The Slovak government's latest move to increase some unemployment benefits came hard on the heels of the largest deployment of law enforcement in Slovakia since the Communist era. On 24 February the government mobilised thousands of police and soldiers in the central and eastern parts of the country to quell rioting by Roma Gypsies.
The protests and looting sprees by the Roma had erupted in reaction to the government's decision to cut unemployment benefits by 50 per cent. The Roma are the country's poorest community and make up around nine per cent of Slovakia's 5.4 million population,
According to local press reports, the rate of unemployment is as high as 100 per cent in some villages. The government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurnida reportedly aims to motivate the long-term unemployed to seek jobs with its move to cut the benefits.
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster has called on the government to take immediate action, warning that the Roma unrest could lead to a "wider social uprising". The government, in turn, said that the situation was stabilising and accused Mr Schuster of electioneering ahead of the March presidential elections. Nevertheless, the government said that it would introduce additional measures to soften the impact of its measures.
A Commission official said that there was no official comment on the Slovak developments.