Mr. Ciprian Necula is a State Secretary in the Ministry of European Union Funds representing the Romanian Government at the national level. He is responsible for all human capital projects in Romania including scholarships, grants, and fellowships. At first, Mr. Necula only administered funds allocated to Roma and other vulnerable populations. His current position encompasses allocation of funds intended for all Romanian citizens.
In 2015, former Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, gave a speech concerning poverty in Romania. ‘I realized that the Prime Minister did not understand the full extent of the problem. He did not seem to be aware that children without birth certificates could not attend school and that Roma children were the minority group most likely to be affected by this regulation.’ Ciprian Necula pointed out the contradiction to the Prime Minister, and Mr. Ponta responded by offering him a position as State Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Necula refused. He was next offered a Ministry of Labour position, but again refused. He felt he could not work with the Minister of Labour because she denied the existence of racism in Romania. His role as State Secretary in charge of EU funds has reaffirmed Ciprian’s commitment to Roma activism by allowing him to become more of a power broker on a national scale.
‘The Roma have always been defined by the majority community as “the other”.’ As a child, living in an apartment block in Central Bucharest, Ciprian remembers his mother warning him that he might be called a ‘Gypsy’ at school. Although his mother and father separated when he was three, Ciprian’s aunt, uncle and grandparents all lived in the same block. His grandfather, Ivanciu, was a blacksmith during communist times. The communists promoted him because of his skills and moved the family from the town of Călăraşi to Bucharest. His grandfather transferred his skills to fixing cars, and taught Ciprian basic mechanics.
Although the district was gang infested, Ciprian Necula considers himself lucky to have grown up in Bucharest in post communist times with access to culture, music, social life and education. ‘I especially remember when bananas appeared for the first time in Romania.’ At thirteen, Ciprian applied to a vocational school intending to train as a car mechanic or a policeman. However his mother played a trick on him. He actually took the proficiency test for high school. He attended a prestigious polytechnic high school as one of only two Roma students at the school. One lunch break, Ciprian saw some Romanian boys shoplifting. He realized that if he had agreed to accompany them, he would have been blamed for the crime because he was Roma.
The school counselor advised Ciprian to attend university. His aunt supported this move. Ciprian began in the college of social work, but found it not to his liking and switched to political science at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration.
In the 1990s, after the Romanian Revolution, discriminatory acts toward Roma became increasingly frequent. Under communism, overt racism against minorities was punished, but prejudice was always just under the surface. Ciprian Necula was deeply affected by the racism he saw all around him. At eighteen he joined a Roma political party and took part in a series of creative protests in front of the Austrian Embassy. The protestors recreated a Roma slave market on the exact spot where an actual slave market had existed two hundred years earlier.
In 1998, Ciprian met Nicolae Gheorghe, the founder of the NGO Romani CRISS. Nicolae became his mentor at Romani CRISS. Ciprian wrote for the journal Romani Lil and through a network of journalists was able to promote the work of Romani CRISS. From 2003 to 2007, Ciprian worked with the NGO The Media Monitoring Agency. He started a department to work on anti-discrimination initiatives. One of the most successful was a programme on National TV, Identities. Ciprian Necula worked in conjunction with Necolae Gheorghe on a number of campaigns to stamp out Anti Roma discrimination in former communist block countries.
In 2008, Ciprian Necula became a consultant with the Romanian Government’s SPER Stop Prejudice against Roma intiative. This campaign looked good on paper, but produced little real change. Mr. Necula has put forward the idea of the NGO Roma Butik as a way to show case Romani culture and crafts. However he believes that the NGO model is not the most effective means to address the overall income gap between majority and Roma minority communities in Romania.
‘Discrimination is context specific.’ Ciprian Necula’s dissertation for his 2014 Ph.D. in sociology is entitled Ethnicity and Economic Strategies toward Roma during Communism. Of great interest to Mr. Necula are the differences and yet common threads that link pre-1989 Romania with the present day. During communist times there was both a formal and an informal economy. Communist authorities tolerated Roma involvement in the informal economy as long as they settled and became part of the proletariat. The communists did not tolerate nomadic Roma. Informers in Roma communities would report nomads or semi-nomads in exchange for protection and influence. Nowadays, there is a common belief among Romanians that Romania is a post racist nation. Yet anti Roma prejudice persists; Ciprian’s own daughter has experienced it at school. The criteria for discrimination may have changed, but the attitude that Roma are lazy and undisciplined in engrained.
‘Our goals for the twenty-first century require our selecting potential models to best represent the Roma as a transnational people as Nicolae Gheorghe envisioned. Immediate needs are grass root items: ID cards, birth certificates, titles and deeds to property. Above all, Roma participation in all aspects of society, fully engaged citizens. There are eight hundred million Euros earmarked for the Romanian Roma in EU funds, with funding decisions that will be in effect for the next seven years.’
Ciprian Necula as State Secretary has the capability to design and fund programmes based on observable need, ‘to transform this institution into an effective agent for change’. Ciprian Necula is a trailblazer. A champion of unwavering commitment to sustainable outcomes. A role model for all Romanians.