Belgrade, 8 October 2008 – Ovča residents have threatened to use force to prevent the beginning of planned construction of a Roma settlement there.

They have also warned that they will block the Zrenjanin road, which, in previous protests, has led to traffic chaos.

Rajko Đurić, president of the Roma Union of Serbia, told B92 that the state needed to invest more effort to solve the problems of minorities, and not treat them like second-class citizens.

Ovča residents say that the Roma settlement would change the ethnic structure of that part of Belgrade, adding that there was not sufficient infrastructure to satisfy basic living conditions.

They claim that the grounds for their opposition are guaranteed human rights.

“We have some other reasons, preserving and protecting some of our human rights. Above all, they include the right to decide on what goes on in the area we live, then the right to our personal safety and that of our property, the right to a normal education,” said Đurica Šipoš, a member of the protest board.

Đurić said that Ovča residents’ opposition to the construction of a Roma settlement breached measures adopted by the state and the city, and that consequences would have to be borne for this.

He says that their actions are open racism towards the Roma population, which is getting worse day by day.

“Let’s just remember that not so long ago the Nazis and fascists reacted the same way when it came to Jews and Roma. That is, of course, an extremely complex phenomenon, but its consequences are tragic,” Đurić said.

The Roma population, which lives in unsanitary conditions in central Belgrade under the Gazela bridge, was initially supposed to be moved out to three other parts of the capital, but the city authorities gave up following angry protests by local residents.

Judging by the reaction of Ovča residents, it would appear that the Roma population is not welcome there either.

Source: B92