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Slovak PM targets Roma in his speeches, critics say he should focus on his own corruption scandals

18.12.2016 1:20
Robert Fico (PHOTO: Xmetov)
Robert Fico (PHOTO: Xmetov)

Slovak news server Denník N reports that at the most recent convention of the governing Smer party, Slovak PM Robert Fico and his colleagues chose not just a new governing board, but also a new priority - Romani people. Fico gave a harsh speech discussing Romani people as welfare abusers and said he would support the police in their interventions into Romani settlements.

The Slovak PM is also planning to spar with Slovak ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová over human rights and blames the media and traditional right-wing parties for the growth in extremism in the country. Critics of Smer see Fico's moves as an attempt to draw attention away from the corruption scandals afflicting members of his political party and the loss of his voter base.

Fico and his party colleague, Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, claim they want to instill order into the Romani settlements and that they want to have done with "political correctness". On the basis of those remarks, both non-Romani and Romani figures are beginning to speak up ever more forcefully to object to such collective blaming of Romani people and generalizations about them.

"Prime Minister Robert Fico said at the convention that Romani people are abusing the social system. I ask:  According to which statistics has he arrived at that opinion? The Romani settlements are mainly in eastern Slovakia. ... Today in that region there is very high unemployment, and not just among Romani people, but also among the majority society. The statements by the Interior Minister and Prime Minister Robert Fico are playing to all the extremists who now are beginning to be even braver in their propaganda. We can anticipate unrest," activist and journalist Denisa Havrľová told Denník N.

According to Havrľová, currently right-wing extremist Marián Kotleba, for example, does not have to do anything more because his work is being done for him by Smer, still one of the strongest political parties in Slovakia, which is aiding Kotleba with attracting more and more adherents every day. The former Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community, Slovak MP Peter Pollák (OĽaNO), sees Fico's speeches as an attempt at populism.

"This is pure populism. Through this convention, Smer has espoused all the fans of Kotleba's party. They have found their culprit for all of the problems in the country, just like Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s. The problem of this country is not, according to Smer, corruption, or education, or health care, or the indebteness of the state, but Romani people. They have had 10 years in power during which they could have aided those people, and if I hadn't been in my post for the past three years, they would still be proceeding by learning through trial and error," Pollák said.

Vlado Rafael, the director of the EduRoma organization, has also expressed his view of the situation:  "The Prime Minister and Interior Minister should finally get their own house in order. They should support the police to not be afraid of investigating suspected corruption scandals in Fico's cabinets, including the recent coverups of tax fraud. Hundreds of millions of euro that could have given the poor hot meals and quality educations ended up in the pockets of the backers of Smer instead. The fact that Fico and Kaliňák are playing the 'Romani card' to save their own political butts will not aid them. Smer will just lose popularity now."

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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