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Czech Human Rights Minister says President Zeman's remarks about ghettos too simplistic

Prague, 13.1.2015 16:08, (ROMEA)
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportuntities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier (PHOTO: Petr Vilgus, Wikimedia)
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportuntities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier (PHOTO: Petr Vilgus, Wikimedia)

The first meeting of 2015 between Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier and the press was dominated by topics concerning Romani people and the relationship of the majority society towards them. The minister answered questions from news server Romea.cz, the RESPEKT weekly, the Deník franchise of daily papers and the Prima television station.

Basic topics of discussion included the Government's almost-completed Romani Integration Strategy, an amendment to the Schools Act (primarily on the question of "practical schools"), and the preparation of a social housing law. News server Romea.cz will be returning to all of these topics in detail on a regular basis.

At today's press conference, the minister also responded to a remark by Czech President Miloš Zeman, who said in an interview with Deník that people living in ghettos "have only themselves to blame". "Like many other remarks by the President, that is very simplistic," Dienstbier said.  

The minister admitted nevertheless that it will not be easy to convince the majority society that Zeman's view is not the right one. It is also not easy to convince them that it is necessary to aid the Romani minority in achieving their emancipation so that those living in ghettos have a chance to move away from such harsh conditions.

"I don't want to make deductions on the basis of those who post online commentaries, but it is clear that tensions in society are rising and that the majority society has little tolerance for minorities in general and the Romani minority in particular," Dienstbier said. In his view what will decide the issue is whether plans for integration can be introduced on the basis of positive examples.

"Such examples must not be isolated or unique, there simply most be more of them," the minister said. He presumes that money from European funds for integration programs could be drawn on by a minimum of 70 municipalities throughout the country in future.

We will see to what extent such positive examples multiply. Minister Dienstbier did not conceal the fact that he considers the task of achieving a basic change in the relations between the majority society and the Romani minority to be one that will take several generations.

Nevertheless, he considers it a success that the preparations to date on the Romani Integration Strategy involve significantly greater funding from the Government for projects and a coordinated approach between several ministries. Dienstiber also assured us that he and Czech Education Minister Marcel Chládek are not engaged in any basic disputes over the "practical schools".

The Human Rights Minister said he believes the Government's intention is clear:  To limit the "practical schools" and assure equal access to education. The discussion of the amendment to the Schools Act, however, does not seem so unequivocal for the time being, a topic we will return to tomorrow. 

Michal Komárek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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integration, Jiří Dienstbier, Praktické školy, sociální bydlení



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