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Cunek's material a mere pre-election move - Czech Romanies

Prague, 16.9.2008 18:36, (ROMEA)

Local Development Minister Jiri Cunek's (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) plan for solving the problem of Romanies in the Czech Republic is nothing but his campaigning ahead of October's Senate and regional elections, local Romany groups' representatives told CTK today.

"Less than a month before the polls, this is another pulling out of the Romany card by Cunek, Zdenek Rysavy from the Romea civic association said.

The latest issue of the political weekly Tyden highlighted Cunek's plan on Monday.

Cunek has posted the material on his ministry's website today.

According to Ivan Vesely, head of the Dzeno association and deputy head of the government council for the Romany community, Cunek's proposal reminds of the methods that the Bolsheviks and the then pro-Nazi Slovak state applied in the past.

"We view this as an example of laudable [draft] practices made in Deputy PM Cunek's workshop," Vesely told CTK ironically in Brussels wehre he attends a conference on Romanies.

The practice of people being divided according to their origin is unaccpetable and many Romanies associate it with the wartime Holocaust, Vesely said.

Romany activists also criticised Cunek in the past.

Two years ago, Cunek, then mayor of Vsetin, north Moravia, succeeded in the Senate elections shortly after moving a number of Romanies out from Vsetin's centre, either to the town outskirts or to villages elsewhere in Moravia.

Later in the same year, Cunek was elected chairman of the junior ruling KDU-CSL, and in 2007 he joined the coalition cabinet as deputy prime minister and local development minister.

He has reportedly presented his plan for solving the Romany issue to the Romany members of the Government council for the Romany community, who refused to assess it first.

In the past days, however, they, along with other of the council members, have subjected the plan to sharp criticism.

They say they mind Cunek's proposal that Romany families be divided into three groups according to their social level.

Some of them should be accommodated in hostels with tough regime and supervision, Cunek proposes.

Cunek's adviser Josef Balaz, the author of the plan, said the critics have assessed the proposals out of context.

Romanies in need have to be approached individually, Balaz told CTK.

"People have different needs and a different social level," he explained.

Dzamila Stehlikova, minister in charge of human rights and minorities, told CTK in Brussels today that Cunek's material is a mere working proposal, similar to those other ministries come up with.

Stehlikova said Cunek had already met Czech Romany leaders who mainly fear an across-the-board division of Romanies into groups.

The state should place emphasis on individual approach to Romanies, Stehlikova (Greens) said.

According to Balaz, the plan "means a chance for the life improving for tens of thousands of Romanies who live in very undignified conditions and in a very undignified way now."

CTK
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