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Roma proxy: EU-funded project launched to resolve squatter issues

A pilot project is to be launched in Krásna Hôrka in the south-eastern Slovakia, designed to tackle problems relating to the ownership of land upon which an illegal Roma settlement is built. The project is to be carried out by a working group composed of various experts from a number of institutions and will operate on a budget of €30,000.

A pilot project is to be launched in Krásna Hôrka in the south-eastern Slovakia, designed to tackle problems relating to the ownership of land upon which an illegal Roma settlement is built. The project is to be carried out by a working group composed of various experts from a number of institutions and will operate on a budget of €30,000.

“We want to try to see the land in this village change hands by a swap,” Government Proxy for the Roma Communities Peter Pollak said at a press conference on September 30. “If we find out that legislation needs to be changed first, we’ll attempt to do that. We’ve determined a number of the most critical sites that need only simple land modifications.”

According to the 2013 Atlas of Roma Communities, land ownership poses a problem in 504 settlements in Slovakia, of which 153 suffer the lowest living standards in the country. The project aims to use partial land modifications to swap the land involved for plots owned by the state, with the village either renting the land to the owners of settlement buildings or mediating their purchase by Roma families.

“Even Roma families on social benefits will have to pay for renting the land,” Pollák said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “In this particular case, after consent from building owners, permanent payments could be arranged to be sent to the village account.”

Spišské Tomášovce mayor Zuzana Nebusová confirmed that Roma citizens have an interest in tackling the ownership issues of the land that they are occupying. “If we want Roma settlements to be on the level, there can be no squatters. We’ll resolve a huge problem in this way,” she said.

“We received an allocation to the tune of €383 million from the EU to settle ownership issues in 2014-20,” Pollák informed. “This amount won’t be used to buy out land but rather to pay people who will resolve ownership issues in 153 locales.”

Pollák added, however, as quoted by the SITA newswire, that the issue can be only solved in cooperation with the Slovak Land Fund and the municipalities involved. “We won’t force anybody to participate in the project,” the proxy said, “but we expect most owners to be willing to swap the plots.”

(Source: TASR, SITA)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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