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Slovak MEPs: Slovakia urgently has to deal with Roma issue

Slovakia urgently has to deal with the issues facing its Roma population, and particularly with the education of Roma children, several Slovak MEPs said on November 15.

They were reacting to an Amnesty International (AI) report published in Strasbourg that criticises Slovakia.

Slovakia has been a constant target of AI criticism in this area since the mid-1990s. According to MEP Anna Záborská, the current situation is the result of misguided Roma-related policies from the communist era, when Roma culture was destroyed and the assimilation of the Roma in the mainstream community failed to materialise.

According to Edit Bauer (SMK), this problem is a time bomb for Slovakia. MEP Irena Belohorská said the Roma issue should be solved by helping Roma children in the way that some non-governmental organisations, women's groups, towns and villages do when they organise pre-school facilities where the children learn necessary habits and skills.

Ladislav Richter, a representative of Roma NGOs, said problems with segregation of the Roma children are especially obvious in eastern and southern Slovakia. On the other hand, he praised the Education Ministry's project of creating specialised integrated classes at elementary schools.

But the AI report obscures the situation rather than pointing out actual problems, according to a sociologist, Pavol Haulík.

Slovak Deputy PM Dušan Čaplovič said he regarded the AI report as intentionally misleading. He said he intended to strongly protest against it through international authorities, so that they don't hold it against Slovakia.

He described it as a 'perfunctory survey’ and said it a mistake that AI purposefully chose five small villages in Slovakia that have the worst conditions.

Tibor Loran, vice-president of an ethnic minorities and human rights association called Slovakia's Personalities, disagrees. He said the AI report is truthful and nobody can object to its claims.

-TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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