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Cunek's paternalist plans for Czech Romanies to be rejected-press

Prague, 14.1.2008 21:41, (ROMEA/CTK)

Petr Uhl rejects in daily Pravo the "paternalist plans" for solving the situation of Romanies which Jiri Cunek, chairman of the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL), has presented.

He writes that Czechs remember the forced assimilation of Romanies before the fall of the previous regime in 1989, the little effective "spread of citizens of Gipsy origin."

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Romany culture contradicts Human Rights Charter - Cunek

Uhl writes that Cunek was mistaken when he said on Friday that "traditional Romany culture and its system of values are in many cases at variance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms."

Uhl writes that the Charter does not list any duties of citizens, with the exception of obligatory school attendance as part of the child's right to education.

He says the Charter is a list of the government and state bodies' commitments towards people. "The citizens' duties are treated in laws," Uhl writes.

He says forced assimilation was not attempted in former Czechoslovakia only. The United States applied it in relation to American Indians and it still battles its consequences.

Denationalisation of aborigins in the 20th century is still a source of trouble in New Zealand and Australia. In Europe, too, and not only in the former Soviet Union, denationalisation was and is a frequent phenomenon, Uhl writes.

The Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms to which Cunek refers now forbids any denationalisation pressure, any forcing people to abandon their own culture and traditions by Uhl writes.

He reminds that Human Rights and Minorities Minister Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens) said the Charter as well as laws guarantee the development of the culture of minorities, not only protection by the state.

Uhl writes that the government plan of integration that aimed at Romanies' emancipation, not assimilation, from the late 1990s is still valid, though it has been modified. However, the agency against social exclusion which Stehlikova promised to create last year, has not yet been launched, and the Czech Republic does not yet even have an anti-discrimination law.

The agency would anyway be toothless without a law establishing it, without powers and without money, Uhl writes.

He says that one author of the government integration plan, Viktor Sekyt, wrote: "A majority of people believe that integration is like assimilation. But integration means that people keep their originality, and yet they will be integrated. Certain excesses of perhaps a criminal character cannot be considered originality. Originality is culture, the use of another language, another kind of bilateral relations, and this can be integrated."

Cunek now says the state will ensure subsistence level for the Romanies who refuse to work and duly care for their children, "including stay and meals in daily facilities," Uhl writes.

He says Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa who was Czech Queen in 1743-80, already banned free killing of Gipsies, and ordered that their children be brought up in Christian families.

"It has somehow failed," Uhl writes and adds that Cunek's paternalist plans must be rejected.

Martin Komarek writes in daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) that unlike Cunek, who believes that the large Romany family whose principles are at variance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is the source of problems, sociologists say it is just the disintegration of the large family that causes the current decline of Romanies.

The sociologists say the togetherness, tremendous love of children, esteem for the elderly and at the same time freedom, defence against the outward world were the values that created Romanies' identity, Komarek writes.

The identity was, of course, often turned against the "white society" that turned Romanies into nomads, feed for the Holocaust and that eventually cut off the wheels of their carts, stole their horses and drove them to prefab houses, Komarek writes.

He says the family ties are now being loosened, young Romanies are looking for a new identity and they find it in the semi-criminal environment of the "white rabble."

"Cunek is demonstrably mistaken in his diagnoses and recipes. But he is one of the few politicians who talk about one of the biggest problems of the society that is growing rich. It is only to be wished that someone better educated and more skilful follow his example," Komarek writes.

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