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Cyril Koky: All racial violence must be thoroughly rejected!

Prague, 24.8.2011 3:32, (ROMEA)
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Romea.cz has interviewed Cyril Koky, the Central Bohemian Regional Coordinator for Roma Affairs and the Integration of Foreigners and a member of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs, about the increasing number of attacks being committed by Romani people on members of the majority society, on the situations of these people, and on the possibilities for integration.

Q: What is your view of the recent events that have taken place in Nový Bor and Rumburk?

A: I must admit that I am very disturbed by these events, particularly by their brutality. Any violation of the law by young Romani perpetrators in particular results in a rise in social tension in towns and villages and indirectly throughout society as a whole. The majority population has a tendency to generalize about such behavior and to blame the entire Romani population for it, unfortunately. However, these perpetrators are obviously completely unaware of that.

Q: Could an escalation of these conflicts grow into something larger?

A: That can never be completely ruled out, but I hope it doesn't happen. Nevertheless, it is necessary to condemn all forms of racial violence very thoroughly, whether perpetrated by majority-society members or the Romani population. I firmly believe the police will do everything necessary to ensure order and security in the towns and villages of the Czech Republic. It would be ideal if any eventual reduction in police forces would take place after thorough analysis, and not rashly. Given the police reports from the Moravian-Silesian and Ústí regions I would be for establishing the position of Romani specialists in the police forces. These could be police officers of Romani nationality who have long and successfully served in the Police of the Czech Republic.

Q: To what degree do such attacks make Romani integration difficult?

A: The basis for any successful policy on integrating Romani communities into society is their unproblematic coexistence with non-Roma. It seems that in places where Romani people are active at local and municipal level, they are able to do a great deal in this area. On the other hand, in places where Romani people are not as active, the overall situation of local Romani people vis-a-vis the majority population is not very good.

The overall situation is being worsened in some places to a certain extent by some entrepreneurs and real estate agencies who have turned these people into a lucrative business, primarily by moving them into excluded localities. It is necessary that local Romani organizations and personalities collaborate with the representatives of towns and villages more actively and be as helpful as possible. No one wants any deterioration in the climate of ethnic and social relations in the Czech Republic. Deterioration is just grist to the mill of Czech neo-Nazis and populists in particular, who are more than happy to exploit such an atmosphere for publicity.

Q: What is the situation like now for people in northern Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, where are they worst off?

A: It's necessary to realize that 70 – 80 % of the clients now receiving aid in material distress - and these are not only citizens of Romani nationality - are enormously in debt. Because they live in a region suffering from a rather high degree of unemployment, it's a big problem. Their prospects for a better life are not rosy. That is a bad indicator not just for the state, but particularly for local and regional politicians who have not managed to make these regions attractive enough to the firms and investors who might create enough new jobs there. All you have to do is look at the case of the Northwest Regional Operational Programme (ROP Severozápad), which is distributing hundreds of millions of Czech crowns from the EU Structural Funds: Seven people there are being criminally prosecuted for corruption.

Q: What do you say to the letter demanding the situation be resolved that was sent to Czech PM Nečas by the Šluknov Development Association (Sdružení pro rozvoj Šluknovska)?

A: I believe not much can be expected from the Prime Minister. I consider him the weakest Prime Minister the Czech Republic has had since November 1989. Rapid, universal solutions do not exist in this area. Only long-term systematic work will do, otherwise we are just constantly putting out fires. If we want the integration of Romani people into society to be successful, it is necessary for everyone to contribute his or her share of responsibility to the mosaic. That means local Roma, representatives of towns and villages, regional and state government, the various ministries, and the government as a whole.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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