as on the associative models pursued by Romanian communities living abroad.We believe that mapping the Romanian diaspora is a momentous and necessary endeavour. For the homeland it goes to show the political influence that can be harnessed through activism abroad. Unfortunately, we are yet to witness a constructive institutional response, which aligns policies to make use of this vast social capital abroad. For host societies or countries of residence, the study will hopefully highlight the transnational potential of diaspora communities as an alternative source for more effective, future bilateral engagement.AuthorsAndra-Lucia Martinescu is currently pursuing a PhD in International Relations with the University of Cambridge, focusing on geopolitical developments in the Black Sea region. She also completed an Mphil with the same department, analysing the transformation of national security doctrines in the post-Soviet space. She has extensive experience in operational and strategic research having worked for the British Army, RAND Europe and the Royal United Services Institute for Security and Defence (RUSI, London) in various research and analysis capacities. She is currently an independent consultant, focusing on civil society projects, diasporas as well as public policy and good governance. She is an FPC Research Fellow.Rares Burlacu is a doctoral candidate at the École Nationale d’Administration Publique in Québec (Canada), focusing on Canadian digital diplomacy in relation to the EU and China. From 2009 he has been teaching high-level courses in public diplomacy at ENAP. Rares currently coordinates Romania's rotating EU Presidency in Canada through diaspora initiatives. His publications can also be accessed on HuffPost Quebec, La Presse and Le Devoir. Ruxandra Trandafoiu (2013). Diaspora Online. Identity Politics and Romanian Migrants (New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books). P.: 17; By transnational initiatives we refer to those actions that benefit diaspora communities across multiple countries of residence, as well as the homeland. Such initiatives stem from close cooperation/coordination between diaspora organisations and have a transnational impact. World Bank reports 4.94 billion USD for 2017 in financial remittances. [post_title] => Understanding the Romanian Diaspora [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => understanding-the-romanian-diaspora [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-03 17:12:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-03 16:12:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=3229 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ))
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