THE WALL that separates Košice’s infamous Roma neighbourhood Lunik IX from neighbouring housing estates does not divide the town into two sections, according to the chair of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda.
Swoboda visited Košice on October 14 to see the wall, which garnered much criticism from local Roma rights organisations as well as international organisations, including the EU, earlier this year.
The wall, which purportedly prevents the passage of Roma between the Lunik IX and Lunik VIII housing estates, cost €4,700 and was built in response to complaints by locals about alleged petty theft and disorder in the Lunik IX parking lot. The Košice City Council stressed that it never approved the construction of the wall and thus considers it an illegal construction, the Sme daily wrote.
“The turmoil around this construction was absolutely unnecessary,” Swoboda said upon his visit, as quoted by Sme. “I see it as a local activity for the protection of this part of the neighbourhood.”
Swoboda, however, did not pay a visit to the Lunik IX neighbourhood, according to Sme.
Swoboda learned about the wall from media reports. The wall has attracted the attention of local and international media, and has been met with a negative reaction by officials in Brussels. The European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, sent a letter to Košice’s mayor, Richard Raši, in August 2013, criticising city officials and warning that the wall is at odds with the city’s European Capital of Culture 2013 title.
While Raši responded that the construction of the “segregation wall was an unpleasant surprise for us”, Rudolf Bauer, an official who is responsible for Západ, the city district where the wall was built, said that Vassiliou based her opinion on incomplete information. Yet, Dionýz Slepčík, the mayor of Lunik IX, a densely-populated housing estate inhabited mostly by Roma, said no complaints from Lunik’s inhabitants have been registered yet.
The construction of the wall was not approved by the local authorities and for the moment remains a so-called illegal construction.
Slovakia has as many as 14 similar constructions, several of which are located in the eastern Slovak towns of Michalovce, Ostrovany and Šarišské Michaľany. The local authorities in Ostrovany built a 150-metre wall in 2009 to protect houses and gardens close to the Roma settlement.
21. Oct 2013 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff