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August 12, 2022



Czech Pirates sharply criticize bill to toughen welfare eligibility, delaying a vote

11.8.2021 7:56
Czech MP Mikuláš Ferjenčík (PHOTO:  Pirate Party)
Czech MP Mikuláš Ferjenčík (PHOTO: Pirate Party)

Last week in the Czech Chamber of Deputies the vote on a bill submitted by the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement to toughen eligibility criteria for the welfare benefit of aid to those in material distress was once again accompanied by disputes during the floor debate between MPs for the Pirates and those for the SPD, which is chaired by Czech MP Tomio Okamura, with critics of the proposed amendments alleging they could harm tens of thousands of people, including people living with disabilities and senior citizens. During the 6 August session, as during the previous week, no vote on the form of the proposed amendment was taken. 

Okamura announced the SPD will attempt to hold another extraordinary session on the legislation. He also alleged that the Pirates are blocking his bill because they support "inadaptables". 

That term, or rather its German original "unanpassungsfähig", was used by the Nazis to label the groups of people whom they then sent to extermination camps. Pirate MP Ondřej Profant said during the floor debate that adoption of the amendment could harm pensioners or people suffering from schizophrenia.

According to his fellow Pirate MP Mikuláš Ferjenčík, the SPD bill "tars with the same brush" people who have had very different life trajectories. The vice-chair of the Pirates, Olga Richterová, told the lower house that the current laws are already strict in terms of eligibility for this benefit. 

Richterová said she considers it crucial to introduce the functional enforcement of existing legal obligations. SPD MP Jaroslav Foldyna, on the other hand, alleged that the bill is about people who are an "annoyance in the lives" of the inhabitants of the Moravian-Silesian or Ústecký Regions [Translator's note:  Those regions are understood to have larger populations of Romani people].

"They are parasites who are making a mess in those towns, that's whom this law affects," Foldyna declared, adding that in his view, the neighbors of such people are having to put up with the "mess" and see their own property values decline because they have to live with people who do not want to uphold social norms. Okamura then said the Pirates' aim was to block adoption of the bill so that it will not pass before the autumn elections.

The SPD chair said millions of people would be paying extra for the "inadaptables" because of Ferjenčík and Richterová. Pirate MP Petr Třešňák then called it absurd to see so many SPD MPs taking up time during the floor debate for the purpose of accusing the Pirates of delaying and obstructing a vote. 

Tricolor MP Tereza Hyťhová then accused the Pirates of performing stand-up comedy in the lower house and used the Nazi term "inadaptable" several times in her speech. ANO MP Eva Fialová also spoke in defense of the bill. 

According to the chair of the Social Committee in the lower house, MP Jana Pastuchová (ANO), the bill has been adjusted through the legislative process and is now in a state where the vote on it should not be blocked. The amendment, proposed by a group of lawmakers from five parties, both those in the governing coalition and those in opposition, assumes that housing supplements would no longer be disbursed to people living in facilities that are unsuitable for use as housing. 

The housing standards would be anchored directly in the law. According to the bill, people should also be excluded from receiving aid to those in material distress in the event of their exclusion from the register of jobseekers for breaching the temporary incapacity regime. 

Parents who do not send their children to the compulsory final year of preschool would also lose their aid to those in material distress. If a person assessed as living in a joint household with the welfare applicant were found to not be in material need or otherwise not entitled to benefits, the calculation of the amount of the housing supplement disbursed to the applicant would also proceed under stricter requirements. 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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