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Civil society members of Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs distance themselves from Czech Human Rights Commissioner

Prague, 29.8.2011 22:04, (ROMEA)

News server Romea.cz has received a declaration on the tense situation in Šluknov district from the civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs. The Commission is an advisory body to the Czech Government. One half of the Commission is comprised of a civil society section of Romani figures, while the other half is comprised of representatives from various ministries. Originally, in order to make the Commission efficient and more significant, it was designed so that cabinet members at ministerial level would participate in it, but that original design has never been implemented. Membership on the Commission is honorary and unpaid.

Declaration of the civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs

Recent events in North Bohemia have roused citizens across the entire country. The cause has been a brawl between youth, one that was similar to hundreds that take place around the country on a daily basis. Thanks to the contributions of the media and ultra-right groups, this incident has become a pretext for racial conflict.

Violence committed against people who are members of this or that group can never be tolerated. However, that is why we have police, to ensure citizens' security. Of course, if the Police of the Czech Republic are unable to fulfill their basic function, the incompetence of the Czech Interior Ministry must be blamed.

Unfortunately, even high bodies of the executive branch of government and municipal authorities are basing their actions on the conviction that socially excluded localities are being created in this country primarily as the outcome of the Romani "mentality" and that they are exclusively a Romani problem. However, the truth is that the expenditure of significant financial means on integration activities for Romani people is all being swallowed up by "experts" from majority-society organizations and agencies without having any effect on the target group. Romani integration and social exclusion have become a profitable business, but Romani people are still always ending up in last place. The civil society section of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs sees the solution to this dilemma as cooperation on creating new jobs and social housing, as well as constantly increasing Romani people's qualifications.

The civil society section is also outraged by the internal tensions which are naturally being reflected in public opinion and by the generalizations being made about all Romani people. The members of the section will therefore be intensively communicating with the media, with municipal representatives, and with Romani people themselves.

Logically, these activities should be performed under the auspices of steps taken by the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner. Unfortunately, however, despite all of our efforts to draw her attention to this issue, the Commissioner is behaving quite passively toward it. This is not surprising, as she is simply copying the posture being struck by the entire Government of the Czech Republic.

At a time when our government is afflicted by one crisis after another in the political parties in the governing coalition, it is not possible to call for an emergency meeting at the highest level on Romani integration. This topic is politically unattractive and does not interest the majority population. The only general tool for Romani integration currently available is the work of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities.

The Agency has been working in Šluknov district since 2008. During that time it has produced an analysis of social needs in the region, a strategic plan for social inclusion, and performed regular monitoring. On the basis of these documents and the money spent on them, it is logical to ask how it has come to pass that such serious problems have escalated. How has it come about that these problems have resulted in a hateful environment between the majority and the minority? The answer can be found in the concept of this blanket tool, whose main aim is to network interested parties and make sure their needs are met without ever determining the real needs in the field of those living in the socially excluded localities.

Lastly, the civil society section of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs also wishes to distance itself from the statement made by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková, who compared the terrorist crime committed by majority-society youths against a Romani family in Vítkov in 2009 to the recent pub brawl in Nový Bor, which resulted in an inexcusable machete attack.

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, jb, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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