MPs discuss situation of Roma community

Ljubljana – The parliamentary Home Policy Committee was briefed on Tuesday on the latest report on the position of the Roma community in Slovenia, covering 2020. The debate noted progress on some acute problems but also continuing issues pertaining to living conditions, education and employment.

The report was presented by Stanko Baluh, director of the Government Office for National Minorities, who said that a large part of the report dealt with measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Also listed are activities in the fields of education, employment, social and health care and social inclusion, culture and publishing, efforts to tackle living conditions, and to raise awareness and combat discrimination.

The report also details activities in compiling a new national programme of measures in the 2021-2030 period, which has already come into effect.

As one major positive development in 2020 Baloh noted amendments to the financing of municipalities act under which the municipalities with Roma communities received 3.5% higher per capita funding, which Baloh said in a way “rounds off the systemic financing to tackle the Roma issues”.

The act provides for state and local financing in support of many activities as well as project financing. “These are good bases for the way forward and, with the active participation of the Roma community, progress is visible in 2020, but there are still problems that need to be addressed,” he said.

The relevant commission of the National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, finds progress in dealing with Roma issues insufficient with the most critical situation in SE Slovenia.

Darko Rudaš, the head of the Forum of Roma Councillors, noted progress in areas such as education with improvements in attainment by Roma children, but said there were still many things the state could do to improve the lives of Roma people. He noted issues with open calls for project applications and said he was missing a call to support the community’s cultural activities.

Predrag Baković, and MP for the opposition Social Democrats (SD), said something should be done about heavily indebted individuals, who for that reason avoided getting a job. He also noted the problem of home schooling where poorly educated parents in Roma settlements in south-east of the country are not in a position to help their children. He called for legislative changes to deal with the issues.

Nataša Sukič, an MP for the opposition Left, noted the main finding each time the annual report is debated was that major problems remained unsolved. She said the Roma were strongly stigmatised and discriminated against.

She said that under amendments adopted by parliament municipalities were free to decide on how to use the funds, arguing the funds should be purpose-assigned as many Roma were still without water and power supply.

Speaking for the ruling Democrats (SDS), MP Anja Bah Žibert pointed to Roma children failing to complete even primary school as one of the pressing problems. She believes child benefit should be paid in kind where the situation is below par, that is in the south-east.