The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions
As pointed out, unemployment among ordinary Slovaks in the east of the country is also high. Although there is little evidence of inter community tension, people are, albeit mutedly, critical of the Roma regarding them as lazy, unreliable and untrustworthy. While the Slovak press adopts a responsible line on the subject, their correspondence columns often seethe with anger over what readers consider to be favouritism shown to Roma asking why “they” can’t have fewer children and clean up their act. Their critics point out that Roma lie when they say they have to steal because they can’t afford to buy food alleging that most of the goods stolen were drink and cigarettes and that they get into debt due to the shark like interest rates imposed on them by local money lenders. Not all of these accusations are false. For example, BHHRG saw an advertisement for something called Expres Financial a money lending outfit outside the Rokoko supermarket used by Roma in Čierna nad Tisou.
The determination to cling to the fiction of “occupation” has led to permanent friction with the Russian minority ever since 1991. This friction has got worse over time, even though Latvia has been incorporated into the main Western institutions. This is in spite of the size of the non-Latvian population in Latvia, a fact with which any wise government would surely try to find a civilised accommodation. According to the census carried out in 2000, there were 2,375,339 people in Latvia: 57.6% of them are ethnic Latvians; 29.6% ethnic Russians; 4.1% Belarussians; 2.7% Ukrainians; 2.5% Poles; 1.4% Lithuanians; 0.4% Jews. This means that at least 36.4% of the population is Russophone: someone who is, to all intents and purposes, Russian can be categorised as “Ukrainian” if his family came from there, or as a “Jew”, rather as a purely Anglophone Briton can be “Welsh”, “Scottish” or “Irish” The true percentage of Russophones may well be higher than this census: because hundreds of thousands of Russians in Latvia are stateless (see below) they cannot emigrate as easily as Latvians.