Ljubljana related

02 Aug 2022, 12:56 PM

STA, 1 August - An annual report on the situation of the Roma communities in Slovenia for 2021 shows some headway in the labour market, but also that there remains much room to improve the communities' social inclusion. It showed that only about a dozen Roma work as assistants to preschool teachers and that many do not have their own GP.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport finds in the report, which was discussed by the government on Thursday and sent to parliament, that preschools are yet to take full use of the possibility to employ Roma assistants.

They are deemed a key connection between preschools and Roma communities. The ministry also said that municipalities will have to become more active in encouraging the Roma to enrol their children in preschools.

Learn more: Geographical names in the languages of official minorities in Slovenia

The ministry added that only seven kindergartens had applied in the most recent call for Roma assistant funding for the school year 2022/2023.

Data suggest that the situation is better at schools, as over 60 Roma assistants worked at schools and preschools combined in the previous school year, the report shows.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is trying to raise awareness among the Roma that they should pick their own GP and see them instead of going to the emergency services, the report says.

The ministry is trying to encourage a healthy lifestyle, discouraging smoking and unhealthy foods. It also focuses on encouraging the Roma to participate in preventive health programmes.

Moreover, the Health Ministry issued a public call for co-funding humanitarian organisations which provide direct aid, counselling and aid to the vulnerable in 2021 and 2022, but only few providers applied for the programme targetting the Roma.

The situation is meanwhile somewhat better in terms of employment. Nearly 2,300 Roma were registered as unemployed last year, with nearly 360 finding a job. Half of the unemployed had not completed primary school, while a third only had primary education.

The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities says in the report that many Roma took part in a number of activities provided by the Employment Agency despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology says in the report that it will continue to help municipalities in building basic infrastructure for Roma settlements.

However, in the future, the ministry will provide support only for projects that pursue development priorities and approach Roma issues comprehensively.

03 Dec 2021, 08:22 AM

STA, 2 December 2021 - The government has submitted to parliament a bill amending the financing of municipalities act whose goal it says is to streamline the procedure to award funds to the local communities with Roma settlements. The amendments also expand the list of state-subsidised services provided by joint municipal administrations.

A release issued after the government session on Thursday said one of the changes concerned the provision on the co-financing of municipalities with Roma populations which the government says has been open to misinterpretation.

Apart from the systemic solution applying to all municipalities with recorded Roma settlements, the proposed amendment would secure an additional amount of 100% to the municipalities located in development regions whose at risk of development index is 125 or more.

The indicator comprises more than a dozen indices and is used to monitor regional development based on the national average. The figures above 100 show a development lag to the average.

In response to the Human Rights Ombudsman's call to select a ministry that will conduct oversight of municipalities with Roma communities that have not yet set out detailed programmes and measures in compliance with the Roma community act and local government act, the government called on the municipalities with Roma communities to consistently meet their obligations.

Another change in the bill on municipalities financing expands the list of tasks performed by joint administrations of several municipalities that are co-funded from the state budget.

The release says that the introduction of new technologies leads to new services on behalf of residents, which also creates the need for new staff qualified to manage and provide the new tasks of joint administrations. By subsidising that staff the state would help boost the municipalities IT-wise and in providing new services to the residents.

08 Oct 2021, 14:07 PM

STA, 8 October 2021 - Pušča, the largest Roma settlement in Slovenia, was hailed as a role model for Roma communities and coexistence with locals as it marked 110 years of its existence on Friday.

Darko Rudaš, a Roma councillor from Murska Sobota, said that Pušča was a model for how to develop a Roma settlement and a solid foundation of co-existence.

The settlement, which gained the status of an independent local community in 2002 and is currently home to some 500 Roma, also sees opportunities in tourism, as the community plans to establish a creative marketplace that will present the rich history, music and cuisine of the Roma.

Officially established in 1991, Pušča today features a community centre, fire brigade, kindergarten, shop, restaurant and football field, and it has paved roads and sewage and water supply system.

