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August 16, 2022



Commentary by Czech MEP Zdechovský: Roma need work, not welfare!

24.9.2019 15:33
Tomáš Zdechovský (PHOTO:
Tomáš Zdechovský (PHOTO:

The integration of Romani people into society is not succeeding very well. It has been attempted for better or for worse and a great deal of money has been poured into different virtuous projects.

What has been the result? Most of the time, nothing.

The integration of Romani people into society is not much succeeding in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, or other European countries. Countless solutions have already been tried.

The situation of Romani people, unfortunately, has not made one inch of progress. It is not surprising, therefore, that frustration is growing among the majority population and the Roma themselves along with the number of unsuccessful projects.

The miracle in Spišský Hrhov

A solution does exist for each problem, however, and the problems of the Romani minority are no exception. Experience with an integration project for Romani people in the Slovak village of Spišský Hrhov is proof that sometimes all it takes is for people to begin using their brains.

In this village in eastern Slovakia, one-fifth of the 1 800 local inhabitants are Romani, and integration there has been so successful that the village has received a great deal of appreciation and attention far beyond the borders of Slovakia, thanks to the current Mayor Vladimír Ledecký. Germany's ARD television channel has broadcast a report about the place, and two years ago the leading American newspaper The New York Times dedicated an article to it as well.

The beginnings for the current mayor were not at all easy, however. When he took office in 1998, the community was similar to many others in eastern Slovakia with large Romani communities.

The village at the time had just 700 inhabitants, half of whom were Romani, and the non-Romani population was dying out. The Romani residents lived in shacks without electricity, almost all of them were unemployed, and one-fifth of their children attended special needs schools.

What is the current situation there like? Unemployment among the Roma has fallen to 20 %, which can be considered an enormous success.

Romani children there are attending normal schools and three of them have gone on to college, according to the New York Times. Naturally, the level of housing in the village has improved.

The formerly illegally-built Romani shacks have now been transformed into brick buildings and housing units that are legal and the Romani residents have either bought or leased them. People from the surrounding area have begun to move into the village in large numbers thanks to its brilliant reputation and low real estate prices.

The number of inhabitants has more than doubled. Interest in real estate there has also been expressed by people living abroad.

Somebody from London has bought a vacation villa there, and a family from the Netherlands has also moved there. The main thing is that relationships among the Roma and everybody else are currently absolutely seamless.

The easy, genius solution of the local mayor

We can doubtless consider Spišský Hrhov a "success story" - and what was the secret to this success? The mayor came up with a single solution that was very easy, and yet it was genius.

He employed local Romani residents in the municipality's construction company, which he himself established to contribute to construction projects for local housing and infrastructure. After a while, the results were in.

The Romani residents had accepted the helping hand he offered them and had begun working. Through their labor they have beautified the entire community and managed to better integrate into society. 

In addition, prejudices against Romani people have fallen by the wayside there. This is plain to see, right?

This lesson leads to a single conclusion: Romani people do not need social welfare. They need to be employed and to acquire the habit of work above all.

The problems of Romani communities will never be solved by inventing "x" number of ways to constantly stuff them with money and welfare. They must mainly begin living in standard housing and working.

Romani people will also begin to behave better once that happens. In Britain, Romani people have housing and jobs and are succeeding well there - just like in Spišský Hrhov.

Just one question occurs to me: Why are people unable to draw more inspiration from the places where integration works?  I wish you all a good day and happy minds!

Originally reprinted from the author's blog on with his permission.

Tomáš Zdechovský, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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