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Czech Republic: Preparatory committee for new Romani Democratic Party meets

Prague, 14.5.2013 6:59, (ROMEA)
Miroslav Tancoš. Photo:  Romea.cz archive.
Miroslav Tancoš. Photo: Romea.cz archive.

The Mediafax agency reports that Romani people in the Czech Republic are preparing to establish a new political party, the Romani Democratic Party (Romská demokratická strana – RDS). Miroslav Tancoš, the head of the party’s preparatory committee, said the group met in Prague on 11 May 2013 and intends to register with the Czech Interior Ministry this week.

The preparatory committee’s conference was held in the Barikádníků building in the Strašnice quarter of Prague. Many Romani activists in the Czech Republic believe their minority needs political representation and are now taking steps toward that aim.

In 2011 the Czech Finance Ministry registered the existence of the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí – SRP), which was also founded by Romani people. "We are discussing the position of Romani people in the Czech Republic. This party should contribute to improving the current state of affairs precisely because it will be the first left-wing Romani party here,” Tancoš said.

Tancoš pointed out that public opinion polls show most Czech people do not want Romani neighbors. The new party aims to change the majority population’s position on this issue, which has been frequently expressed.

The RDS will reportedly also focus on the education and employment of members of the Romani minority. "We intend to show the majority society that we want to be their full-fledged partners. We were born here, this is our home,” Tancoš said.

News server Týden.cz has quoted Tancoš as saying the new party has raised CZK 2 million for its launch from sponsors in Britain. The party’s office in Prague should open by 1 June.

Once the party is registered, it will hold a convention to select a 15-member presidium. “We have already collected 2 750 signatures on our founding petition, so nothing prevents us from registering the party this week. We reached agreement on our articles of incorporation, program, and program declaration at our meeting,” Tancoš said.

Tancoš said the aim of the new party will mainly be to address housing policy and unemployment. "Those are urgent matters for us, mainly in the Ostrava district and in North Bohemia, where the situation is becoming more and more explosive. The Government’s Agency for Social Inclusion is working tenaciously, but it operates on a small scale only. During the past four years, the Government allocated just CZK 523 million to the Agency’s activities and its results are negligible. We would like to connect with all of the ministries in charge of partially state-owned enterprises. That is where our people might find jobs, for example, in forestry management,” Tancoš said.

Tancoš believes Romani people do not need preferential access to jobs, but that partially state-owned enterprises could become engines for the employment of socially disadvantaged people in general. "Today such enterprises are issuing tenders and various firms are winning them. If you go take a look at where that work is being done, you will see 50 Slovaks or Ukrainians doing it while locals have no work. The state gives locals housing benefits and welfare instead of jobs. Not to mention the fact that most foreigners work under the table here and do not pay taxes,” Tancoš said.

Tancoš previously led the Romani Social Democratic Party (Romská demokratická sociální strana) which was founded in 2005. Six years later the Supreme Administrative Court dissolved that party because it had not submitted its annual reports.

The only Romani political party to have succeeded nationally in the past in the Czech Republic was the Romani Civic Initiative (Romská občanská iniciativa - ROI). Several ROI representatives were once elected to parliament.

An estimated quarter of a million Romani people live in the Czech Republic. Roughly one-third to one-half of them live in so-called ghettoes, impoverished apartment complexes, neighborhoods, or residential hotels where most adults are unemployed and families are therefore dependent upon welfare. Children from such areas attend “practical schools” intended to serve the lightly mentally disabled, an education that precludes most of them going on to higher education and improving their ability to assert themselves.

fk, Mediafax, Týden.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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