Do Roma in northern Croatia want bilingual signs?

NEWS 30.10.202214:52

It is still unknown if Roma in Orehovica Municipality in northern Medjimurje County will exercise their right to have bilingual signs in streets and on public buildings and in which language the signs will be.

Last year’s census shows that Roma make up more than 33% of the municipality’s population, whereby they are entitled to bilingual signage.

County official Maja Odrcic-Mikulic has told Hina the county and the municipality asked the relevant ministries on 18 October to explain how local Roma should exercise that right and that the ministries have 30 days to respond.

Which language should be used on the bilingual signs could be a problem as Roma in Orehovica, she says, refuse to accept the official Romani language as their own. Most Roma in Croatia speak the Bajaski vernacular, a variant of old Romanian language.

If the ministries approve, local Roma will be asked to say if they want bilingual signs, says Odrcic Mikulic.

Orehovica municipal head Dijana Novak, too, wonders in which language local Roma will exercise the right to bilingual signs and she, too, has told Hina they should be asked if they want to exercise it at all.

Roma MP Veljko Kajtazi is in favour of trilingual signs, telling Hina they exist in Israel. He says he wished to discuss this with Novak a month ago, but that she “has no time”.

This is an essential issue for Roma, but in Orehovica Municipality they don’t realise this, he says.

“Bilingual or trilingual signs are a good start for improving the status of the Roma community and erasing the prejudices against Roma. My associates and I have been working on that a lot and the past 12 years show it. Until then, Roma were invisible. Now the situation is completely different,” Kajtazi says.

According to Medjimurje County head Matija Posavec, “the real question is how this possible bilingualism will contribute to better coexistence, if it will increase Roma employment, if it will help them achieve better results in education and if it will step up the integration process.”

He thinks it will not and that introducing bilingual signs in Orehovica is about “forcing something” which does not benefit the community and in which local Roma are not interested. It benefits certain political structures, he says.

“We will abide by the law but also point to public policies which don’t contribute to quality coexistence but create an even bigger gap between the minority and majority in the community,” Posavec says.