New Slovak Government Includes Extreme Right Party

Members of All Parties of the New Government Have Made Explicitly Anti-Romani Statements

ERRC Appeals to Heads of European Union, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to Monitor Situation


6 July 2006. The European Roma Rights Centre today sent a letter to the respective high office holders of the three major pan-European institutions, urging them to monitor the situation in Slovakia, following the formation of a government with explicitly racist elements.

The current governing coalition in Slovakia, sworn into office this week, is comprised of three parties: Direction-Social Democracy (Smer), People's Party-Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS). Members of all three of these parties have in the past made anti-Romani statements.

Of particular concern is the presence in the governing coalition of the Slovak National Party (SNS). Members of this party have repeatedly and regularly reiterated to the public their contempt for and hostility towards a number of groups in Slovakia, including ethnic and sexual minorities. Anti-Romani statements by members of SNS have been particularly vehement. As such, the SNS has played to date a very vibrant role in degrading relations between Roma and non-Roma in Slovakia, and inflaming ingrained anti-Romani sentiment in that country. In the new government, the SNS controls Ministries of (1) Education and (2) Construction and Regional Development.

The ERRC letter was sent to Mr. Matti Vanhanen, Prime Minister of Finland; Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; and Mr. Karel De Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister, in their capacities in governments currently heading (1) the European Union, (2) the Council of Europe, and (3) the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe respectively.

Appended to the letter sent today is a non-exhaustive list of anti-Romani and other harmful statements by members of the parties of the Slovak governing coalition. That list is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2607

The full text of the letter sent today by the ERRC follows here:

Honourable Mr. Varhanen, Lavrov and De Gucht,

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organization which undertakes legal action to secure the fundamental human rights of Roma in Europe. The ERRC turns to you today in your leadership capacities in the three leading pan-European bodies to urge that you use any and all powers available to your offices to monitor the situation in Slovakia, following the formation of a new government including explicitly racist elements.

The current coalition, sworn into office this week, is comprised of three parties: Direction-Social Democracy (Smer), People's Party-Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS). Members of all three of these parties have in the past made anti-Romani statements.

Of particular concern is the presence in the governing coalition of the Slovak National Party (SNS). Members of this party have repeatedly and regularly reiterated to the public their contempt for and hostility towards a number of groups in Slovakia, including ethnic and sexual minorities. Anti-Romani statements by members of SNS have been particularly vehement. As such, the SNS has played to date a very vibrant role in degrading relations between Roma and non-Roma in Slovakia, and inflaming ingrained anti-Romani sentiment in that country.

The SNS now controls the Ministries of (1) Education and (2) Construction and Regional Development. The former -- in any country -- plays a key role in creating the conditions for a society respectful of difference and promoting the rights of minorities. The latter, in the particular circumstances of the European Union, plays a key role in allocating resources (among them European Union resources) and in implementing programmes aimed at alleviating extreme poverty, a condition particularly widespread in the Romani communities in Slovakia.

Appended herewith please find a non-exhaustive list of statements of particular note by members of all three parties, including by their leadership.

The ERRC welcomes the statements by new Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer) in the European Parliament on July 5, as reported in Slovak media on July 6, that his government "guarantees that it will not change the status quo with respect to the rights of national minorities".

The ERRC nevertheless urges the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE to closely monitor developments in Slovakia, and to act swiftly where and when necessary to ensure that all relevant international human rights law guarantees are fully implemented in Slovakia where Roma are concerned.

Thank you in advance for all efforts in this regard.

Sincerely,
Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concern are urged to contact:

Mr. Matti Vanhanen
Prime Minister of Finland
President of the Council of the European Union
Prime Minister's Office
Snellmaninkatu 1 A, Helsinki
PO Box 23, FI-00023 Government
Finland

Mr. Sergey Lavrov
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,
32/34 Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl., 119200,
Moscow G-200
Russia

Mr. Karel De Gucht
OSCE Chairman-in-Office
Belgian Foreign Minister
Rue des Petits Carmes 15
1000 Brussels
Belgium

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