Discussions regarding the integration of Roma into mainstream society in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and then in a larger sense, their integration into the European Union, has been a political powder keg. Head of the EU Delegation to Slovakia, Eric van der Linden's comment on improving the dire living conditions of Roma in Slovakia provides one of the biggest examples of a political flap on this issue.
In his interview for a Dutch TV documentary which aired on the day of EU enlargement in May 2004 (the day when the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and eight other former communist countries from Eastern Europe entered the European Union), van der Linden said that he supported the forced removal of Slovakian Roma children from their families into a kind of boarding school, i.e., a state educational institution to improve their assimilation into the New Europe.
"It may sound simplistic, but I believe that ... we might have to proceed to, well, I'll say this in quotation marks, 'force' Roma children to stay in a kind of boarding school from Monday morning until Friday afternoon...." he said, with the broadcast cutting him off mid-sentence.
The original broadcast was played on TV screens beside Slovakian news broadcasts responding to van der Linden's statement at the entrance to the multi-media exhibition Family Happiness. The exhibition explored this policy of forcibly removing Roma children from their families and homes in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The exhibition was held at the Czech Ministry of Culture (Nosticky Palace) from 24 April until 10 May 2009.
And while both broadcasts included the common backdrop of Roma shantytowns --either …