Murska Sobota kindergarten director Borut Anželj said that the local kindergarten, opened in 1961 as the first Roma kindergarten in Europe, was one of the landmarks in the development of the settlement.

A public bathroom was built in 1950, a mass employment campaign in the settlement was launched in 1954 and a football club was established in 1955, playing its first official match with Olimpija Ljubljana on 1959.

A monograph entitled Pušča - the Largest Roma Settlement in Slovenia, was also presented as part of the anniversary celebrations on Thursday, whose author Jožek Horvat Muc, who said that the settlement was a hub of good ideas.

He also noted a letter from the national authorities in 1920 praising the Roma in the settlement. "The local authorities protected the Roma, and this is not the case today in many areas," he said.

A video on the settlement's 100th anniversary

Stane Baluh, the head of the Government Office for National Minorities, said that Pušča was a role model for the entire Roma community in Slovenia, labelled it an unique example in Europe in terms of its development and progress.

This was echoed by Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina, who said in a written statement that Pušča was an example of inclusive society, praising it for its cultural and social diversity and good cooperation with the local authorities.

02 Aug 2021, 17:18 PM

STA, 2 August 2021 - A memorial ceremony was held in Sinagoga Maribor on Monday to mark Roma Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of the genocide committed against the Roma in WWII. "This should be spoken about so that such things do not repeat," Amanda Fetahi of the Maribor Roma community said on the occasion.

Today's traditional event, called The Night When Violins Went Silent (Noč, ko so violine obmolknile), was hosted by the Sinagoga Maribor centre of Jewish culture and the Association Epeka with jurist Vera Klopčič talking about the recently adopted definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination by member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The definition stipulates that ceremonies remembering the victims of the Holocaust also mention the victims of Porajmos, the attempt at ethnic cleansing and genocide against Europe's Romani people by the Nazis in WWII.

"The remembrance of the Roma genocide had been pushed aside for a long time, kept silent in the activities for remembering the Holocaust. This definition obliges countries to include remembrance of the victims of the Romani genocide in awareness-raising activities," said Klopčič.

She stressed that these activities were of key importance for eliminating prejudices, collective intolerance and hatred towards the Roma and, consequently, equal inclusion of the Roma in the broader community. "It is important that this is talked about and that it is noted where such phenomena can lead to."

Association Epeka president Štefan Simončič said that the most burning problem was the unemployment rate among the Roma, which according to unofficial data in the Maribor area exceeds 90%. The association is thus mulling a lawsuit against the state over the inability to eliminate this problem.

"It is unheard of that 20 years after a huge amount of EU funds was invested in employment of the Roma, the employment rate is so low," he said, adding that the main reason for the lack of progress was "institutional discrimination. The Roma are being blamed, while the money is gone."

The Romani genocide will also be remembered on Friday in Murska Sobota and in Petanjci, where a tree will be planted in the Remembrance and Friendship Park to mark the 50th anniversary of the first international congress of the Roma.

This will be followed by a round table debate in Murska Sobota about the situation and expectations of the Roma in Europe and laying of a wreath at the memorial plaque remembering the Roma victims of WWII.

The international community has been marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August, with the day being chosen because on the night to 3 August 1944, almost 3,000 Roma, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed at Auschwitz.

A total of 21,000 are believed to be killed at Auschwitz, coming from 14 European countries. The Roma were also being exterminated in other Nazi camps, with the most recent estimates putting the total number of victims between 1939 and 1945 at at least half a million.

12 Feb 2020, 10:09 AM

STA, 11 February 2020 - The parliamentary Interior Affairs Committee unanimously called on the police force on Tuesday to draw up a report on the security situation in areas with Roma communities and a proposal for systemic changes to improve it.

The proposal was drawn up by a subcommittee established in May last year by Democrats (SDS) MP Anja Bah Žibert as the latest report on the state of the Roma community had shown things were improving only slowly.

Bah Žibert was succeeded as the chair of the subcommittee by Predrag Baković, a SocDems MP who dealt with Roma issue throughout his pre-parliamentary career.

