Slovak gypsies seek asylum in Czech Republic
Police spokesman Jaroslav Sahúl said on June 26 that approximately 170 Roma (gypsies) from the eastern Slovak town of Michalovce had applied for political asylum in the Czech Republic last weekend. Presently the Roma are waiting at a refugee facility in Vyšná Lehota for a decision from the Czech authorities. The Roma traveled to the Czech Republic by train, and like all Slovak citizens were able to cross the border using an identity card instead of a passport.
The Roma complain that their social allowances and unemployment benefits in Slovakia have been reduced. They also say that they are being politically persecuted. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel said he thought the Czechs were unlikely to grant any of the asylum requests, but Czech Interior Ministry spokeswoman Mária Mašaríková responded that she could not make any statement before the data provided by the asylum seekers had been checked.
Slovak Roma have over the past three years been applying for asylum in several European countries. Several of these countries, in order to curb the Roma influx, have introduced visas for Slovak citizens.
EC body faults Slovakia's anti-racist legislation
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), a body of the Council of Europe, delivered some tough criticism in its second annual report on Slovakia.
The ECRI claims that the country has recently taken positive steps to acknowledge the need to fight racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, but real problems remain in carrying out laws to combat racism, particularly in the reaction of the police and the courts to racist attacks and harassment. According to the ECRI, the extent of discrimination and overt hostility towards the members of the Roma community does not seem to be fully acknowledged.
The ECRI recommended the Slovak authorities take further action to combat racism and intolerance. There is an urgent need, the group said, to enact anti-racist legislation and establish a specialised body with competence in dealing with issues of racism and discrimination against the Roma/Gypsy community. The ECRI pointed out the need to empower this community to participate as an equal member of society.
Police mistreatment of minority groups, particularly Roma, also came under fire, while the report claimed that the Roma suffer additional discrimination in obtaining housing.
The aim of ECRI is to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance at a pan-European level and from the angle of the protection of human rights. One of the pillars of ECRI's work program is its country-by-country approach, whereby it analyses the situation as regards racism and intolerance in each of the member States of the Council of Europe and makes suggestions and proposals as to how to tackle the problems identified.
Mečiar returns to top of trust chart in June
The most trusted politician in Slovakia for June is the leader of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar. The former boxer gained 18.3% support in a poll conducted by the Statistical Office's Public Opinion Institute between May 29 and June 9 involving 1,099-respondents.
Second on the popularity ladder was the chairman of the non-parliamentary Smer party Róbert Fico. The polling institute addressed the respondents with the question "Who among the politicians active in Slovakia currently enjoys your confidence?"
Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda enjoyed the confidence of 11.1% of those polled, followed by the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) chairwoman Anna Malíková with 7%. Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) boss Béla Búgar got 6.7% backing while six percent of those polled gave credit to President Rudolf Schuster. Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš enjoys support from 4.9% of the poll participants. The survey suggests that 40.8% of those polled do not trust any Slovak politician.
WHO survey puts Slovak health care 62nd in world
The mood in the health care system, already at an all time low from criticism over the treatment received by President Rudolf Schuster, was hit further last week by a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the health care provided by countries around the globe. According to the report, out of 191 assessed countries Slovakia placed 62nd while the Czech Republic occupied 48th place, Hungary 66th, Poland 50th and Austria 9th. Slovakia was overtaken by countries such as Albania (55th) which had always been behind Slovakia in health care.
Compiled by Tom Nicholson from SITA