Bratislava, December 16 (TASR) – The Roma community in Slovakia is horrified at how Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer-SD) condemns the Roma, and his public statements have given neo-Nazis, fascists and skinheads a free hand to defame the Roma people, said Frantisek Tanko, chairman of civil association Roma Union, at a press conference on Friday.
Tanko added that if the police start to beat up the Roma, they will make a stand.
“It’s sad that Smer-SD obtained tens of thousands of votes from Roma voters,” said Tanko.
“We’ve tried to meet him [Fico] several times as a civil organisation. Back in 2009 we submitted an application for an official meeting at which we wanted to propose to him suitable measures concerning the Roma issue, such as those relating to compulsory work. We still haven’t met to this day,” added Tanko, who still insists on meeting the premier.
According to Tanko, the Roma have an interest in living decently in Slovakia, and they don’t want to stir up tensions with the majority population. “The prime minister has said that the Roma abuse social benefits. If any one is doing that, it’s all citizens and not just the Roma. Roma people have to work to receive social benefits. They have to meet strict conditions. It isn’t true that Roma people don’t want to work. They do want to work,” said Tanko, adding that the majority shouldn’t lump all Roma together.
The Roma Union chairman is convinced that governments haven’t really wanted to address this issue over the long term. “The EU allocates millions of euros to tackle the Roma issue. What do we have projects for if the state uncompromisingly stops the money?” asked Tanko, adding that political parties often misuse the Roma issue to their own benefit.
Fico said at his party’s working congress in Presov on Saturday (December 10) that it’s necessary to bring order to Roma settlements. “The next generation that doesn’t want to work is growing up. Some restrictive measures are needed,” he said, adding that pure abuse of the social system won’t be tolerated.
Interior Minister Robert Kalinak (Smer-SD) stated that as of next year his ministry and the police will implement a special programme aimed at improving safety in towns and villages with socially excluded communities and problematic Roma settlements.