Czech Republic: Europe Roma Network condemns SRP chair for shaking hands with DSSS chair
The Europe Roma Network, a Europe-wide Romani association, is condemning the chair of the Equal Opportunities Party, Štefan Tišer, for shaking hands with DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas at a rally yesterday in Ústí nad Labem. Ladislav Baláž, chair of the ERN, communicated the information to news server Romea.cz.
Tišer rejects the criticism, saying he was behaving like a polite person and a politician. "We call on all organizations and political parties to distance themselves from the approach taken by SRP chair Mr Tišer and other members of that party toward the DSSS chair Vandas. It is not possible to shake hands with someone who wants to 'cleanse' Europe, including the Czech Republic, of Romani people. We sharply condemn the SRP for this. Tišer has now shown us how he thinks about Roma and how he wants to address Roma problems. Anyone who shakes hands with a 'Nazi' is selling out more than just himself," Baláž told Romea.cz.
Štefan Tišer rejects the criticism. "Just before that I was rebuking someone there that we are not Gypsies, but Roma. I take a great deal of exception to Vandas, but if someone offers to shake my hand, I accept. Vandas offered to shake hands with [Green Party chair] Liška and [SRP vice-chair] Růžička - and both of them accepted, just like I did. We are politicians and we must behave like it. If we are striving for dialogue, then we cannot say we will not communicate with someone. We are fundamentally against violence, which we have long condemned, including the violence committed by the promoters of the DSSS," Tišer told Romea.cz
As is evident from video footage posted to news server iDNES.cz, members of the SRP and Green Party chair Ondřej Liška went to the ultra-right demonstration to listen to what DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas had to say. Emílie Horáčková, an SRP candidate of Roman origin, argued vociferously to the DSSS members that she is just as Czech as they are and asked them why they don't consider her Czech.
Vandas then came over to Čeněk Růžička and Štefan Tišer and told them that they could listen to the DSSS rally, since it was a public event, but that "that woman" shouldn't be shouting. Then he and Tišer shook hands.
The day prior to the handshake, the SRP had expressed its support for the blockade of the extremist march in Ústí nad Labem following the DSSS rally. "The Equal Opportunities Party calls on citizens of the Czech Republic to thoroughly oppose such activities and to say a loud NO to such demonstrations, as they spark anti-Romani and anti-Semitic sentiments among the citizenry. We will be joining the blockade of the neo-Nazis in Ústí nad Labem," Tišer said in a press release.
The SRP has previously been involved in another, similar affair, that of collaborating with former Czech MP Otta Chaloupka, who has often been percieved as an antigypsyist or racist. A bill to which Chaloupka added an SRP proposal was also anti-Roma in nature.
Chaloupka proposed, among other things, introducing the legal concept of "high-risk families and individuals" - "This would concern a family or individual who has drawn on aid for those in material distress for a long time; who visits casinos and gaming rooms; who uses alcohol or narcotics; who uses the aid for those in material distress for some purpose other than meeting basic living needs; who does not support his children in their proper school attendance, etc. A high-risk individual would be required to turn up at a certain time and place during the workweek, would be required to remain there for eight hours, and would have to follow the orders of the person supervising him. Failure to meet this obligation would result in denial of welfare," the MP wrote. When pushing for the bill, Chaloupka bragged that Romani people agreed with him and had collaborated with him on its wording.
A petition against the SRP was organized at the time by Ladislav Baláž and Ondřej Jano. "We consider the negotiations between Otta Chaloupka and the SRP to be a betrayal of us all, as this MP is gaining publicity by defaming our nation. Whoever negotiates with antigypsyists is indirectly contributing toward harming the interests of Romani people and all of society, as these poor decisions can influence the entire Czech Republic," the authors of the petition wrote.
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