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Canadian experts visit Museum of Roma Culture in Czech Republic

Brno, 3.2.2011 1:38, (ROMEA)
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Canadian experts visited the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno today to determine what the situation for minorities is like in the Czech Republic and what the state is doing to promote Roma integration. Their mission is related to Czech efforts to have Canada lift the visa obligation it renewed for Czech citizens in 2009. Karel Holomek of the Society of Roma in Moravia, who participated in the meeting, told the Czech Press Agency that the experts asked about the role of government in taking care of the Roma minority. He is said to have personally recommended to the experts that the visas be lifted.

Holomek told the members of the mission that the government would not be able to prevent Roma from traveling to Canada should visas be lifted. "On the other hand I told them that Czech Roma do not pose any kind of acute threat to Canada, for several reasons. They are much more integrated than Balkan or Slovak Roma, and the Czech Republic is a democratic, secure country, so any asylum requests made in Canada would not succeed," Holomek said.

Holomek also said he would welcome the lifting of visas because the Roma have been mindlessly blamed in the Czech Republic for the visa reintroduction. The lifting of visas would allegedly improve the environment in the country for Roma. Holomek added that according to his information, the Czech Roma who have emigrated to Canada have successfully found work there and do not represent a burden to the country.

Holomek did not evaluate living conditions for the Roma minority in the Czech Republic positively, and said that in his view the situation had deteriorated rather than improved during the past five years. He primarily blamed municipalities for the deterioration, reminding the experts of the anti-Roma actions and statements of politicians such as Jiří Čunek, Liana Janáčková and Ivana Řápková. In his view, these politicians have re-opened old wounds in society and poisoned the atmosphere.

The Canadian experts planned meetings with representatives of Czech nonprofits and the state during this week. "The purpose of this visit is to acquire as much information as possible for any eventual revision of the visa obligation," Canadian Embassy spokesperson Petra Šedinová told the Czech Press Agency in January.

Canada renewed visas for Czech citizens in 2009. Prague was very upset by the development and requested assistance on the issue from the EU-27. Even though the EU has taken the Czech Republic's side and threatened counter-measures, it has not introduced anything concrete.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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