Related: Death of Baby in Goriča Vas Draws Attention to Extreme Poverty Among Slovenia’s Roma

Areas with Roma communities in Slovenia (Map Matjaž Geršič)  Areas-with-Roma-communities-in-Slovenia-Map-Matjaz-Gersic.png

Areas with Roma communities in Slovenia (Map Matjaž Geršič, from "Geographical names in the languages of official minorities in Slovenia")

He recently told the STA that the subcommittee, which comprises MPs from areas with Roma communities, had been receiving many letters and calls from local communities and civil initiatives to address the topic, and that trust in institutions was poor.

Baković said challenges remained in education, employment, living conditions and security. Both the Roma and the majority population are unhappy with the situation, he added.

He feels that, as things currently stand, relations between the two groups are not encouraging, at least not in the south-east of the country.

"It is not like the police is not doing its work, the problems are of a more systemic nature," he said, highlighting a lack of tools to effectively penalise the bad apples in the Roma community that engage in crime and make no effort to get off of welfare.

Related: Pahor Meets with Roma and Other Stakeholders, Discusses Illegal Villages in SE Slovenia

Baković argued that the institutions the committee members addressed kept referring them back and forth to each other and that "in fact we're not operating with the goal of solving the problem but to avoid responsibility and accusations".

One of Baković's key beliefs is that it is necessary to connect members of Roma communities and the majority population. He feels very few Roma would remain in Roma settlements if they had other options.

03 Feb 2020, 10:23 AM

STA, 31 January - A two-month-old baby has died in a Roma village which lacks basic infrastructure such as electricity and water near Ribnica, southern Slovenia, triggering finger-pointing between institutions and severe criticism by Amnesty International (AI) Slovenia.

The baby died of pneumonia a month ago in Goriča Vas, where the family with three children had lived in great poverty in a shack, sleeping on blankets on the floor.

Two days after the baby's death, the other children were placed in a crisis centre, with social workers citing the poor living conditions, lack of water and poor care for the children, the newspaper Dnevnik reported yesterday.

Ordered to improve the living conditions, the parents moved to a relative's house in a nearby village, but have not yet been reunited with the children.

There are several illegal Roma villages with inhumane living conditions in the Dolenjska region, two villages with 150 inhabitants in the Ribnica municipality alone.

The local Kočevje social work centre is in the process of taking seven children from their families, according to Dnevnik.

Amnesty International Slovenia has called for decent living conditions, saying inaction by local and national authorities leaves many Roma families without water and electricity.

It says on its website that several Roma people have complained to the European Court of Human Rights for having their universal right to water violated.

The NGO also says that Roma infant death rate is four times higher than in the rest of the country's population.

Its director Nataša Posel blames the situation on inaction by those who have power to change it, pointing a finger at several ministers in the outgoing government, mayors of municipalities with Roma villages, Office for Nationalities boss Stane Baluh and two directors of local social work centres.

AI Slovenia has thus urged the state to immediately provide housing units for families from illegal Roma villages as well as access to water, electricity and toilet facilities.

The state should also overhaul inefficient mechanisms to include Roma children in education and provide assistance to the entire community at all levels.

Ribnica, on the other hand, denies being inactive, but says funds for Roma housing and other basic infrastructure should be managed at national rather than local level.

Its official Tina Peček told the STA on Friday the Office for Nationalities had been notified of the situation in Goriča Vas last year, and several mayors had jointly urged the government to take action.

Although the Human Rights Ombudsman asked the municipality to provide the basic infrastructure in the village back in 2015, Peček said there was no legal basis for it.

The ombudsman then turned to the Office for Nationalities, saying the government should provide for human rights of the Roma when they are violated at local level.

The office, however, said today it had made great efforts to encourage Ribnica to be proactive.

It noted the good cooperation with one of its representatives, but regretted that despite encouraging prospects last year, no major progress had been made.

09 Aug 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 8 August 2019 - The Supreme Court has set an important legal precedent in a case involving hate speech against the Roma by holding that public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance is a crime not only when it threatens public peace and order but also in case of threats, abusive language or insults.

