Slovakia: Romani political party presents project to President Gašparovič
Ivan Gašparovič, the president of the Slovak Republic, in response to a letter from the Romani Union Party of Slovakia (Strana romské unie Slovenska), has received a visit from party representatives to discuss Romani people and their life together with the non-Romani population in Slovakia. “Cooperation must consist of seeking compromises,” the president said of the visit.
The president said the Romani problem is not just a European or Slovak one, but requires resolution at a global level. "I welcome your initiative to advocate for the interests of the Romani community through a political party,” Gašparovič told the delegation, emphasizing that Romani people must openly espouse their nationality, since census results are how nationality-based subsidies are awarded in Slovakia.
Party chair František Tanko thanked the president for receiving them, and the delegation gave him a copy of their project for resolving the situation of Romani people in Slovakia. According to the proposal, the establishment of a special employment agency could help Romani people work for at least minimum wage. The president is said to have promised to help them however he can.
The Romani representatives also presented an "innovative" model for resolving problems in coexistence between non-Romani and Romani people, and the president reportedly took an interest in the philosophy behind it. The representatives said they would like to reinstate the position of a Romani Vajda (Chief) as a natural authority figure in the Romani community and to include this position in the structure of local administrations in municipalities with larger Romani populations.
Tanko also criticized the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, Petr Pollák, who he said is not interested in communicating with party representatives. “Mr Pollák has no interest in meeting with us,” the party chair complained.
The Romani representatives also expressed disappointment that the Government, the Labor Ministry, and Parliament have not yet responded to their calls for action or their demonstrations. A Romani march planned for 15 May is scheduled to start in front of that ministry, after which the demonstrators will march to the Office of the Government and end up in front of Parliament.
According to the 2011 census, more than 105 000 Romani people reside in the country of five million. Experts estimate that the real number could be upwards of 350 000. A large part of this population lives in impoverished settlements in the northeast.
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