INTERIOR Minister Vladimír Palko flew to eastern Slovakia after several hundred Roma protested severe reductions in their social benefits.
The police pushed a group of 300 - 500 Roma out of the town centre were they were throwing stones and empty bottles at policemen and damaging public property, wrote the daily SME.
In response to the recent looting of supermarkets by the Roma and social turmoil in eastern Slovak Roma villages, Slovak President Rudolf Schuster said he would urge the cabinet on February 24 to seek solutions to the situation.
In the past few days, dozens of protesting Roma have been arrested by police and charged with looting.
However, Labour Minister Ľudovít Kaník and Palko himself remain calm and say that the situation is not critical.
Analysts claim that loan sharking is the main drive behind the turmoil.
Kanik also confirmed that, after the reductions of their benefits, usurers are losing their public income and are blackmailing common Roma.
The labour ministry offers welfare work schemes, which should furnish the Roma with an income similar to that provided by social benefits before this year's reduction, wrote the news wire TASR.
The ministry is ready to raise the activation benefit from Sk1,000 (€25) to Sk1,500 (€37) to motivate the jobless people.
According to Kaník, "many of those affected by the recent measures have no working habits and, unless they learn them through the programme, they will never find a regular job."
Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.
24. Feb 2004 at 10:07