Hungary asks - will Roma riot here?

12-03-2004

Across the border from Slovakia, in Hungary, the Slovak Roma problems are being closely followed. Many are asking, could similar riots happen in Hungary? Petra Hajdu of Radio Budapest spoke to Angela Kocze - head of the European Roma information office in Brussels.

"Of course it could happen, especially if I can see that the Hungarian Roma in the north and east regions, the kind of conditions they are living in. They are quite close to their Slovakian fellows. But of course many things depend on their political circumstances that we are having in Hungary compared to the situation they have in Slovakia. They did it mainly because of the social system and the welfare system was devised in such a way that it very badly affected Roma in Slovakia."

So you would say the situation is better in Hungary?

"I wouldn't say that it is so much better but certainly it is slightly better."

According to some calculations, in certain Roma families in Hungary some people will get about fifty forints a day which is about a fifth of a Euro for food. Would you call this better?

"That's certainly not so much. But it's hard to say because of course no one wants to be a radical and threaten the government. They have to speculate with maybe the same action as well in Hungary."

Certain things of this sort did happen in 1995 when about 20 people broke into a storage room where they kept potatoes which were not actually not quite suitable for human consumption but they said they were so hungry they had to do it. So the fear exists that it will happen in Hungary as well - the question is - how well founded is it?

"I think if the media is going to continue to play in such a way, I am sure that Hungarian Roma are going to be encouraged to do the same thing. Certainly they don't have many other tools in their hands to influence government policy just in that way. Which is not the most fortunate way."

What would the solution be?

"The Slovak government has to revise and re-define their social policies and the measures which affected Roma in such a way. And on the other hand they really have to allocate some jobs for Roma because that's why they cut the whole social benefit system, so that Roma should go and work and get a job and not depend on the social welfare system. And according to the news and talking to people from Slovakia, many people want to go to work but they cannot find work so the Slovak government definitely has to think about it and they have to focus on job creation schemes and vocational training for Roma who are unemployed for many many years."

12-03-2004