October 24, 2010 / 8:29 PM / 7 years ago

Slovenia elects first black mayor in Eastern Europe

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - A doctor from Ghana was voted in as mayor of a Slovenian city on Sunday, becoming the first black mayor in an eastern European country.

<p>Peter Bossman gestures after winning the second round of local elections in Lucija October 24, 2010. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic</p>

Peter Bossman, 54, became mayor of the picturesque seaside city of Piran in the second round of local elections after beating the centre-right incumbent, according to preliminary results.

“My victory shows a high level of democracy in Slovenia,” Bossman, who came to Slovenia from Ghana 33 years ago to study medicine, told Reuters. He is a member of the Social Democrats, the leading party in the centre-left government.

Bossman had aimed to return to Ghana after studies but changed his mind after marrying a fellow student of Croatian origin and getting his first job as a doctor for tourists visiting the Slovenian seaside.

“I fell in love with this country. Slovenia is my home. Even my first impression of the country was good, it was so clean and green,” Bossman said.

Slovenia, an Alpine state of 2 million people, declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and became the only former Yugoslav state to join the European Union in 2004.

Some 12 percent of people living in Slovenia were born abroad and only a fraction come from Africa.

However, Slovenia’s human rights record was smeared by its decision in 1992 to erase 25,671 people from the official records because they had failed to apply for Slovenian citizenship after independence.

The “erased” had come to Slovenia from other parts of Yugoslavia and were thus left without basic human rights.

The government this year enabled them to regain their residency status in line with the demands of local and international human right groups.

Bossman said he had faced no discrimination because of his origin over the past decade.

“There are always small groups of people not accepting people who are different and in the first months after coming to Slovenia I felt that some people did not want to be with us (immigrants from Africa),” he said.

“But for the last 10 or 15 years I experienced nothing like that any more. I have no problems at all and I think people no longer see the colour of my skin when they look at me.”

Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Alison Williams

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