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MEPs say conditions for Roma in the settlements of eastern Slovakia are disgraceful, medieval, scandalous and shameful

15.7.2022 17:29
Slovak MEP Peter Pollák and a delegation of his fellow MEPs to the Romani settlement in the municipality of Petrovce nad Laborcom, district of Michalovce. (13 July 2022) (PHOTO:  Facebook page of Peter Pollák)
Slovak MEP Peter Pollák and a delegation of his fellow MEPs to the Romani settlement in the municipality of Petrovce nad Laborcom, district of Michalovce. (13 July 2022) (PHOTO: Facebook page of Peter Pollák)

Members of the European Parliament (EP) have described the conditions in which Romani people are living in the settlements of Slovakia as a discredit to the country and a scandal for the EU after a delegation from the EP's Committee for Regional Development visited at the invitation of Slovak MEP Peter Pollák, who is himself of Romani origin, and visited the district of Michalovce, where the municipality of Petrovce nad Laborcom has a Romani settlement on its outskirts. The MEPs paid their visit to assess how EU cohesion policy resources are being taken advantage of there to improve the inclusion of Romani residents. 

Pollák said that while enough financing has been allocated from EU funds to resolve issues involving the inclusion of marginalized communities of Romani people, the problem is the lack of political will to make such investments among those responsible for local policy. "Why, for example, are hundreds of thousands of euro in EU financing being drawn in Trebišov, but not one single euro goes to solving the problems of the impoverished people in the local settlement?" he asked.

"Why do they not want to draw on the resources the EU provides? Because they just don't," Pollák said.

"Their not wanting to means they are taking these children's future opportunities away from them, though, this problem just keeps growing," Pollák said. Committee member MEP Younous Omarjee of France said yesterday that "It is an absolute scandal that these people have no prospects for their future."

The biggest problem is not, in his view, just the "technical" state of the Romani settlements, but especially the kind of limited access that the Romani children from the settlement have to education and that the Romani adults have to joining the labor market. In Omarjee's view, the reason for this is the lack of political will to dedicate effort to integrating Romani men and women systematically. 

Omarjee recalled that EU cohesion policy has been allocated EUR 380 billion, of which EUR 15 billion is meant to be sent to Slovakia. At the same time, the MEP warned that if Brussels sees no progress when it comes to solving these problems, the EP is prepared to adopt "all possible measures to resolve these matters".  

The Mayor of Petrovce nad Laborcom, Štefan Rovňák, felt insulted that the settlement had been selected as an example of dysfunctional practices and said the residents of the settlement themselves were at fault. He alleged that thanks to one project there is now an available hookup to running water, but none of the local residents of the settlement want to connect to it. 

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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EU, Peter Pollák, Romské děti , settlement



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