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Czech Deputy Human Rights Minister says changes will make Agency even stronger

18.4.2015 0:20
On 11 March 2014 Jiří Dienstbier, Human Rights Minister and head of the Czech Government's Legislative Council, introduced his team at a press conference in Prague. From the left:  Press spokesperson Jarmila Balážová, Deputy Human Rights Minister Kateřina Valachová, and the Director of the Human Rights Section, Martina Štěpánková. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)
On 11 March 2014 Jiří Dienstbier, Human Rights Minister and head of the Czech Government's Legislative Council, introduced his team at a press conference in Prague. From the left: Press spokesperson Jarmila Balážová, Deputy Human Rights Minister Kateřina Valachová, and the Director of the Human Rights Section, Martina Štěpánková. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, which falls within the purview of Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), has organizational changes ahead of it. The Agency will soon stop working in its current form and should split into two sections.

The two sections will be departments of the Human Rights Section of Dienstbier's "office". In an interview for news server Romea.cz, the former head of the agency, Martin Šimáček, warned of the changes.

According to Deputy Human Rights Minister Martina Štěpánková the change will not weaken the Agency, but should significantly strengthen it in future. "The Agency will naturally continue to work, under no circumstances will it be closed, and there are no plans to restrict it or weaken it. On the contrary, it will be significantly strengthened in the future and will grow. This reorganization is meant to ensure efficient operations. New projects are being designed," she told the Czech News Agency.

The plan is to turn the Agency for Social Inclusion into two departments. One will focus on work in localities with local partners, while the other will focus on the "central level", i.e., on the activities of ministries and systemic changes.

"The services are being segmented in terms of their functionality," the Deputy Minister clarified. Previously there had been talk of the Agency possibly becoming an independent office altogether.

After becoming minister last year, Dienstbier said he was planning for the Agency to enjoy a stronger position. "Certainly it is not a completely ideal state of affairs for the Agency to be just one department of the Office of the Government. It should be a bit more precisely anchored there," the minister told the Czech News Agency at that time.

Dienstbier also noted that he does not consider it ideal for the Agency to run mainly on EU money. He said it should receive more funding from the Czech budget too.

Šimáček told the Czech News Agency on 17 April that the Agency for Social Inclusion was originally supposed to function as a department of the Office of the Government only provisionally and temporarily until its position could be legislated. The ex-director does not consider the division of the Agency into two departments to be a good idea.

In his view, its two activities are interrelated and separating them could destroy them. Reportedly there will not be another director of the Agency in future.

"The position is not included in the organizational structure," Šimáček confirmed. The ex-director says the Agency will be transformed in July because of a new law on the civil service and changes in the state administration.

Deputy Minister Štěpánková would not rule out the possibility of the Agency having a more independent position in the future "even though it might still be within the framework of the Office of the Government". The operations of the Agency will also be regulated in future by a new law on social inclusion.

According to the Government's legislative plan, a draft outline of the legislation should be ready by the end of June and the final wording should be ready by the end of the year. The law is now supposed to take effect in January 2017; originally it was supposed to take effect as of mid-2016.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Agentura pro sociální začleňování, Jiří Dienstbier, Martin Šimáček, ministr pro lidská práva a rovné příležitosti



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