Edmund Muller is the director of the Central European Romany Education and Opportunity Centre in Košice. A champion of the Slovak Romany cause, he has been vocal in support of asylum-seeking Roma. On February 2, Muller spoke to The Slovak Spectator to respond to recent Roma-related law proposals grabbing headlines in Slovakia.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Rastislav Šepták, a deputy for the Slovak National Party (SNS), recently proposed that all asylum-seeking Roma have their passports revoked for five years. Róbert Fico, founder of the Smer party, suggested taking away the social benefits of asylum-seeking Roma. How do you respond to these proposals?
Edmund Muller (EM): I am afraid that we will have the same government problems like they now have in Austria [where nationalist Joerg Haider was included in a new government coalition on February 1]. It is very possible that we will have the same situation with extreme nationalists like Róbert Fico. I am really afraid that Slovak people are not prepared to live in a multicultural society. Slovaks are more ready to support extreme populist nationalists like Fico and the SNS than they are able to support democratic political parties.
The Slovak government tells the EU and NATO they want to create a democratic state, but a democratic state means that the biggest asylum-seeking minority, which is the Roma, needs to be part of the institutions, but we aren't. This is the problem
TSS: Some people say that the Roma are not represented because the Roma are not politically organised.
EM: The Roma will organise when the Roma have equal opportunity - equal opportunity in education, in politics, in access to foreign delegations. Foreign delegations ask about the Roma, but they don't get to talk to the Roma.
Slovakia is a very good example of a country with people changing from left-oriented parties to nationalist, populist, extreme parties. Smer is equal to racism. It is a nationalist party which will isolate Slovakia and take away our chances to go to the EU and NATO. If Fico is in government, the European Commission will stop participating with Slovakia and it will be catastrophic.
This new wave of nationalists from [Austria's] Haider to [the SNS's Eva] Slavkovská to Fico... They want to take the Roma's passports, they want to stop social benefits for asylum seekers. This is a typical anti-Roma step and we are afraid that they will begin a new Holocaust against the Roma.
TSS: Will proposals like Šeptak's and Fico's encourage more Roma to leave Slovakia in search of asylum?
EM: Yes. We have no future in Slovakia with a populist like Fico. He is not a democrat, he is a populist. Fico says that the Roma are speculative... we say that he is a racist. Fico is a bigger criminal than some Roma. Fico's party is Smer [direction], but what kind of direction is that for the Roma? Why is he playing this game? I want to ask Fico, if you are socially oriented, why haven't you visited a Roma ghetto? We too are Slovak citizens.