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March 20, 2018
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Czech Human Rights Minister to focus on buying pig farm on Romani Holocaust site and employment of ghetto residents in 2017

2.1.2017 9:54
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (left) and Czech Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (right).
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (left) and Czech Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (right).

Czech Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) has said that he would like to focus on addressing the situation of people living in ghettos by increasing their employment rates and their options for resolving their indebtedness during 2017. By the time the elections take place this autumn he expects to have also addressed the law on social enterprises and to have completed negotiations about buying the pig farm in Lety by Písek that stands on the site of a former concentration camp for Romani people.

Chvojka took office at the end of November. He replaced his party colleague, Jiří Dienstbier.

The change of ministers was decided on by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) after the party saw losses during the regional elections. The PM has tasked Chvojka with focusing on the situation of people in so-called excluded localities, mainly on their employment rates.

Addressing the problems of ghettos is the agenda of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, which is administered as part of the Human Rights Minister's portfolio. According to the PM, Chvojka should contribute to expanding the Agency's collaboration with local authorities this year.

The Human Rights Minister should also coordinate the progress made by other ministries and offices on the design and approval of measures to improve that state of affairs. A plan is supposed to be created for increasing the employment rate among ghetto inhabitants.

A Working Group that Chvojka is to establish together with Czech Labor Minister Michaela Marksová (ČSSD) is supposed to design the plan. The Human Rights Minister also wants to focus on legislation of the rules for debt relief and foreclosures that is being drafted by the Justice Ministry.

Chvojka also wants to concentrate on completing the law on social housing together with the Labor Ministry and the Regional Develpment Ministry and seeing that it is heard in Parliament. The bill was originally planned to have already been adopted and to have taken effect by now, but disagreements within the coalition Government have delayed its drafting.

As a result, no version of the law has yet been tabled for discussion. Academics, organizations aiding those in need, and some politicians are concerned that the law will not be adopted before the autumn elections.

The PM believes that the first two months of 2017 will be essential to the Government's Legislative Council, which Chvojka chairs. It will decide which laws to send to the Chamber of Deputies and which have a chance of being adopted before the elections.

Chvojka should have a list of "priority bills" that the Goverment should submit for hearing as soon as possible, Sobotka said. In the near term the Human Rights Minister should submit a law on social enterprises to the cabinet.

The Government was supposed to have that bill ready last month. The Legislative Council, however, did not even receive an outline of the law, i.e., a sketch of it, until last spring.

The council returned that draft to the Office of the Government for reworking. Another task awaiting completion is that of the purchase of the pig farm at Lety by Písek, which is located on the site of a concentration camp for Romani people that was managed by the WWII-era Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

The Culture Ministry is supposed to arrange for an appraisal of the price of the industrial facility. The PM said after Chvojka took office that the Human Rights Minister should also complete the bill on protection for whistleblowers and get the Chamber of Deputies to make a second attempt at passing an expansion of the powers of the Supreme Audit Office to inspect the financial records of local councils and regional authorities.

Chvojka is also supposed to hold several discussions assessing proposed changes to the Constitution before the elections. He also wants to advocate for making it impossible for Goverment ministers to submit amendments in the lower house to Government-proposed legislation.

The Human Rights Minister says that option makes it possible for cabinet ministers to avoid the Government's own procedure for proposing legislatoin. He would also like to submit a bill about lobbying to the cabinet for approval.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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