Roma still face many issues, but situation relatively good

Ljubljana, 7 April - The situation of the Roma in Slovenia is relatively good, but still many issues remain, including in education, employment and safety, Jožek Horvat Muc, head of the Roma Association, and Stanko Baluh, director of the government Office for National Minorities, said ahead of International Romani Day, observed on 8 April.

Murska Sobota
Event celebrating International Romani Day in 2022.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Horvat Muc said that assessments of the community's situation varied, depending on who was making them. He believes that the situation is much better than in many other countries. But still a number of problems remain.

"Many Roma villages have no utilities, no electricity, nor water, and the living conditions there are very poor. As a result, children don't go to school, adults are limited in their work possibilities and the overall health is worse," Horvat Muc told the STA.

On the other hand, "we have many positive examples in Prekmurje, the situation is worse in southeastern Slovenia. But things aren't black and white. The situation is also bad in some settlements in Prekmurje, while some villages in the southeast are relatively well developed."

In order to improve the situation for the community, some outdated measures will have to be overhauled and cooperation with the community strengthened, said Horvat Muc.

He believes much more could be done in education and employment. He admits that Roma themselves are partly to blame for unemployment and school absence of children, but there are also many objective circumstances that affect the situation.

"Many Roma do not attend school because of their living conditions, they have nowhere to wash and clean up, many are not accepted by others at school." As regards employment, many people are hesitant about employing a Roma, but also many Roma do not have the qualifications needed for certain jobs.

But Horvat Muc is hopeful that the task force for Roma issues recently established by the prime minister will change things for the better. Its head, State Secretary Anton Grizold, is willing to listen to the community, said Horvat Muc.

The STA also talked to the director of the government's minorities office, Baluh, who voiced a position similar to Horvat Muc: The situation is relatively good but there is also room for improvement.

The problems could be tackled with the national action programme for the Roma for 2021-2030, which defines the main issues. Among other things, focus is to be put on increasing the number of Roma children attending preschool.

Employment is also a key aspect. The government intends to increase the number of "public works", jobs co-financed by the state, and introduce additional programmes aiming to boost employment of the Roma.

Baluh also highlighted security and cohabitation in Roma settlements as an important aspect in which a step forward must be made. The police force and the Interior Ministry have developed programmes, under which security councils are to be established to bring together the representatives of the Roma and the majority population.

Slovenia is home to some 12,000 Roma, with written sources proving their presence as far back as 500 years. Most of them live in the regions of Prekmurje in the northeast, Posavje in the east, and Dolenjska and Bela Krajina in the southeast.

International Romani Day is observed every year on 8 April. This year, the main ceremony will be held in Murska Sobota, the biggest town of Prekmurje. It will be addressed by Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon.

A number of events have already taken place ahead of Romani Day, including in Maribor. There, Fatmir Bećiri, a representative of the city's 3,500-strong Roma community, said the situation was gradually improving. "If problems emerge, we resolve them through dialogue."

The situation is better than a few decades ago, because cooperation has been established with the local municipality, the police force, schools and the Employment Service, said Bećiri, also the head of the Romani society Romano Pralipe and the vice president of the Roma Association.

© STA, 2023