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IN SHORT

Slota and Roma agree to cooperate

THE SLOVAK National Party (SNS), headed by Ján Slota, signed a memorandum of understanding with Roma civic association Parlament Rómov (Roma Parliament) on April 12.

"Our people saw that there is a will in the SNS to finally resolve the Roma issue in Slovakia," said Ladislav Fízik, head of Parlament Rómov.

Since last year, Fízik has acted as a personal adviser to Slota.

Fízik hopes to cooperate with the SNS in projects such as the construction of flats for Roma who are now living in slum-like settlements. Slovakia is home to several hundred thousand Roma, most of whom live below poverty level.

"Slota is the only politician in this country who has a heart and who might help the Roma," Fízik said.

However, these statements might come as surprise as Slota is better known for his racist verbal attacks on Hungarians and Roma than for his concern for their wellbeing.

While part of the ruling coalition in the spring of 1996, Slota said that all that is needed to deal with the Roma is "a small courtyard and a long whip". This statement was followed by a mass migration of Roma from Slovakia.

Hundreds of them sought asylum in the UK, Denmark, and elsewhere. In the UK alone, up to 2,000 such applications were filed. By the time the Mikuláš Dzurinda government came into power, many of the unsuccessful asylum seekers had returned to Slovakia.

Parlament Rómov is one of dozens of Roma civic associations. Other Roma organizations received the news of cooperation between Parlament Rómov and the SNS with embarrassment.

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