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Czech Interior Minister: Municipalities often to blame for ethnic tensions

Obrnice, 12.12.2011 20:29, (ROMEA)

Czech Interior Minister Jan Kubice (Civic Democrats - ODS) has said be believes the town halls of some communities burdened by disputes between ethnic Czechs and members of the Romani minority have not put much effort into solving their problems and have allowed their entire situations to deteriorate. In his view, municipal leaderships have not managed to stave off the creation of residential hotels, have underestimated the value of recreational activities for youth, and have not even managed to handle communication between both groups of residents.

The minister made his remarks after visiting the village of Obrnice (Most district), which in his view is a model example of functional coexistence. Problems have recently disappeared from the scene in Obrnice, where 40 % of its 2 500 residents are members of the Romani minority.

When Kubice was asked whether he could name the three fundamental causes of ethnic tensions in some towns, he did not hesitate. "Certainly - it's the rise of municipally-owned and privately-owned residential hotels, a lack of communication, and mutual suspicion between the majority and minorities. Also the total undervaluing of recreational activities for both adults and youth," he said. He said he was very inspired by the example of Obrnice. "I see an enormous opportunity in both groups doing at least some things together," he said.

Mayor Drahomíra Miklošová gave Kubice a tour of the village, which just a few years ago was one of the most troubled places in North Bohemia. EU funding is being made use of there and the mayor governs with a firm hand. The minister toured the cultural center, located in a former school, from the attic to the basement.

"I feel like I'm in the film 'How the West Was Won', because Madame Mayor could be compared to a sheriff from a 1950's western," Kubice told journalists with a smile. "This is the way forward. During the past six years they have succeeded in building something here, the investment has been meaningful," he added.

Kubice said the municipal governments of troubled towns are to blame for their situations to a significant extent because of their own inaction. "It takes working 12 to 14 hours a day - not just sitting in the office, but traveling to visit all the projects and consulting with other people as much as possible," said the mayor when asked for her prescription. She said that while petty crime does sometimes still occur in Obrnice, it is not insoluble and she is able to resolve situations through communication.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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