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Czech presidential candidate: We must understand the specifics of each minority

Prague, 7.1.2013 16:52, (ROMEA)
Karel Schwarzenberg
Karel Schwarzenberg

News server Romea.cz has prepared a questionnaire for candidates running in what will be the first-ever direct election of the president of the Czech Republic. We asked all of the candidates, among other things, about their strategies for addressing the issue of social exclusion and their opinions on the integration of the Romani minority, particularly on how they intend to achieve improvements in that direction. We were also interested in their approach toward right-wing extremists, toward the issue of segregating pupils in primary schools, and toward the case of the pig farm located on the site of a WWII-era forced labor camp for Romani people.

We are publishing the responses in the order in which the candidates send them to us. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who is also the chair of the TOP 09 party, was the fourth candidate to respond.

Q: Do you take a "programmatic" or "systemic" approach to minorities in society, or do you understand the citizens of the country purely in individual terms?

A: We must perceive every minority as a whole and apprehend their specific problems. It's not enough to concern ourselves with individual cases.

Q: In your view, are the rights of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic sufficiently fulfilled?

A: No.

Q: Are politicians here responding adequately and sufficiently to racist or xenophobic events - for example, to the anti-Romani demonstrations being held by extremists? Are politicians here responding adequately and with sufficient speed to events that may not be extremist, but that are connected to protests against Romani people?

A:  Thank God politicians are starting to respond to these events and the police are handling them adequately. I can't say this for all politicians, it is up them as individuals how they respond. Some speak up fiercely and immediately, others get involved in what is merely a negligent way.

Q: In your view, is it important to start addressing the social exclusion experienced by a rising number of citizens in the Czech Republic and the poverty related to it?

A: This is a very important question and we certainly must occupy ourselves with it thoroughly in the years to come.

Q: What should the overall strategy for correcting social exclusion and all its related phenomena look like?

A: The most important thing is for whatever strategy we have to be followed through and for a dialogue to exist between the state bodies, civil society, and the groups affected - otherwise I am concerned we will not achieve great successes.

Q: Despite various efforts, Romani children are still segregated educationally in the Czech schools, either because they are sent to the practical (special) primary schools or because they attend segregated classes in mainstream primary schools. Would you speak out against this phenomenon?

A: I hope this exclusion stops, that is the fundamental question I will continue to be concerned with. The Education Ministry needs to perform really strict oversight of all schools.

Q: Would you visit memorial sites linked to the genocide of the Romani people during WWII on their annual days of commemoration? (We have in mind here the former so-called "gypsy camps" at Lety by Písek and Hodonín by Kunštát, from which Czech Romani people were transported to Auschwitz.)

A: I have visited the memorial at Lety many times. I confess I have not yet been to the memorial at Hodonín by Kunštát. These sites are particularly important to me. Let's admit it - we Czechs set up those camps, even though it was the Germans who sent the surviving Romani people to Auschwitz.

Q: Would you call for the removal of the pig farm located on the territory of the former so-called "gypsy camp" at Lety by Písek?

A: I have fought for many years against the pig farm, unfortunately unsuccessfully. However, I want to raise this question once more. In my opinion it is an impossible state of affairs that a pig farm is located at the site of this horrible tragedy and that to this day you can smell the stench of the farm at the memorial.

Q: Your entry into politics has left its mark on you. In the past you have stood up for two antigypsyist colleagues:  Jiří Čunek and his "financial scandal", and Jiří Jezerský, who made harsh remarks targeting Romani people - in his case, you stood up for him only because he was running for TOP 09 in the municipal elections. You have also always stood up for [Czech Finance Minister] Miroslav Kalousek, even though you have conceded he does not have a clean past. Aren't you concerned that these actions of yours might harm you in the presidential election?

A: I never stood up for Jiří Čunek. I did my best to clarify his case - I commissioned an audit, but it did not produce anything conclusive. However, I expressed myself clearly in relation to Jiří Čunek. I admit that I do know the opinions of Ms Janáčková, whom I experienced in the Senate. I knew nothing about Mr Jezerský and I agree that his statements are completely unacceptable. I stood up for Miroslav Kalousek because I consider him to be the most-maligned Czech politician today - I am familiar with his assets and I know he does not own any major wealth.

František Kostlán, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Děti, Diskriminace, Hodonín u Kunštátu, Holocaust, Jiří Čunek, koncentrační tábor, Lety u Písku, Liana Janáčková, MŠMT, Osobnosti, Politika, Prezidentské volby, Inkluzivní vzdělávání, Romové, romské oběti nacismu, segregace, Czech republic, Education, Extremism, genocide, Germany, History, memorial, Neo-Nazism, Prezidentská anketa



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