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Czech Green Party chair: All of society must collaborate on building the road out of the ghetto

17.9.2013 22:25, (ROMEA)
The Green Party (Strana zelených - SZ) launched its campaign in Prague for the early parliamentary elections, called
The Green Party (Strana zelených - SZ) launched its campaign in Prague for the early parliamentary elections, called "Let's Change It!" on 16 September 2013. Party chair Ondřej Liška at the launch. (PHOTO: František Kostlán)

During the launch of the Green Party's electoral campaign, news server Romea.cz spoke with Green Party chair Ondřej Liška. Human rights considerations, according to Liška, play only a weak role in Czech politics.

"Rights considerations have vanished from the way legislators, ministers and officials view the performance of politics. Human rights are not an abstract concept, but a set of specific values that, in a liberal democracy, are supposed to be reflected in every aspect of state policy - and I believe we are still living in a liberal democracy," Liška told news server Romea.cz.

Those values, according to Liška, are primarily those of protection and respect for human dignity. "The state is obligated to guarantee a dignified life to every person, irrespective of whether that person is in a complicated living situation, is disabled, is disadvantaged, or is privileged," Liška said.

The Czech state, he believes, is failing in the sense that it is not providing everyone with dignified housing, not providing children from socially disadvantaged environments with equal access to education, and not providing equal access to work opportunities irrespective of skin color. The Green Party, according to its chair, takes a better approach to human rights than the other parties because it takes a holistic view of people and the environments they live in.

"We are not just interested in clean air and clean politics, but also in the kinds of conditions people are living in. That is why our program emphasizes - particularly during these elections, which are taking place in a context of strong anti-Romani sentiment - our specific proposals for solutions to reduce tensions in Czech society between non-Roma and Roma people," Liška said.

In addition to specific proposals, the Greens have decided to closely cooperate with the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí - SRP). The Greens have run Romani candidates previously, but now their numbers have reached the respectable number of nine Romani candidates total, two directly for the Green Party and seven for the SRP. 

"We were drawn to collaborate with the Equal Opportunities Party in particular because of the quality of the candidates, both men and women, that the party was able to offer:  Mr Stanislav Tišer, Ms Elena Gorolová, Ms Antonie Burianská, Ms Emílie Horáčková, to name just a few. These are all people we've had an opportunity to get to know and I believe their contribution to the electoral campaign will not just be to reinforce us and to attract votes, but will primarily be to visibly symbolize the fact that our vision of Czech society is not a divided one. All of society must collaborate on building the road out of the ghetto, it's the only way," the Green Party chair said. 

Liška believes that during the campaign the Romani candidates will participate in dialogue not only inside their own communities, but also with the non-Romani population. "By becoming candidates, they demonstrate that there are Romani figures who are competent, who want to participate in decision-making in society and invest the best of their culture and experience into that, as well as contributing a perspective that non-Romani people probably cannot," Liška said.

The Green Party chair also said that other Czech politicians' silence on the recent anti-Romani demonstrations during the elections has been cowardly. "They are concerned that if they express themselves on topics considered controversial, they will lose the votes of the conservative, latent fascist part of society. Unfortunately, there are quite a few such votes to be had in Czech society. They will be cast for the xenophobes working for Mr Vandas [the DSSS party chair]. I also view some of the statements made recently by Ms Bobošíková, Mr Okamura, and even by President Zeman to be xenophobic. I believe elections are a time when it is not possible to remain neutral, but when we must choose a side. That's why we, as the Green Party, find it completely natural to view this current moment as one in which we must voice our support for human rights. However, I am concerned that the lack of interest in these issues on most of the political spectrum will continue, and I consider that reprehensible. Two years ago, when unrest broke out in the Šluknov area, I considered it reprehensible that it took Prime Minister Nečas three months to find the time to go to the region to speak with the citizens of his own country and motivate them to cooperate with one another on a more peaceful coexistence. I hope that after the elections, a government will come together here that will take these matters seriously," said Liška.


František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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