Impoverished Roma take to the streets in Slovakia
In Slovakia hundreds of Roma, have been demonstrating this week against government cuts in welfare benefits. Slovakia's centre-right government introduced the welfare cuts at the beginning of this year, as part of its efforts to strengthen the economy ahead of EU membership in May. But these cuts have hit the impoverished Roma community especially hard.
"We are unhappy with our social conditions and that's why we have taken to the streets. As any citizen of this country gypsies have the right to protest against the government but of course I ask Roma people to do it peacefully."
"They live in a vicious circle of poverty and dependence and they are not able to change their status by the means available to the rest of the population. And that's the reason why the motivation factors, which are involved in the new concepts do not work in the communities in this environment."
"Their chances of finding a job are reduced because they lack skills and live in areas with already very high unemployment rates. They think they are discriminated against even before they start looking for work and therefore they don't even try. I see a problem of mentality here."
The government promise to launch infrastructure projects for Roma communities and they will be able to earn some extra money by being employed by companies involved in these projects. It is hard to say whether the presence of the army on the streets of Eastern Slovakia or the government's promises have calmed the situation down.