Commentary: What will the Agency be like once its employees give notice?
On 21 May, 14 employees of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion gave their notice. The resignations happened more than one month after the dismissal of Agency director Martin Šimáček, which jump-started a crisis within that institution and a tempestuous discussion about its future and about Romani integration policy.
Does the resignation of 20 % of the employees mean anything essential for the future of the Agency - is this a breakthrough moment in the crisis? This can be viewed from at least two basic perspectives.
Perspective Number One: This is the worst possible scenario
Those who have given notice are some of the bravest people, those with the most conviction, people who take their work more seriously and who cannot be so easily beaten down by the requirements of subordination. Moreover, these are people in management roles who have contributed significantly to the concept of the Agency.
In other words, those remaining are the easily-managed, those who for one reason or another ultimately are able to subordinate their own views and will not consistently persist in them. In the work of the Agency, these people do not play such an essential role.
For Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier, therefore, the path has opened up to the easy conquest of a so-far rebellious Agency. No longer will this be an institution with the ambition of becoming autonomous, critical, initiative-taking, rebellious and unruly.
Instead, the Agency will become an obedient, ordinary official department at the Office of the Government. It will communicate in the language of bureaucracy, and it will not oppose the Government's concepts.
For those who might want to divvy up (in a way that may not be absolutely transparent) the CZK 10 billion coming in from the EU funds, that kind of Agency will be an ideal partner. The Agency will no longer be a significant institution in combating social exclusion or in aiding Romani integration.
Perspective Number Two: This is an almost ideal scenario
Those leaving the Agency are those with whom it was impossible to reach agreement. They are representatives of a certain concept of how to combat social exclusion and integrate the Roma, people who were unwilling to enter into any kind of dialogue and who consider their own approach to be infallible dogma.
Moreover, these are people who do not honor the legalities of common bureaucratic, political communication. They are people who sow division in the ranks.
They are too self-aware, too self-confident, and too uncommunicative. They want all or nothing, and they are unwilling to engage in compromise.
Without such people, there is a chance that the Agency will become an effective instrument within the framework of the overall Romani Integration Strategy, and that it will learn to cooperate with everyone else in a reasonable way. Those who remain will be those who take their work seriously and who do not want what the Agency knows how to do, its good aspects, to be endangered by intransigence and short-sighted naval-gazing.
The ideal scenario would never have included such a crisis. However, this solution is a step in the right direction.
A "suicide" competition?
An important impulse for the further development of the Agency will naturally come from whoever becomes its new director. We should all learn who that will be by the middle of next week.
The competition for this position is taking place under exceptional "security measures" - the names of the members of the hiring committee are not publicly known, nor are the names of the applicants. What is known is that there are seven candidates, and otherwise everything is in the realm of speculation.
Does anyone have even the slightest chance of managing the situation of this busted-up, shattered, completely transformed Agency? Minister Dienstbier has assured the Agency that no changes await it before the end of the year - but that probably just means changes await them in January 2016.
Those are the changes against which the vast majority of employees - 59 out of roughly 70 - went on strike. As far as the competition for the new director goes, there are two basic scenarios possible: In the first scenario, after the publication of the result of the hiring procedure, the rest of the Agency employees might give notice and the new director will have only a wreck of the original institution to manage.
This wreck, moreover, will require miraculously rapid resuscitation in order not to endanger the drawing of billions of Czech crowns from the EU funds. In the second scenario, however, the remaining employees will welcome their new boss, who will be a person who is competent enough and strong enough to bring other capable people into the Agency.
Time will tell. For now, however, it rather seems that the existence of a strong, useful and viable Agency has been fundamentally undermined.
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