Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 18
21 May 2001
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European Roma News
All the important news since 12 May 2001
Eva Sobotka

Slovakia: Ruling in the case of Anastazia Balazova is valid

On 18 May, SME, a Slovak daily, reported that the ruling in the case of 21-year-old Peter Bandur, from Zilina and a soldier enlisted in Slovakia's compulsory military service, is valid.

Bandur brutally killed a mother of eight in front of her children last year. The military district court in Banska Bystrica handed down a guilty ruling in the case of his attack on the Romani family Balaz and for the racially motivated killing of 49-year-old Anastazia Balazova.

Neither the prosecutor nor any party appealed the verdict. Bandur was sentenced to seven years in prisonóin the "lowest penalty" type of prison in his home area.

The court also ordered the soldier to compensate the husband of Anastazia Balazova with 18,000 SKK (approx. 450 USD) and the oldest daughter Stella with 600 SKK (15 USD) Compensation claims of 55 million SKK (1,410,256 USD) made by the family, including the compensation for psychological trauma, will be a matter of civil legal procedure.

 

Every Gypsy is Roma

An article entitled "Europe's spectral nation," covering the state of affairs of Roma in Europe, was published in The Economist this week (on 10 May 2001). Contextually, the article's tone is on the borderline between negative and positive stereotypes. The author aims to cover the Roma story by offering hints into history and then by jumping back into the present situation, which is heavily colored by the social aspects and government policies or ignorance across Europe.

Offering a side note that the EU accession countries, in comparison to EU members, have already demonstrated a better understanding by "merely recognizing the problem," he further continues on in a more negative tone. Citing that the rate of criminality among Roma is high and that "the EU is the Gypsies' best ally" most probably facilitates the paranoia among right-wing nationalists in respective EU accession countries.

The article is voiceless on the many cases of human rights breaches, racially motivated murders, pogroms or lynching that have increased in number since 1989 across the CEE region. "Pogroms came and went across Europe until the Holocaust [Ö]," says the author, who remains mute on the issue of human rights until he mentions "a more positive side of the Roma story," referring to young Roma Dragan Ristic "spending his spare time translating human rights documents into Romany."

Immediately after its printing, The Economist article got the attention of at least a few people. In Slovakia, a country that the author praises for its government policy, two articles in national press followed— a press that is regularly filling its pages with disgusting reports on the Roma. "Not every Gypsy is Roma" was carefully picked as a title.

Picking up on the article's rhetoric, the daily Novy Den pointed out on 16 May that Gypsies are the worst at everything, citing from the article that by 2060 there will be more Gypsies than ethnic Slovaks. "There are nomads in Europe today that are not Gypsies, while many Gypsies came to towns where they are cut off from their traditions," is the fragment that Novy Den quoted from The Economist.

Similarly, another Slovak daily, Praca, chose the same title ("Not every Gypsy is Roma") for the article it ran on the same day. It reported: "presently the preferred name is Roma, though according to The Economist, 'not all Gypsies are Roma.' The term Gypsy is more flexible, because all Roma are Gypsies, but in some parts of Europe this words has a pejorative meaning."

Gypsy has been a pejorative term across the whole of Europe since the 16th century and the word does not originate from the Romany language. Roma, on the other hand, means "human" in Romanes—which many in CEE know, thanks to ten years of Roma rights activism and a debate on why to use the word Roma. The Economist this week basically wrote that not all Gypsies are human, which is a message that the elderly generation of Roma remembers from the time of Holocaust.

The author himself leans towards the usage of the word Gypsy—especially when offering an anecdote about them à la British daily The Sun describing how Gypsies went to London, videotaped the standard of life, sent it home, resulting in the whole village turning up at the border to seek asylum. (p 31) In another illustration about Roma life, the author tells of how little effort the "Gypsies" put into finishing their education and that they would rather rob trains on the Praha-Kosice route. (p 32)

On the political side, according to The Economist, the "Gypsies" do not have a figure "equivalent to Martin Luther King." The magazine goes on to say that Roma lack leadership because its present leaders are "weak, divided and often corrupt at the political level," and because "Gypsy political parties rarely agree among themselves". Furthermore, even those Roma who can be seen as role models and should be praised for their achievements, it said, often turn out to be yet another disapointment and sometimes even end up arrested by the police.

All in all, both The Economist article and its Slovak echoes do little to dispel the current preconceptions about the Roma—proof, perhaps, that the stereotypes regarding them are more universal and deeply rooted than generally thought. We should not be that surprised, then, that it proved so easy for a part of the press to tell us that not every Gypsy is human.

Eva Sobotka, 18 May 2001

Moving on:

Sources:

SME
The Economist

 


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