One in four Slovak Roma live in a gypsy village
Ondrej Srebala, head of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, told journalists June 6 that 124,000 people live in 592 gypsy villages in Slovakia, and on average about nine Gypsies live in one house.
Srebala added that since the majority of these dwellings have not been officially registered, local governments cannot link them to sanitary or communications networks because they simply don't officially exist.
Social and health problems, including child neglect, have been identified in gypsy villages. According to Srebala, laws that are generally enforced in the majority community may only rarely be enforced in the Roma community. He suggested that the state push for equal enforceability of the law, which would call for the removal or legalisation of "unofficial" dwellings, and punishment for parents neglecting children.
He added that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Romanies are often overlooked. While villages whose populations are at least 20% Romany can declare Romany as their official language and erect street signs in both Slovak and Romany, no village has so far taken advantage of that right.
Moravčík warns Bratislava city debt will bring cuts
At a meeting with journalists on June 7, Bratislava Mayor Jozef Moravčík said that the Slovak capital cannot continue increasing its indebtedness, currently almost $100 million, and has to create a balanced budget for next year, which means spending cuts.
Moravčík said that neither the city nor the state can contribute more funds to public transport and that the introduction of a local tax, similar to an earlier proposed transport tax, was under consideration. Employers would be asked to contribute to city transport while the amount of the contribution would be calculated from employees' gross wages. An initial contribution level of 0.5% of gross wages has been proposed for the scheme.
The mayor added that the transport situation in Bratislava could be improved with more cooperation with the commercial sector. He explained that he has foreign investors in mind, and said that in early autumn the city would know more clearly as to whether this was a viable proposition for the future of Bratislava's transport system.
Čarnogurský gives up candidacy for KDH top spot
Christian Democrats (KDH) chairman Ján Čarnogurský said June 4 that he was not going to run for the top post in the party at its autumn congress. Čarnogurský has held the post for the last 10 years.
His decision to give up the candidacy is based on what he said was a thorough consideration of the current situation in the movement and on the Slovak political scene.
The KDH leadership and Čarnogurský agreed that KDH vice-chairman and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Pavol Hrušovský could unify the movement in its efforts to implement Christian-Democrat policy. Čarnogurský called on members of the leadership and also rank-and-file party members to support Hrušovský's candidacy. The KDH leader said he would continue working for the movement after the congress.
Čarnogurský will remain in his present post of Justice Minister but will step down if delegates at the congress call for his resignation.
KDH vice-chairman Ján Figeľ, who has declared that he will run for the chairmanship, said the move was a defining moment in the movement's development.
Farmers appeal for government aid as drought bites
Extreme dry weather for the past two months has caused farmers in Slovakia much higher damage than the 2 billion crown figure posted in media reports, said Chamber of Agriculture and Food Industry (SPPK) spokesman Stanislav Nemec June 7.
Nemec added that the chamber had been forced to turn to the government for aid with farmers and food producers requesting that the cabinet engage in an accelerated settlement of the situation in the form of direct financial assistance and relief from tax duties and compulsory levies.
Chamber head Ivan Oravec said he hoped that the government would respond to his call for help and that the chamber would not be pushed to organise protests to raise public awareness of the agriculture sector's problems.
Roman Kováč remains as SDK caucus chairman
Chairman of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) parliamentary caucus Roman Kováč shrugged off speculation that a proposal had been tabled to remove him from his post.
Speaking on June 5 Kováč said: "None of the SDK platforms have presented a proposal to this effect. I am not embedded in the chair yet, and if MPs vote for my removal I shall respect that decision."
The vice-chairman of the Slovak Green Party (SZS), Jan Rusnák, said that he was unofficially approached by several MPs from the Christain Democrat Movement (KDH), the Democratic Party (DS), the Social Democrats (SDSS) and members of his own party to chair the SDK caucus.
He said that while he saw no reason to remove Kováč, if a vote was initiated he was prepared to support such a motion.
Compiled from SITA and TASR by Ed Holt