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Czech minister disagrees with Romany criticism of govt agency

Prague, 19.12.2008 10:49, (ROMEA)

The Czech government agency for social inclusion of Romany-inhabited localities, that has been working in 12 towns since spring, has been a failure, some Romany activists say but human rights and minorities minister Dzamila Stehlikova says it is too early to assess the agency's effect.

Stehlikova (Greens) says she expects visible results in the two years to come.

Ivan Vesely, deputy head of the Government Council for Romany Affairs and member of the Dzeno grouping, said the agency employees have not yet managed to establish communication with representatives of the towns the agency is supposed to help.

Vesely said this in a letter he addressed to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) in early December, in which he asked Topolanek to dismiss Stehlikova from the post of minister.

"This model of an agency has fatally failed," Vesely said, adding that the agency enjoys "nil" powers and its establishment was but a "fictitious manoeuvre" to cover up problems in the coexistence of Romanies and the majority society.

The agency has also been assessed negatively by Karel Holomek, head of the Community of Romanies in Moravia.

"The [system] of gaining financial means has failed," Holomek has told CTK.

He blamed the situation on the government's failure to clearly specify who is responsible for earmarking the money for the development of excluded localities and for its distribution.

Dismissing the criticism, Stehlikova said the critics had "expected miracles."

"I think it is too early to discuss it now that the agency has accepted not a single euro from EU funds," Stehlikova told CTK.

The Czech towns involved are now finishing their projects for which the EU will earmark hundreds of millions of crowns in the next two years, she said.

Next year, the agency will use the EU subsidies to finance "soft social skills" to motivate Romanies to seek retraining and jobs. It will also support education of Romany children, Stehlikova said.

"A nightmare for me is the idea of [devastated Romany-inhabited] housing estates being renewed and after two years becoming devastated again. It is not ruled out that Europe could demand the money back from us," Stehlikova said.

The government agency's budget was 13 million crowns this year.

CTK
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