Roma are most deprivileged social group in Slovenia considering their housing conditions, employment rate, inclusion in education and access to various social resources. Roma are constantly exposed to racist and discriminative actions, not only in every day life but also on institutional level.
There are around 90 Roma settlements in Slovenia in which Roma mostly reside isolated from other population in circumstances that are below the minimum living standards. Many of these settlements are not formally legalized, without running water, electricity or sewage and their inhabitants lack security of tenure. In some areas, especially in the Dolenjska region, it is estimated that more than 90% of Roma are illiterate. Information from the Governmental office for national minorities from 2006 states that approximately 98% of all Roma in Slovenia are unemployed.
Roma children face various obstacles when accessing primary education, racism and discrimination have continued to play an important role in denying them full access to education. Based on the data collected in fall 2005, there were still serious concerns of the existence of segregated classes and at the same time Roma children were over-represented in schools for children with mental disabilities. In 2007 the authorities presented Amnesty International with strong reassurances that they are dealing with the problem of discrimination with a human right oriented approach. The new 9-years long primary education system also de iure prohibits segregation. Despite these reassurances several systemic problems, like non-attendance of nursery schools prior to entering elementary school, lack of inclusion of Roma assistants in the school system and only minor and mostly non-systemic inclusion of Roma language and culture in the curriculum, remain a grave concern.
According to 2002 census 3,246 inhabitants of Slovenia declared themselves as members of Roma ethnic community while 3,834 persons stated Roma language is their mother tongue. According to data from social work centers provided in 2003 there are supposedly 6,264 Roma living in Slovenia, but estimated number of Roma in Slovenia is between 7,000 and 12,000 Roma.
Roma ethnic community in Slovenia doesn't enjoy the same level of minority protection as other two recognized minority communities - Italian and Hungarian. There is official division established also through phrases - Italian and Hungarian communities are officially called "national communities" while Roma community is called "ethnic community". Even further there is distinction introduced by the government in 90s and sustained in many policy measures ever since - between "autochthonous" (traditionally settled) and "non-autochthonous" ("new", immigrant) Roma.
There is an article in the Constitution (1991) which refers to Roma community and includes a single sentence: "The status and special rights of Roma community living in Slovenia will be regulated by law."
In mid-90s there was decision taken by the government that status and rights of Roma community should rather be regulated through special provisions in various laws which regulate different sectors than through single law on Roma. Since mid-90s the government has introduced a program of measures to improve situation of Roma in Slovenia, a governmental inter-sector committee dealing with protection of Roma community has been established, the parliament has adopted special provisions on Roma in different laws but situation of Roma in Slovenia in practice has not improved much. In 2007 the law on Roma was adopted as an additional attempt to create legal grounds for new policy instruments, but it is considered a very abstract legal act with little specific provisions and without practical value.
In practice attempts of Roma to settle outside their settlements have often ended with mobilization of majority population against it, denying them right to buy or enjoy property. Local authorities often justify or even support such measures. Roma often change their names and surnames in attempt to achieve equal opportunities in employment and education. Attempts to achieve legalization of Roma settlements have rarely been successful mostly because of lack of interest and efforts of authorities on national and local level. Such politics keep Roma in constant lack of security of tenure and belonging. Living in isolated and badly equipped settlements (in many cases even with no electricity, sanitation or running water) Roma children lack social and language skills to be able to integrate in schools and complete education. At the same time, educational system, curricula and training of teachers provide little opportunity for integration of Roma culture and language and for introduction of multiculturalism. According to analysis of court cases in selected local courts in Slovenia Roma have been more rigorously convicted for same legal offence than non-Roma. Roma have faced difficulties in attempts to run own radio or participate in public service broadcasting on national level. Only recently, in December 2007, more than two years after adoption of new legal provision, the first weekly program for the Roma community was launched at the public service radio in Slovenia. At the same time attempts of Roma radio production ROMIC to gain local frequencies haven't been successful ever since 2004. There are cases of hate speech towards Roma disseminated by the mainstream media, often being generated by politicians on local and national level. These actions of hate speech have not been condemned by the authorities and legal actions by the public prosecutors have not showed any results yet.