The case involves a comment posted by a Dolenjsko man in February 2011 on the web portal of a local radio station in the comment section below an article about a spate of break-ins and thefts targeting a local businessman.

"A couple of ammonal sticks, a couple of M75 grenades and a couple of AK-47s just in case, I don't think it can be done any other way. Or one by one... Can I have a music request: Where did all the gypsies go by Korado & Brendi," wrote the accused, according to the newspaper Dnevnik.

The man was initially given a suspended sentence of one month by the Novo Mesto Local Court in early 2013, but he was acquitted by a higher court which agreed with the defence's appeal.

The higher judges held that the comment did not amount to a crime because the amended Article 297 of the Penal Code meant that only acts that may be a threat to public order and peace in concrete circumstances qualify as a crime of public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance.

Dnevnik reports that such an interpretation of hate speech has often been cited in the past as the reason why intolerant and hateful incitement cannot be prosecuted.

However, five years after the Dolenjsko man was acquitted, the Office of the State Prosecutor General filed an appeal on a point of law, and the Supreme Court recently upheld the prosecution's interpretation. Although the ruling does not affect the acquittal it is seen as an important legal precedent.

The Supreme Court held that in cases when the act is committed by means of a threat, abusive language or insult, with other legal indications of a crime, the act does not necessarily need to potentially jeopardise public order and peace in order to be treated as crime.

The comment, which was one of many at the time calling for use of arms against the Roma, is "threat per se", the court said, adding that the comment had all the elements of crime, so it did not need to meet an additional condition that the act could lead to a disturbance of public order and peace.

The court said that prosecution of public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance did not protect only public peace and order but also human dignity. It also noted that the Constitution guarantees the Roma additional protection and positive discrimination.

While the Office of the State Prosecutor General - whose expert council had only last November opted against changing the 2013 guidelines of hate speech prosecution that were also applied in the Dolenjsko man ruling - has not yet commented, the Justice Ministry as well as human rights groups have welcomed the development.

The Justice Ministry said it "is constantly stressing the role of courts in the interpretation of laws" and highlighted the importance of the decision as a precedent that does away with the narrow interpretation of Article 297 and can help form case law.

"We are aware of the increasingly severe problem of hate speech, which has an extremely negative effect on society and social discourse," it wrote.

The ministry also pointed to warnings by the Council of Europe's anti-racism commission regarding problems in Slovenia "with the understanding of legal issues pertaining to hate speech and problems with the social response to the spreading of hate speech".

Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik also pointed to warnings from abroad and spoke of "an important turning point". He noted the prosecution of hate speech had been on the decline even though the phenomenon had been spreading in the public.

Andrej Motl of the online watchdog Spletno Oko (Online Eye) said the decision would significantly affect the prosecution of public incitement of hate, violence and intolerance, while Spletno Oko also expects the Office of the State Prosecutor General will change its guidelines accordingly.

Motl, who said hate speech had moved into the realm of the normal in recent years, also highlighted the report of the CoE's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

The report was released two months ago and spoke of the need to bridge, as a matter of priority, the "impunity gap in hate speech cases" in Slovenia that has resulted from an excessively strict interpretation of relevant legal provisions.

23 Aug 2018, 09:08 AM

STA, 23 August 2018 - The European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes will be marked in Slovenia with various events today, including by President Borut Pahor's visiting the largest Jewish cemetery in the country. 

01 Aug 2018, 09:38 AM

STA, 1 August 2018 - Several events will be held in Slovenia to mark Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, observed on 2 August to remember the Nazi eradication of the Zigeunerlager at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and the extermination of nearly 3,000 Roma internees. 

17 May 2018, 11:48 AM

STA, 16 May 2018 - Calls for more cooperation, but also frustration in the face of continuing problems in illegal Roma villages in the south-east of Slovenia, marked President Borut Pahor's consultations with representatives of the Roma community, municipalities, state institutions and NGOs in the region. 

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