Paintings by children from Jarovnice sold in auction
The auction of paintings by Roma children from the town of Jarovnice was hailed a success by Slovak daily SME on 22 January. SME reported that Eva Dzurindova, the wife of the Slovak prime minister, bought a painting called "Bicycle harness" by 12-year-old Milan Cerven for SKK (Slovak koruna) 15,000 (USD 318). She said that she would give the painting to her husband for his birthday.
In addition, two more paintings, "Building of a house" by Marian Kukurica and "Kiss" by Petr Popus, were sold for SKK 5500 (USD 117) and SKK 10,000 (USD 212), respectively. The money received from selling the paintings will enable the three Roma boys to pursue their studies at secondary art schools.
Back in summer 1998, Jarovnice was hit by a flood that destroyed the whole Roma settlement. Many children, whose paintings were receiving prizes at various international competitions in Japan, Norway, India and Canada, suffered in the flood. Their teacher, Jan Sajko, had built up an intensive program with the children from the settlement to help them develop their talents in art at the local elementary school.
According to SME, the idea for the auction was part of the SPACE foundation project called "We paint for education," that aims to support gifted Romani children. SPACE was initiated by a group of political science students from the Comenius University in Bratislava and will be continuing over the next three years through exhibitions in Slovak towns and through so-called Ethno festivals.
According to Junge Welt, a Berlin-based magazine, the Jarovnice paintings are being shown at an exhibition in Frankfurt am Main until January 31 under the title "The colours of Romany children" (Die Farben der Roma-Kinder). The exhibition will move from Frankfurt to Magdeburg and will be open to the public between 2 February and 18 March.
Roma settlement Dobšina without water
In the Roma settlement of Dobšina, Slovakia, Roma have no access to drinking water. The reason is very simple, explains Mr Lipták, mayor of the regional town Roznava: "There is 100 per cent unemployment among the local Roma, they are not able to find work and that is why they cannot pay for the drinking water."
Lipták further says that none of the projects they proposed to improve the situation of Roma have been approved by the government or given a governmental support.
According to information from Východoslovenské Noviny (eastern Slovak newspaper), the situation of Roma in Dobšina is the worst in the region of Upper Gemer. The daily further reported that a cultural-educational organisation is trying to find an alternative project to solve the desperate situation through the greater participation of the Roma. Their main aim is to enable the local Roma access to drinking water, though the long-term aim would be to lower the present 100 per cent unemployment among the Roma to just 20 per cent.
Visegrád 4 agency for Roma issues opens in Košice
A Visegrád 4 (V4) agency for solving regional Roma issues opened in Košice this week. The agency's work will focus on resolving the disproportional social situation between Roma and the majority of the Slovak population.
Director of the agency Milan Šcuka—brother of the President of the International Romani Union Emil Šcuka—revealed that the agency will have six permanent members of staff, 30 employees on a one-year contract and another 700 to be employed in various beneficial schemes. The recruitment, according to Šcuka, will take place in 11 of the Roma settlements across Slovakia.
The V4 agency hopes that its present program, funded from the state budget of the Slovak Republic, will find funding and assistance in the other three V4 countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
The project is the brainchild of Gejza Adam, director of the Educational Centre of the Roma in the Eastern Slovakia. Adam told CER that he and his team, composed of international Romani leaders closely affiliated with the International Romani Union, have been co-operating with the Slovak president's office on the project.
The Slovak Press Agency reported on 23 January 2001 that Slovak President Rudolf Schuster was behind the project. Support for the project has been growing over the last two years, especially from Romani organisations.
Close to 80 Roma political parties and organisations last year united behind the project and agreed on a joint electoral strategy. The main protagonists of the project hope that the "Agreement on the Joint Electoral Program of Roma Political Parties" will enable direct political participation of Roma at the national level.
Council of Europe Delegation alarmed by treatment of Roma in Hungary
The Roma Press Centre reported on 22 January that Josephine Verspaget, chair of the Council of Europe Special Group on Roma/Gypsies, criticised the Hungarian government in a letter to the Ministry of Justice for the implementation of its medium-term strategy.
Following the Group's visit to Szolnok and Tiszabura, east Hungary, Verspaget outlined some major problems, including evictions and an increasing number of homeless Romani families, segregation of Roma pupils in remedial special schools and the lack of communication between the government and NGOs.
According to Roma Press Centre, Angéla Kóczé, a Hungarian delegate from the Council of Europe Group, described the letter as "overly diplomatic." Kóczé further said that the members of the Group were more critical of the Hungarian government than the letter suggests.
Vice-President of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities Antal Heizer, however, expressed satisfaction with the message of the letter, because it also recognises the government's efforts.
Members of the Group concluded that, although efforts and ambitious initiatives at national and local levels can be seen, there is also "a strong feeling of disappointment and distrust among Romani representatives," and a "lack of communication" between authorities, Roma self-governments, other Romani NGOs and Romani communities.
The Group is of the opinion that "in addition to the representation through the self-government system, there is a need for Roma and other minorities to be able to enter the parliament. It was also suggested that mainstream political parties be encouraged to take on Roma representatives on their electoral lists."
In connection with the enactment of a new law on evictions, the Group concluded that "particular care should be taken that new legislation does not go against principles included in overall comprehensive strategies such as the medium-term program." In their view, the new law will "allow local authorities to easily evict bad payers," which might result in even greater numbers of homeless Romani families. The Group also urged that a solution be found to the issue of the large number of Romani pupils enrolled in special schools.
Anna Sabatova voted Czech Ombudsman deputy
On 25 January, the lower chamber of the Czech Parliament voted Anna Sabatova to be the deputy of the first Czech Ombudsman. Anna Sabatova, wife of Petr Uhl, government plenipotentiary for human rights and chair of the inter-ministerial committee for the Roma community affairs, is a former spokesperson for Charter 77, and has received a UN award for human rights.
According to the information available to CER, Uhl has repeatedly announced that if his wife is voted into this position, he will step down from his responsibilities of plenipotentiary for human rights and Romani issues.
Eva Sobotka, 26 January 2001
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