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Slovak Government Increases Benefits In Welfare Law

Bratislava, 25 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Slovakia's government today voted to increase some unemployment benefits to soften the impact of a new welfare law that has caused violent protests and looting by some of the country's Roma.

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ludovit Kanik said the government will increase monthly payments to families on welfare that agree to do weekly community service.

Welfare recipients who perform 10 hours of community service per week will be eligibe for higher payments, to compensate for an overall cut in unemployment benefits.

Hundreds of Roma demonstrated peacefully across Slovakia today, protesting cuts in welfare benefits and job shortages.

The demonstrations come after days of looting and violence in impoverished eastern and central regions of the country.