Belgrade, 29 September 2008 – Ethnic Romanians in a Belgrade municipality say they will organize to stop a planned settling of Romas in their community.

The Romanians of Ovca say they have formed a “crisis headquarters for defense”, ahead of the planned arrival of Romas – or Gypsies – who currently live in a slum, known also as “the Cardboard City”, under the Gazela bridge, in central Belgrade.

The city of Belgrade will first build housing units for the Roma and once this is completed remove them from the squalor without basic infrastructure they currently live in, but Ovca residents, members of the only ethnic Romanian community in the territory of the capital, say this would “assimilate them”.

20 days ahead of the start of construction works, their representative Igor Trickovic says the Romanians had formed the “defense headquarters” on Sunday evening.

“We will be waiting for them ready and will physically, using machinery, obstruct the works from the very moment they start,” he stressed.

Trickovic went on to say that the ethnic Romanians in Ovca will also “notify foreign embassies and their media about the violation of Serbia’s constitution, which guarantees the rights of ethnic minorities, and prohibits any change of ethnic demographics”.

And while the Romanians say the settling of between 4,000 and 10,000 Romas would be “only the beginning”, the city authorities explain that the project does not merely envisage a transfer of people from one place to another, but also improvement of their overall standard of living.

The project will see the Roma adults given opportunities of employment and social protection, while the children will be included in the school system, with the neighborhood seeing the construction of a kindergarten, a health care station, and social welfare center.

Ovca, with some 3,000 residents, is alongside Borca the oldest Belgrade municipality on the Danube’s left bank. It is inhabited by Romanians, but also by colonists from all over the former Yugoslavia.

Source: Tanjug/B 92