Czech Human Rights Minister says EU allocating CZK 10 billion to inclusion
Approximately CZK 10 billion (EUR 370 million) should come to the Czech Republic from the EU to promote social inclusion over the next few years. The funds could be distributed between 70 different cities and municipalities.
The EU-funded projects are to be coordinated by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democrats) announced the plans to journalists today.
Dienstbier believes the situation in the Agency after the protests this spring and the departure of two-fifths of its staff is now stabilizing. He said money from three Operational Programmes - Employment, Regional Integration, and Research and Science - could be used for the creation of apartments for the needy, for education, for employment, and to ensure security.
"The support during the seven-year period, because some projects will last longer, could be as much as CZK 10 billion. That is a rough estimate and funds can also be transferred between programmes," the minister said.
The number of so-called excluded localities is rising in the Czech Republic. During the past nine years the number of these impoverished locales, according to a recent analysis, has doubled from 300 to 600.
Today there are ghettos in 297 cities and municipalities, with as many as 115 000 people living in them. In 2006 that number was 80 000 people.
Dienstbier said the cities and municipalities involved in the comprehensive project would be gradually selected. Currently the Agency is collaborating with 36 locales, 28 of which are prepared to take a coordinated approach to the issue.
Town halls have already designed or are drafting their strategic plans and projects to submit. "The most visible part of the coordinated approach is delivering European subsidies to municipalities that want to somehow tackle poverty and other problems. Previously these resources missed out on connecting with plans in time. The coordinated approach assures us that activities will be connected and things will not be done illogically," Agency Director Radek Jiránek said.
Jiránek said the approach covers investment into housing, then accommodation, education and re-qualification, and then employment. Dienstbier said European projects are also ready to arrange for the operation of the Agency for the next five years.
The Agency itself should receive CZK 400 million (EUR 15 million). The money will be used, for example, for consultants in the localities.
The Agency is a department of the Office of the Government managed by the Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation. Protests at the Agency broke out in the spring after the minister dismissed the Agency head.
Agency staffers attempted to have the department moved out of the minister's office and for it to either become an independent institution or be managed directly by the Prime Minister. Those efforts failed.
Of the 70 employees total, 27 then left the Agency altogether. According to Dienstbier, there are still four positions left to fill.
Those positions are the head of the management department, a project advisor expert, and two local consultants. After the spring crisis, 12 such local consultants ended their collaboration with the Agency.
Jiránek said that some "processes have been delayed" in municipalities because of the resignations. However, he said the delays have not had any influence on municipalities drawing subsidies.
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