Letters to the editor

Health care situation is government's fault
Roma issue could jeopardise EU aspirations
A retort

Health care situation is government's fault

It is startling that the present Slovak government, while patting itself on the back for joining the OECD and opening EU accession chapters, cannot afford to look after its own ["Debt imperils hospital care" by Zuzana Habšudová, Vol. 7 No. 12, March 26 - April 1].
The millions of Slovak crowns the country is spending in its rush to join Europe could and should be better spent on the crumbling health system. As it stands today, people who have paid week after week, month after month and year after year into the health system are reminded in a polite and discreet way that if they pay bribes they'll get treatment faster.
This discriminatory system is an appalling reflection - and an indictment - of [Prime Minister Mikuláš] Dzurinda and his two economic gurus, [Finance Minister] Brigita Schmognerová and [Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Ivan] Mikloš, who keep reminding us that things are getting better and that if we just wait a little longer everything will be rosier. Well, let me ask them, all three of them, how many people will die in that so called 'short time'? Why is the government pandering to foreign investors instead of taking care of its own people? When will this government realise the most important thing in any nation on God's earth is health? Without it, one cannot work.

Slavka Barlaková

Roma issue could jeopardise EU aspirations

First off, I have to admit that I do not know much first-hand about the Roma situation in Slovakia ["New gulf divides Roma and police" by Martina Pisárová, Vol. 7 No. 12, March 26 - April 1]. Nevertheless, as a Slovak exposed to some information regarding this issue, I feel strongly that the utmost caution should be exercised when addressing any allegations of mistreatment and/or denial of basic human rights of the Roma in Slovakia. Slovakia is aspiring to join NATO and the EU. This cannot be accomplished if our commitment to human rights is not as strong as in other countries which already enjoy the benefits of membership.
I am not trying to be critical of the present bodies that face a very challenging situation. I am only suggesting that policy makers, as well as people in a position to have an impact on the situation in Slovakia, consider the issue through a slightly different perspective. Perhaps they can look at some positive examples in neighbouring countries and look at ways in which a greater integration of minorities can be achieved. Such an approach would embrace the notion of diversity amongst the citizenry of Slovakia, which could only be beneficial to all involved.
It is important that all minorities - Roma and others - be given an equal chance. I believe that Slovaks are ready to accept this challenge and pursue the issue to its successful resolution. Slovaks living in the country need to show maturity in accepting minorities, and to realise that the world is watching.
If we want a chance at prosperity we cannot afford leniency when addressing serious human rights violations to any segment of the citizenry.
At this time, with the NATO enlargement summit in Prague fast approaching, Slovakia does not have the luxury to spend another 10 years waiting on the sidelines, trying to remedy the situation. By then the train will have left the station.

Marek Šťastný
Notion challenged

Dear Marek,
I do not know if you have ever lived in Slovakia, because your arguments are biased and unrealistic. People living in Slovakia are not very tolerant, but this is typical for all nations: the Czechs, Germans (World War II), Americans (racial segregation up to the 1960's) and so on.
Unfortunately, many Roma are unwilling to work, abuse our benevolent social system, and at the same time refuse their duties. If you think that Slovaks are racist, why do democratic countries like Norway, the UK, Finland and Belgium refuse to accept them as refugees?


A retort

Dear Mr./ Mrs. Modry,
To answer your question of whether I ever lived in Slovakia: yes. I left the country when I was 14 years old. My exposure to the Roma situation was sufficient to allow me to say that, in many instances, they are marginalised by Slovak society.
As to whether I think Slovaks are racist, I never said they were. I am convinced that the majority of Slovaks are not racist and would condemn any racially-motivated attacks.
I did not write the response to be critical for the sake of being critical. I wrote it hoping that perhaps somebody out there has an idea of how to approach the Roma situation constructively. I never claimed that I had an answer to the problem, or that finding an effective approach to the situation would be easy.


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