Cabiny Roma to be housed by summer
The Slovak government released SKK (Slovak koruna) 590,000 (USD 12,000) from the SKK 2.7 million state budget (USD 55,450) to construct housing for Roma who presently live in shacks in Cabiny, near Medzilaborce. Three flats are supposed to be completed by May 2001. Completion of sufficient housing for all ten adults and ten children in Cabiny will depend on the speed of construction and on the ability of the municipality of Medzilaborce to find other financing. The municipality is confident that by summer 2001 the Cabiny Roma will be housed.
Funds for Roma agency frozen
SKK 16 million (USD 328,600), earmarked for projects that would have increased the employment potential of 700 Roma and improved the infrastructure of Romani communities, were frozen by the National Employment Office (NEO). Lack of consensus among the present Visegrád 4 (V4) leadership put the NEO in doubt about the organisation's purpose. It is now unclear if the project, which received support from the Office of the President of the Slovak Republic in January, will continue. The hold on funds will last until the V4 administrative office clarifies the spending of SKK 450,000 (USD 9240) for the administrative apparatus.
Nationalist groups want to rehabilitate Tiso
Nationalist groups demonstrated on Thursday in Bratislava, demanding the rehabilitation of Jozef Tiso, first president of the Slovak Republic—whom demonstrators called "the greatest son of the nation"—to mark the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the Slovak state. The demonstration in front of the presidential palace attracted 300 people and caused no incidents. A counter-demonstration by the group of People Against Racism protested attempts to glorify the Nazi Slovak state. The People Against Racism march was led by Jozef Migaš (SDĽ) and was accompanied by police to prevent conflict between the opposing demonstrators.
Action Dezo discussed in media
Some members of the ruling government coalition do not want to relinquish their attempts to hold Rudolf Žiak, former director of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), responsible for exploiting the Romani issue to undermine EU membership prospects of some accession countries. The politicians do not want to accept last week's court ruling that Žiak is not guilty of criminal responsibility for the operation that he directly led. According to the court, Žiak's activities did not fulfil the legal definition of the crime of sabotage and spreading of alarming news. Žiak insists that the whole affair has been generated by the media, whose secret mission is to damage the image of the Movement for Democratic Slovakia.
According to Slovak media, the Mečiar government was to alert NATO in April 1997 that the Czech Republic was not ready for EU membership because of its unclear relations with Slovakia. The media report that SIS was distributing anti-NATO leaflets in the eastern Czech Republic. The propaganda, written in local Moravian dialect, aimed to increase Czech nationalist sentiment. Another operation, code-named Dezo, was intended to fuel racism in Czech society and aggravate the Roma question. The SIS hoped to mobilise Romani protests and drive some Czech politicians from the political scene, in particular, President Václav Havel.
Romani musician shines in the night sky
A new minor planet, discovered in October 1995 and known until now as "17611," has been named after Roma musician Jozka Kubik III (1907-1978), who influenced a generation of musicians in the Slovacko region. Kubik is especially well known for forging a connection between Moravian and Romani musical traditions. "Jozkakubik" orbits between Mars and Jupiter and circles the sun every 5.17 years. Bretislav Rychlik, who led the drive to name the planet after Kubik, said the idea came to him during a celebration in the Archa theatre last year.
Integration of Romani communities a priority for 2001
The Czech Inter-Ministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs has issued a call for funding applications for projects that are locally based and oriented towards improving social, cultural and educational conditions of the Roma. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are encouraged to apply, but the objective is to foster the integration of Romani communities. The application deadline is 30 March 2001.
Skinheads to be imprisoned
A group of skinheads who attacked a Roma party at the Modra hvezda (Blue Star) pub in late 1999 were tried on charges of racially motivated violence, disturbing the peace and damaging property. The harshest sentences, given to only six of the defendants, were 1.5 to 2.5-year prison terms. In the ruling, the judge said, "racism runs through the whole case like a red thread" and found the defendants guilty of shouting Sieg Heil, raising their hands in a Nazi salute and physically attacking the partygoers. When TV Prima asked some of the skinheads about the ruling, one said, "We are proud to be white."
Čeněk Růžička, chairman of the council for restitution for victims of the Romani holocaust, said the punishment could have been more severe, especially considering the societal danger posed by skinheads. Most of the convicted have filed appeals, which will be heard at a regional court.
Jarab presents priorities
Jan Jarab, chair of the Inter-ministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs, has said the commission's priority will be to change laws in order to allow individuals better access to justice through anti-discrimination measures. The proposal will be based on the recent Racial Directive of the EU, which is binding for the Czech Republic. The EU will send an expert to work closely with the commission to accomplish this task.
Jarab also plans to submit a report on human rights in the Czech Republic in 2000 and to increase the employment potential of the Romani community. Good relations with Romani leaders that Jarab established during his involvement with human rights NGOs such as the Movement for Civil Solidarity and Tolerance, of which he is a founder, will hopefully benefit the commission's work.
Zámoly Roma granted asylum in France
Two Romani families from Zámoly, Hungary, were granted asylum in France on Wednesday after a year-long wait. The two eight-member families filed a complaint against Hungary with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after being the target of racially motivated attacks by skinheads and of brutality from local Hungarian authorities for the past three years.
Strasbourg-based psychiatrist George Federman expressed hope that the rest of the group of 22 adults and 24 children will be granted asylum soon. According to Federman, France's decision sets an historic precedent by recognising that "human rights are not respected in the EU accession countries." Green Party MP Noël Mamere and Communist MP Patrick Braouezec invited the group of Roma to the National Assembly, the lower chamber of the French Parliament, where human rights groups expressed their support.
Eva Sobotka, 16 March 2001
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