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Chair of EU Parliament group visits Roma wall in Košice

THE PROBLEM with Roma is not the wall raised at the Luník VIII borough in Košice, but their integration, said Hannes Swoboda, chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, during his visit to the eastern Slovak city on October 14.

THE PROBLEM with Roma is not the wall raised at the Luník VIII borough in Košice, but their integration, said Hannes Swoboda, chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, during his visit to the eastern Slovak city on October 14.

Swoboda came to see the wall, which was built in June by municipal authorities in reaction to numerous complaints by locals about frequent petty theft and disorder in the parking lot by the Lunik IX neighbourhood, a notorious Roma ghetto in Košice. The wall prevents Roma from walking across this part of the Lunik VIII neighbourhood, the Sme daily wrote back in June.

Several foreign media outlets described the wall as a form of segregation. European Commissioner for Health Andrulla Vasiliu called on the authorities to pull it down, according to Sme.

“The wall surely does not divide Košice into two parts, nor does it separate Roma and non-Roma,” Swoboda said, as quoted by Sme, adding that “all the fuss about the construction was unnecessary”. “I consider it a local activity to protect part of the neighbourhood.”

Swoboda also visited the secondary vocational school on Kukučinova Street where about 300 of its 1,000 students are Roma. He described the school as an example of a positive approach to Roma, the TASR newswire wrote.

Swoboda’s faction in the European Parliament has already launched a programme called Restart Europe, which discusses various issues, including ways of securing employment for every European. All people living in the region, including Roma, should receive the support, Swoboda said. He added that not everybody likes to see one ethnic group favoured at the expense of another, but it is important to secure the same starting conditions for all. Swoboda also praised the work of U.S. Steel in Košice, which employs Roma and encourages them to send their children to school, as reported by TASR.

Education is the only way to provide permanent integration of Roma in the future, Swoboda added.

Source: Sme, TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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