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Czech Finance Ministry against funding Agency for Social Inclusion

Prague, 24.7.2012 15:45, (ROMEA)
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The Czech Press Agency has reported that tomorrow the Czech Government will be discussing whether to extend the operations of its Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities until 2015. Currently 70 % of its operations are covered by EU funding and the rest is covered by the state as part of the budget for the Office of the Government, which oversees the Agency. The plan is to increase the Agency's budget over the next three years, but the Czech Finance Ministry is opposed to the idea.

The Agency's assistance has been taken advantage of since 2008 by 33 municipalities out of a total of 200 in which there are ghettos. "Interest in collaboration has been expressed by 100 towns and villages, which shows that demand exceeds what we have been able to offer so far, and it is desirable to continue to support what is on offer," reads the material which will be submitted to the cabinet by Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats - ODS) and the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, Monika Šimůnková.

According to that plan, the Agency would operate under the current conditions for at least three more years. The Government resolution from 2010, however, only counted on the existence of the Agency until the end of this year.

"For this reason, the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic is asking for its budget for 2013 to be increased by the amount of CZK 13,842,000, that the medium-term forecast for the state budget for 2014 be increased by CZK 13,120, 000, and that the budget for 2015 be increased by the amount of CZK 11,560,000," the report to be discussed tomorrow reads. The Czech Finance Ministry has already announced it will be presenting a fundamental criticism against the extraordinary expenditure.

"At the start of 2013 the Agency will be intervening in a total of 20 micro-regions, towns and villages, and an early halt to its operations would significantly endanger the development of those local situations. The Agency is covering localities in particular that are in the high-risk Karlovy Vary and Ústí regions," the bureaucrats have warned. As of January 2013 the Agency is planning to expand its work to nine more towns, adding another eight localities in July 2013 and then another eight places one year later. The operations would be financed by EU subsidies.

There is also a proposal to change the name of the Agency. The "in Roma Localities" part of the name would be removed.

According to expert estimates there are about a quarter of a million Romani people in the Czech Republic. Roughly one-third of them live in ghettos. Most adults in these localities are not officially employed, their families are dependent on welfare, and their children attend "special" schools. Agency counselors are supposed to assist in troubled areas with kick-starting collaboration on issues among the staffs of labor offices, nonprofit organizations, the police, schools, and town halls. Some Romani people have criticized the Agency as not doing much for their minority.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, Czech Press Agency, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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