Secretary General of Council of Europe Familiarises with Roma Situation

Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini (L) along with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland during their visit to Spissky Hrhov on October 16, 2018 (photo by TASR)

Spissky Hrhov, October 16 (TASR) – We don’t need any new special legislation or enormous-sized subsidy schemes, all it takes is to use common sense and give Roma education and jobs, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini (Smer-SD) said during his visit to Spissky Hrhov (Presov region) in the presence of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland and Government Proxy for Roma Communities Abel Ravasz on Tuesday.

Spissky Hrhov is a village renowned for its successful Roma integration projects.

“I must praise the fact that the village mayor demonstrated that when there’s a will, there is a way. There is certainly no universal model that could be automatically applied to all villages in Slovakia across-the-board. In Spissky Hrhov the results of the work are plain to see; Roma coexist with the majority population without any problems,” claimed Pellegrini.

Aside from actively involved mayors willing to work with the Roma community, what’s also needed is a Roma community willing to accept help. “Our mayors often encounter a certain lack of willingness on part of Roma to change their lifestyle. That’s why we need to work with them more intensively in order to make them want to change. We don’t need to pass any special legislation anymore for that and we don’t need enormous subsidy schemes – all we need to employ is common sense. It’s necessary to provide Roma with education and jobs. If we employ at least ten percent of them, I think they will bring a completely different lifestyle into the community and the rest will want to emulate them. That is the only way to go – no amount of coercion will do,” stressed the Prime Minister.

Jagland learnt about Spissky Hrhov from New York Times daily, although he had heard about its accomplishments before. “With my own eyes, I had the opportunity to see that many wonderful things can be accomplished without the surfeit of finances, resources or any other means when there’s a willingness to pursue them. It’s up to individual people. I think that we can use this as a wonderful case study and role model for others. In my view, the crucial ingredient to success is work and education,” stated Jagland.

According to Ravasz, there are dozens of villages in Slovakia similar to Spissky Hrhov, but also dozens of those where the situation is opposite. “Our goal is to have as many villages as possible achieve this or a similar level. The only problem plaguing us that we heard about here today is the enrolment of Roma children to preschool. This must be addressed very promptly. I’m collaborating with the Prime Minister in the drafting of several measures to complement the existing toolkit of ours,” claimed Ravasz.

Spissky Hrhov is a village of 1,642, some 400 of whom are Roma. After social programmes spanning almost two decades, every inhabitant has access to hot water and legal housing.