Czech Republic starts its Decade presidency, Karel Holomek is ambassador
Yesterday representatives of Roma organizations celebrated the start of the Czech presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015. Czech Human Rights Commissioner Michael Kocáb said the Decade, which also involves activists from 11 other countries, aims to see more Romani children included in mainstream education and fewer Roma living in ghettos. Outgoing Czech PM Jan Fischer also participated in the launch of the Czech presidency at the Kramář Villa in Prague today.
"I believe this presidency will break the chain of poverty and social exclusion suffered by many of our fellow citizens,” Fischer said. He reminded those in attendance that there are about 300 excluded localities in the Czech Republic in which 90 000 people, most of them Roma, now live. World Bank statistics show that high Roma unemployment and low wages deprive the Czech state of at least CZK 16 billion annually.
The Czech presidency’s priorities will be the inclusion of Romani pupils into mainstream education, an emphasis on the position and equal rights of Romani women and children, and improving the media image of Roma. "Municipalities are a key element in the success or failure of inclusion,” Kocáb said, adding that local-level integration polices need to improve.
Romani activist Karel Holomek, ambassador for the Czech presidency, complained that politicians are not paying enough attention to the Roma issue. As proof he cited the fact that the incoming Czech government will not include a Human Rights Minister, as the post is slated for closure. Governing coalition negotiations also have not included discussion of how to address the Roma situation in future.
The Decade is an international initiative of 12 states which have pledged to improve the lives of the Roma, primarily in the areas of education, housing, health and employment. The Decade’s international committee will meet at the end of September in Prague as part of the presidency, which will hold four international conferences and one nationwide seminar. In addition to the Czech Republic, other Decade states include Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.
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