Czech Agency for Social Inclusion: Mayor of Nový Bydžov is exacerbating the situation
On Monday, 10 January, the online news server lidovky.cz published an interview with the mayor of Nový Bydžov, Pavel Louda. Through the comments made in that interview, Mayor Louda is continuing to exacerbate the situation in his town.
His actions are not only worsening civic co-existence in the town, but from the responses to the interview posted online by several readers, it is evident that right-wing extremists, who usually focus their activities on places where there is support for them, are taking an interest in the situation. Mayor Louda also gave very biased information in his interview about the meeting he held with representatives of the Agency for Social Inclusion at the town hall in Nový Bydžov on 13 December 2010.
Since December, when the mayor publicly responded to a report of a rape by condemning the town's entire Roma population, conditions for the successful inclusion of Roma into the population there have continued to decline. The Roma have been ostracized and are being considered the perpetrators of serious crimes. The principle of collective guilt has been applied.
The Roma population of the town is highly stratified. The community is divided into a population of long-term residents and one of new immigrants; there are no ties between these two populations. There is no reason why the Roma families long resident in the town should suffer repercussions for the behavior of some other residents who have recently moved into the community and have either disturbed civil coexistence, committed misdemeanors, or perpetrated crimes. We have noted that a significant portion of the long-term Roma population has found itself under very strong pressure from a section of the majority-society population in the town - in public, at school, and at work - in particular as a result of the situation becoming acute after the crime of rape was committed.
During our meeting with Mayor Louda, we proposed negotiating with those who offer rental accommodation in the town, focusing on low-income households and their options for applying temporary material distress subsidies. We believe the town's activities in the area of implementing field social work and its support for the activity of a drop-in center for children and youth are positive. During the meeting, we also reached agreement with the mayor that it is necessary to build on the existing measures, particularly in the areas of educating children, providing recreation for adolescents, preventing crime and socio-pathological behavior, and supporting the employment of the long-term unemployed.
After reviewing the situation, it is evident that the plans proposed by the Agency for Social Inclusion are very well suited to successfully resolving the situation of the socially excluded Roma in the town: Compiling a situational analysis, initiating coordination meetings between all responsible actors (the town leadership, the labor office, schools, nonprofit organizations, residents) and preparing a plan for integration measures such that the main measures can be financed through EU Structural Funds. We noted that the town has minimal experience in this area, and we are very clearly offering them support with this effort.
We cannot guarantee that the situation in the town will rapidly change. Change is not possible as long as all important actors there do not agree to a coordinated approach. Nor is it possible when the town hall leadership continues to publicly give preference to repressive measures alone.
Functional model examples of how similar situations in various Czech towns have been addressed are available on our website, www.socialni-zaclenovani.cz. Next week the Agency for Social Inclusion will be opening a tender for cooperation with municipalities in 2011. We call on the Nový Bydžov leadership to apply to this tender.
In his interview published on the news server lidovky.cz, Mayor Louda made several serious errors when commenting on the Agency's activity. We would like to correct his statements:
The Agency's annual budget is CZK 11 million from the state budget and another CZK 16 million from EU Structural Funds. To speak in very simplified terms, one year of the Agency's work in a specific locality costs roughly CZK 1.2 million, and approximately one-third of that financing is used to support local partners.
Since its inception, the Agency has produced different results in different towns. Again, speaking in simplified terms, we have managed to initiate successful collaborations in two-thirds of the localities where we are active. In these localities we have succeeded in preparing high-quality strategic plans which we have used to design project proposals, including what are called "individual projects" for these municipalities. These projects represent comprehensive packages of measures and services to be financed for a period of four years from the EU Structural Funds. Last year the Agency participated in preparing hundreds of such projects. Should these proposals succeed, they could bring as much as CZK 600 million to these localities.
The Agency always submits a complete overview of the previous year's activities to the government every March. The review for 2010 will be available in March 2011.
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Tags:Czech republic, agency
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