Roma riots in Slovakia: is there a lesson to be learned for the Czech Republic?
In neighbouring Slovakia several hundred Romanies clashed with police in the Eastern town of Trebisov Monday evening. Rocks and empty bottles were thrown, and several shops were looted. The incident was part of a chain of protests following the Slovak government's decision to cut back social welfare. The story has also hit the headlines in the Czech papers, as this country also has a large Roma minority. As in Slovakia Czech Roma are among the poorest in society, and the great majority of them have their roots in Slovakia. Could the same kind of protests also happen in the Czech Republic?
"Obviously in my opinion this is an understandable policy if you give recipients of social benefits alternatives such as job opportunity. But, when you think geographically where the Roma in Eastern Slovakia live, there are no jobs. And with their education they even have less of a chance to find any employment whatsoever in this part of Slovakia. But that is my personal opinion."
Could you tell me the difference between Slovakia's situation and the one in the Czech Republic in terms of giving alternatives? Does the Czech system have something better in place?
Many Roma from isolated rural settlements in Slovakia have migrated to the Czech Republic in recent years - both before and since the split of Czechoslovakia. The latest wave of unrest has led to concern that many more Slovak Roma will want to move to this country. A Czech-Slovak working group is set to meet on the 5th of March and Mr. Wellek of the Council for Roma Community Affairs will play an active role.
"Obviously we are concerned with what is going on and if the Slovak government were to ask us for help we would be ready to give any help that we possible can."