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July 16, 2020
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Czech cabinet adopts Romani Integration Strategy to 2020

Prague, 24.2.2015 0:57, (ROMEA)
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (PHOTO:  Google Maps)
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (PHOTO: Google Maps)

On Monday 23 February the Czech Government approved its Romani Integration Strategy to 2020. The material includes measures in education, employment, housing and security policy that are intended to help reverse the adverse developments and deterioration in the situation of Romani people and compare conditions for them to those enjoyed by other members of the population.

The Czech Republic has been producing such concepts for addressing the situation of Romani people since the end of the 1990s. The most recent concerned the years 2010 - 2013.

The current Strategy is meant to follow on from the previous one and to break the unfavorable trends. The number of ghettos predominantly inhabited by Romani people is reportedly increasing.  

One-third of the Romani population of the Czech Republic, or an estimated 80 000 people, resides in impoverished localities. While in 2007 there were around 300 such places, experts believe there may now be 100 more.

"The main aim of the strategy is, naturally, to overcome a rather basic problem with integration here which is both cultural and, primarily, social. Roughly one-third of the Romani minority is affected by social exclusion. The situation also impacts the other two-thirds (who are integrated) in a rather serious way," said Czech Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Minister Dienstbier.

The minister said he believes integration is a "bilateral affair" that both the majority society and the Romani minority must contribute to. The following are some initial responses to the adoption of the document from both non-Romani and Romani members of civil society and local government.

David Ištok, town councilor, Chomutov

Q:  In your experience, can big political strategies of this type work?

A:  In my experience, based on what I know from practice, it should work. However, it will only work if the projects concerned aren't just created "for projects" - if they get to the point and solve the problems themselves, by which I mean housing policy, unemployment, and getting rid of labels in the areas of media reporting, the schools, etc. 

Q:  Do you believe such strategies should include "positive discrimination"?

A:  "Positive discrimination"? I am not in favor of privileging one group over another - rather, I believe we should all do this together. We Roma should show the majority society good examples from real life. Various clubs and nonprofit organizations can contribute to various events in the towns. 

Q:  Do you believe the Romani Integration Strategy sufficiently includes what Romani people themselves want? (Do those who wrote the Strategy know what that is?)

A:  I don't believe so, too few Romani people know about it, or if they did, they were mostly only people who already take an interest in such things. Awareness among Romani people should improve, the nonprofit sector, for example, needs to be connected with the authorities, they should communicate more with one another. As a professor of the Romani language once told me, Romani people came from India, where there was a caste system. I think that still exists in our country to this day - but if we ourselves don't unite and work as a community, this problem will never be solved.

Q:  What, in your view, is missing the most from these integration strategies?

A:  There should be no space given to those who just turn a profit as a result of these efforts while they laugh in people's faces. As I said before, the focus should be on solving the problems themselves, whether that be the creation of artificial ghettos, housing policy, improving relationships in the schools - addressing the "practical schools", or problems with drugs. We have to show people that even if someone is Romani, it doesn't mean he will rob you. The media should not look only for negative stuff about us, but should also report on the good things.    

Michal Miko, Slovo 21 NGO

Q:  In your experience, can big political strategies of this type work?

A:  The Romani Integration Strategy 2014-202 is an important document. We hope. The Strategy per se can only work if the political will to follow it exists across the entire political spectrum of the Czech Republic. For it to function, by which I mean from the financal point of view, resources from the ESIF ČR [European Structural and Investment Funds of the Czech Republic] can be used, but only if Romani representatives take up this opportunity and strive to represent Romani interests as part of the monitoring committees of the ESIF ČR.  

Q:  Do you believe such strategies should include "positive discrimination"?  

A:  I am convinced that without "positive discrimination" the intended integration cannot fully occur. Mainly in all the excluded localities (but not only there), there is a visible need to introduce affirmative action, to give Romani adults work and young Roma a quality education. That way Roma in the Czech Republic can become active.

Q:  Do you believe the Romani Integration Strategy sufficiently includes what Romani people themselves want? (Do those who wrote the Strategy know what that is?)

