Under pressure by western governments, Slovak government publishes package of Roma measures
7 December 1999
Following a long summer of Romani refugees fleeing Slovakia to various western European countries, the Slovak government published on September 27, 1999, a "Resolution of the Government of the Slovak Republic concerning the Strategy of the Government of the Slovak Republic for the Solution of the Problems of the Roma National Minority and the Set of Measures for Its Implementation". The adopted Strategy assigns measures to various authorities under the following categories: human rights and the rights of persons belonging to national minorities; education and training; language and culture; "un/employment"; housing; social sector; and health care. The program is an improvement over measures taken by the former government. For example, for the first time, the Slovak government acknowledges in the text of the Strategy, "...the practical application of human rights protection and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities in real life is not absolute, in particular with respect to the citizens from Romany national minority." (English version of the document distributed by the Slovak government). It is nevertheless unclear what is hindering the Slovak government from fully acknowledging the depth of the problem.
Many of the measures described recapitulate the paternalistic approach taken by the previous Slovak government, such as the health care measure entitled, "Preparing Roma citizens for marriage and family planning". Nevertheless, it is heartening to read (at least in the English version of the text distributed by the Slovak government), under the heading of "Education and training", that "The Government shall secure that all schools education and training will be multi-cultural and will promote tolerance." On the other hand, it is harder to know what to make of claims made only in the Slovak version of distributed materials, such as the one in a document distributed with the Strategy entitled "Informational Material About the Activities of the Government of the Slovak Republic in the Area of the Resolution of Problems of the Romani National Minority in the Slovak Republic" stating that, "It is not possible to accept the automatic link between the question of the emigration of Roma with the question of racial discrimination.... The problem of the exodus of Roma is not only a human rights problem, but also a migrational and asylum problem, with a distinctive socio-economic subtext."
Crucially, although Slovakia lacks basic anti-discrimination legislation and accessible procedures to handle discrimination claims, no legal reforms have been proposed by the government.
The Resolution was followed on October 13 by a second Resolution approving budgetary measures for policies proposed in the September 27 document. In total, the government approved the use of 6,902,700 Slovak crowns (approximately 159,560 euro), to be allocated as follows: 270,000 crowns (approximately 6240 euro) to the Office of Government in order to complete a series of presentations on the "solution of the problems of the Romani national minority", to be held in Bratislava and Strasbourg, France; 350,000 crowns (approximately 8090 euro) to the Ministry of the Interior in order to "complete the project of repatriating citizens of the Romani national minority from member states of the EU"; 80,000 crowns (approximately 1850 euro) towards financing of the organisation of a seminar in co-operation with the Council of Europe about "minority rights and the resolution of Romani problematics"; 400,000 crowns (approximately 9245 euro) to the Ministry of Education towards the completion of an annex in Spišská Nová Ves of the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of Constantine the Philosopher in Nitra; two other budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Education totaling 60,000 crowns (approximately 1385 euro) for two sports clubs for Roma; a total of 1,170,550 crowns (approximately 27,050 euro) to the Ministry of Culture to finance four projects including one Romani newspaper, one Romani organisation and two missionary organisations; 400,000 crowns (approximately 9245 euro) for the "statistical expert opinion and project documentation concerning the reconstruction of the administrative building of the former iron ore mining industrial object 5 RP II for the municipality of Rudňany". The remaining 4,172,150 crowns are to be divided between the regional offices of Trnava (78,668 crowns), Nitra (220,000 crowns), Banská Bystrica (588,084 crowns), Prešov (1,995,398 crowns) and Košice (1,160,000 crowns) for projects including checking the drinking water in three Romani communities for hepatitis (Trnava); repairing a sports hall (Banská Bystrica); construction of a memorial for the victims of 1998 flooding of the Jarovnice settlement (Prešov); and repair of a cultural centre in the municipality of Královský Chlmec (Košice). The government has elsewhere claimed that in 1999, 15,000,000 crowns (approximately 346,735 euro) were allocated for spending on Romani issues, but the ERRC is unaware of public documentation of the spending of the remaining approximately 8,000,000 crowns (approximately 184,925 euro). Information on specificities of funding have been distributed in Slovak but not in English. The ERRC is concerned that many of the more ambitious points of the Strategy, such as its intention of promoting multi-culturalism in schooling, appear to lack financing.
In other Slovak news, on November 12, a second instance district court in the central Slovak town of Banská Bystrica returned the case of Mr Ivan Mako for the second time to the first instance regional court in Banská Bystrica. Three skinheads, including 18-year-old Mr Jan P. and two unknown males, assaulted Mr Mako at a bus station in Banská Bystrica, spat at him, called him "dirty Gypsy", punched him in the face and threw cobblestones at him. Mr Mako had to be hospitalised after the attack (see "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights, 2/99). The first instance court has twice convicted Jan P. of damage to health, but has refused to apply penal code articles pertaining to racially motivated crime because, according to the court, ethnic Slovaks and Roma are from the same race. The second annulment of the verdict by the second instance court now explicitly orders the first instance court to widen its interpretation of race in accord with international standards. The ERRC has provided legal expertise to local counsel in the case.
In another case which has received widespread national and international attention, according to the Slovak daily Pravda, on November 12, police investigators accused Officer M.L. of damage to health and negligence in connection with the shooting death in police custody on August 12 of a 21-year-old Romani man named Ľubomír Šarišský (see "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights, 3/99). Immediately following the incident, Slovak Minister of the Interior Ladislav Pittner told the Slovak media that Mr Šarišský had committed suicide. According to an article in Pravda of October 2, police investigators considered two versions of the case, one in which the police officer shot Mr Šarišský and the other in which Mr Šarišský shot himself. If convicted, Officer M.L. could face up to five years imprisonment.
Finally, ČTK reported on November 5 that Slovak officials in the Labour Office marked files of persons they regarded as Romani with the letter "R". Slovak National Labour Office Director General Jaroslav Šumný told ČTK that the measures did not constitute discriminatory treatment but were implemented because of the "complicated social adaptability" of the group. He also said this practice aids Slovakia in receiving EU funds aimed at helping Roma.
(ČTK, ERRC, Pravda, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)