Verheugen visits Romani settlements
Commissioner for European Union Enlargement Günter Verheugen, accompanied by the Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, visited Romani settlements in Jarovnice and Rudňany, and the Romani ghetto Luník IX in Košice. According to Verheugen, it is clear now that the Romani problem can not be solved before the country's acceptance into the EU.
Verheugen further stated that EU will support Slovakia in solving the Romani issue, offering euro 10 million to assist in the task this year. The EU funds are to be spent mainly for the education of minorities and improving the social situation of Roma in Slovakia.
For the visit Roma in Luník IX prepared marikli, a traditional Romani food, and some Romani women sang the song Nane goda (He is not a statue). Roma in Rudňany also prepared a cultural event to welcome the visitors.
Roma were openly involved in discussions with Verheugen and Dzurinda. During the visits in Jarovnice, local Roma pointed out the outrageous situation in their schools. Local Romani Vajda Dezider Lacko explained to Verheugen and Dzurinda, "we used to have a mixed school here of Roma and non-Roma, presently the Roma children go to one school and the white children to the other. Our [Roma] children are learning slower than before."
Lacko also described how he sees the situation in local municipality politics: "In the municipality office our [Roma] MPs are always over voted by white MPs and our proposals are "put underneath the table." The mayor of Jaronice is not symphatetic to Roma, he does not communicate with us at all." When asked about the future and his expectations from this visit, Lacko replied that he does not expect anything to happen. He responded with the proverb: "Promises are made and fools celebrate."
When asked about the result of his visit, Verheugen classified the discrimination of Roma as a largely social problem and stated: "I came here, because it is better to see with my own eyes what I know from books. I am not shocked, because for 25 years I have been an international traveler and I have seen various things. The situation is exactly how I expected it to be."
Verheugen also welcomed some positive signs saying: "What I have not expected is a large number of positive signals and promising activities, but especially personal engagement of people, who show their good will to solve the Roma problem in Slovakia."
Single candidate for Plenipotentiary for Human Rights
It has transpires that the only candidate for the position of the Plenipotentiary for Human Rights is Jan Jarab, currently employed by the Council for Human Rights in the section of Racism, Civil and Political Rights.
According to Jana Muchova, the manager of the office of Pavel Rychetsky, the vice prime minister will nominate Jarab at the governmental meeting on 26 February 2001. Upon the agreement of the government, Jarab will be appointed to the position which was formerly held by Petr Uhl. Uhl resigned on 31 January because of a conflict of interests when his wife, Anna Sabatova, became the Deputy Ombudsman.
Racially motivated attack in Nádasdladány
On 10 February, a group of about 20 people attacked the home of a Romani family in Nádasdladány (Fejér county). The assailants initiated their attack by throwing rocks through windows then proceded to destroy the family's car and severely assault the tenants. Since the assailants reportedly voiced racist statements regarding Gypsies during the entire attack, the police started their investigation on the basis of the Criminal Code section: violence against a member of a national, ethnic or racial group.
Supreme Court condemns municipality
After four years of court proceedings, a definitive verdict was issued by the Supreme Court condemning the Karcag Self-Government for damage caused to 135 (mainly Romani) people within their administrative jurisdiction. In 1994 the Constitutional Court ruled that the eligibility to provisional benefits depends exclusively on individual need, thus adjudicating that the application of any other criteria or condition violates the constitution.
Notwithstanding this precedent, between 1991 and 1996 the local government of Karcag (Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county) made the payment of temporary social benefits (for which the claimants were unconditionally eligible) subject to unpaid "voluntary work" assigned by municipal officials.
The claimants were forced to work unpaid for three days in order to receive their HUF 3.000 (USD 10) food vouchers. With a ten day work assignment one could "earn" a HUF 5.000 (USD 17) heating fuel voucher. In their ruling, the Supreme Court obliged the municipality to compensate the claimants for the work they had performed during those five years. According to calculations made by the claimants' counsel, the total compensation will amount to about HUF 1,5 million (USD 5,100).
Vajda received blessing
On Tuesday 20 February catholic priest Rastislav Dvorovy gave his blessing to Milan Makula a newly elected Vajda (leader) of the Vlachiko Roma from a village Petrovany. The Vajda of the Vlachiko Romani community, also a Romani judge, traditionally receives the blessing to increase respect and authority, and to symbolically confirm respect to a higher order.
Eva Sobotka, 23 February 2001
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