A:  The Strategy was designed together with Romani people and I believe it includes everything that is important. However, as I mentioned in my answer to your first question, everything depends on political will.

Q:  There are two Government Strategies, one on Romani integration and one on combating social exclusion - is that problematic, in your view?

A:  In my opinion it is absurd to have two strategic documents, both of which must be implemented through financing and staffing. I believe this has a generally bad influence on the way the mayors of towns and villages manage things, how they basically proceed on integration. It was pointless to waste all the resources spent on these two separate strategies. It basically shows the Government's attitude toward this topic.  

Q:  What, in your view, is missing the most from these integration strategies?

A:  We all know that today's document, which is being discussed by Parliament, is not the first of its kind. Such documents always, after being approved by the Government, come up against the fact that there is a lack of financial resources and of political will for their implementation.

Karin Marques, Open Society Fund

Q:  In your experience, can big political strategies of this type work?

A:  Big political strategies in our conditions have tended not to work so far. However, that does not mean we should resign ourselves to their not working. Rather, we must look for tools we can use to gradually work on seeing them implemented. Those responsible for these various measures now need to present their action plans, which should describe, in a comprehensible way, what must happen in the field to fulfill the aims of the Strategy. Those who are approving and publishing this Strategy must rigorously enforce its implementation. In summary, the problem is one of transferring responsibility, formulating specific steps to take, and our own inconsistency.      

Q:  Do you believe such strategies should include "positive discrimination"? 

A:  "Positive discrimination" is definitely an effective tool that can achieve big changes even when it is only temporarily introduced. Many people are not aware that "positive discrimination" is already being applied here, e.g., through various private foundation mentoring programs and scholarships. I would not be afraid to introduce even more systemic positive measures at state level, especially in the area of education. Many Romani adults cannot access various scholarships because of their age, even though they have great potential for working in important positions if only they could augment their education. Positive measures would be appropriate in their case.  

Q:  Do you believe the Romani Integration Strategy sufficiently includes what Romani people themselves want? (Do those who wrote the Strategy know what that is?)

A:  The Strategy that has been submitted is already, in its way, a compromise from the standpoint of political viability. In reality, even more resolute measures would be needed to bring the situation of Romani people at least a little bit closer to the opportunities enjoyed by the majority population. Nevertheless, in the given situation this is the maximum available to us in this "art of the possible". If it succeeds in being implemented, or at least in being elaborated into more detailed steps, some of which are then implemented, that will be brilliant, in my opinion.

Q:  There are two strategies, one on Romani integration and one on combating social exclusion - is that problematic, in your view?

A:  In my opinion these strategies complement each other well. You must remember that it is not possible to say that the Romani population is exactly identical to the socio-economically disadvantaged population. Even with the best provisions, Romani people will always be, in our conditions, at somewhat of a disadvantage with respect to the majority, who are of a different ethno-cultural origin. Let's not forget about the socio-cultural disadvantage that reigns here due to their minority position in society. That should be addressed by the Romani Integration Strategy, which in my opinion is well-designed. I have tasked myself with following the implementation of the Strategy's point about the development of Romani culture and heritage in the school curriculum. It is embarrassing to me to explain to experts abroad that Czech children learn absolutely nothing about the Romani culture on our territory in the schools.      

Miroslav Brož, Konexe association

A:  How can I comment on this most recent in a long line of Romani Integration Strategies? Essentially it's a waste of time to analyze and comment on it. The Strategy has its strengths and weaknesses, like all the ones before it. In several points it is reminiscent of a previous strategy approved around 2008, if I recall. However, I believe it is clear here, including to the authors of this report and to everyone who is talking about it now, that the Strategy will remain just marks on paper. Just as none of the previous Strategies was ever implemented, this one will not be either. Soon we will begin to invent a "new and better" Strategy, because the bureaucratic experts on Romani integration have to show they are hard at work.

bau, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Roma, Strategie romské integrace do roku 2020, Vláda, zákon



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