Czech Republic: Mayors of Šluknov district criticize ministers for not keeping promises
Mayors of towns in the Šluknov foothills are criticizing the Czech Interior Ministry and the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The Interior Ministry has allegedly not kept promises made at the end of August, and the measures being taken by the Labor Ministry are said to be ineffective. Gabriela Doušová, spokesperson for the Rumburk town hall, made the announcement to the Czech Press Agency today on behalf of the Association for the Development of Šluknov District. Police President Petr Lessy is also being criticized for reportedly reducing the number of state police on the streets of the region´s towns despite promises to the contrary.
The association is criticizing Interior Minister Jan Kubice for not revisiting the region as promised. He and his subordinates last visited on 25 August, just after an attack was allegedly committed by a group of Romani people against a smaller majority-society group in Rumburk. During that visit, Lessy promised the numbers of police officers assigned to departments in the district would not be reduced and that he would return to the region within a month. Mayors are now angry that he did not keep either promise. "A month has passed and those promises should have been kept, so we will be sending him a letter," said Josef Zoser, the Mayor of Jiřetín pod Jedlovou and the association chair.
"The mayors are disconcerted that reinforcements were sent only to Rumburk, Varnsdorf and Šluknov, to the detriment of smaller towns and villages into which `inadaptable´ people are allegedly moving," Doušová said. For example, in Velký Šenov (population 2 000), according to Mayor Vladimír Vykoukal, there are now only four police officers instead of eight. "Three were reassigned to Šluknov and when the fourth retired, his position was closed," Doušová said. However, the mayor is not aware of any other specific examples of police reductions.
In addition to Rumburk (population 11 000) and Varnsdorf (population 16 000), there are five smaller towns in the region with populations ranging between 2 000 and 6 000, as well as many large villages. The mayors say the villages are the places where social tensions are overflowing. The Mayor of Starý Křečany, František Moravec, declared at a mayors´meeting that fires occurred at two empty residential buildings immediately after the public learned of the owners´ intentions to lease the apartments to people from other towns. Locals are said to fear new residents so much that they preferred to set the buildings on fire rather than face the problems new residents might bring.
The mayors also criticized measures introduced by Czech Labor Minister Jaromír Drábek (TOP 09), who released money to create 100 "community service" jobs. The mayors say that decision was short-sighted, as such jobs only last three months. Anyone who signs up for such work without lining up a second three-month opportunity immediately afterward will lose the right to unemployment benefit, as one must work six months in a row in order to qualify for that support.
Moreover, the labor office is said to have not assigned the number of jobs needed to the villages. "At this moment, the mayors perceived this gift from Minister Drábek as very inefficient and demotivating, both for the unemployed and for the mayors themselves," Doušová said. The mayors reportedly would welcome the minstry categorizing Šluknov district as a structurally afflicted region so it can receive investment stimulus.
Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger (TOP 09) is also garnering criticism for his moves. The mayors are bothered by the fact that the minister wants to use the mechanism of a decree only to regulate the approved number of people residing in apartments. In their view, that approach clashes with other laws.
Social tensions between members of the majority society and the Romani minority broke out in the north of Bohemia in August after attacks in the towns of Nový Bor and Rumburk. The inhabitants of Rumburk and mostly those of Varnsdorf have been regularly demonstrating over the situation in the region for eight weeks in a row. Police say the right-wing extremist movement has done its best to gain publicity at those events.
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