Several cases of major human rights violations have been reported recently by human rights organizations in Slovenia and on European level, including introduction of separate classes in the primary school in Bršljin after protest of parents of non-Roma children in 2005, and eviction of Roma family Strojan from their home in Ambrus in 2006.
Indirect discrimination in the Bršljin school has been under close supervision of the civil society since 2005. The situation in practice improved so that current execution of the model cannot be considered discriminatory anymore, even though several concerns regarding its execution remain. School statistics show that 9 out of 20 first grade Roma pupils in this school failed to advance to second class last year due to exceptionally low attendance rates, showing that the school and education system failed to ensure Roma pupils' attendance with the help of the parents.
At the same time there are some good practices and good policy measures, introduced on national and local level by previous and actual government to improve status of Roma in Slovenia and provide equal opportunities. They include for instance introduction of political participation of Roma on local level - in 19 municipalities with traditional ("autochthonous") Roma community, introduction of Roma assistants in some schools, introduction of Roma programs in public service broadcasting on national level, employment of Roma female policeman in town of Novo mesto, introduction of Roma mediators in some employment agencies on local level, etc.
However it is indicative that Grosuplje as one of 20 municipalities obliged to introduce political participation of Roma on the basis of the law on local self-government amended in 2003 even now, in 2008, still doesn't allow Roma to elect their representative in the municipal council. Maintaining of barriers for elections of Roma representative and violation of the law have been obviously acceptable for all political parties participating in the municipal council, and for the government on national level. Indicative fact is that Grosuplje is municipality where Prime Minister Janša comes from, and where secretary general of the government seats in the municipal council.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Follow-Up Report on Slovenia (2003-2005), Assessment of the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, CommDH(2006)8, 29 March 2006
Ms. Brankica Petković, researcher, Peace Institute
T: +386 1 234 77 27
Ms. Nataša Posel, director and Blaž Kovač, project manager, Amnesty International
T: +386 1 426 93 77
E: natasa.posel(at)amnesty.si, blaz.kovac(at)amnesty.s
Mr. Jožek Horvat Muc, president, Roma Community Council of the Republic of Slovenia
T/F: +386 2 526 17 73
Mr. Jožek Horvat Muc, president, Roma Association in Slovenia
T: +386 2 530 81 00
Mr. Bojan Tudja, Vice President of the Roma Association in Slovenia
Organization: Roma Association in Slovenia, Office in Novo Mesto
M: +386 41 575 235 (Note: for communication in English language please contact first Ms. Tina Cigler, see bellow)
Ms. Dr. Vera Klopčič, researcher in the field of human rights, minority rights and Roma
Organization: The Institute for Ethnic Studies, Erjavčeva 26, SI-1000 Ljubljana
T: +386 1 200 18 74
Mr. Dr. Janez Krek, researcher in the field of Roma education, assistant professor
Organization: Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana, Kardeljeva pl. 16, SI-1000 Ljubljana
T: +386 1 5892253, +386 1 5892344, M: +386 41 45 99 43
Ms. Tina Cigler, project coordinator (including projects for Roma community)
Organization: Association for Voluntary Work in Novo Mesto
T: +386 7 337 39 20, M: + 386 41 636 404
Ms. Enisa Brizani, editor of Roma progam »Amare Droma« at Radio Slovenija
Organization: Radio Slovenija, Tavčarjeva 17, SI-1000 Ljubljana
M: +386 51 662948
Mr. Aleksander Čeferin, lawyer representing Roma family Strojan
Organization: Čeferin Law Firm, Taborska 13, SI-1290 Grosuplje
T: +386 1 786 52 70