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Czech Republic: Statewide conference produces drafting committee for new Romani association

Brno, 20.10.2011 18:55, (ROMEA)
Statewide Romani Conference, Brno. PHOTO:  František Kostlán

On Friday, 14 October, representatives of some of the Czech Republic's Romani associations met at the Brno fairgrounds to discuss education, housing, security and social issues. Those attending agreed to the creation of a drafting committee to organize the creation of a new Statewide Romani Association of the Czech Republic (Celostátní romské sdružení České republiky).

The Romani conferees want to create a statewide organization to represent them in negotiations with the Government, Parliament, Regional Authorities, municipalities and other state institutions. The drafting committee will register the association, elaborate its statutes and approve its leadership. Those whose idea this was are under no illusions that the organization will represent all Roma in the country. Stanislav Daniel, one of the conference organizers and an initiator of the organization, told journalists that no political party in the Czech Republic represents everyone.

Approximately 150 Romani people and dozens of representatives of various organizations were meant to attend the meeting. According to a correspondent for news server Romea.cz, approximately 100 people were in the hall, roughly two-thirds of them Roma. Vladimír Galbavý, one of the invited speakers, raised the need for an umbrella organization that would associate all Romani civic organizations and cooperate with various ministries by submitting proposals to them on how to address various problems. Galbavý also presented a plan to reduce Romani unemployment through financial support for Romani businesses and entrepreneurs. Representatives of the Dživipen association gave a presentation criticizing the fact that not enough was being said at the meeting about growing intolerance and racism.

The drafting committee approved by the Romani conferees has until the end of the year to prepare the umbrella Romani association. Some of the members of this committee are: Stanislav Daniel, Robert Ferenc, Cyril Koky, Karel Holomek, Viliam Záthurecký, Jiří Daniel, Miroslav Malík, Vladimír Galbavý, Rudolf Polák, Miroslav Holub, Josef Facuna, Mário In Santi, Josef Baláž and Josef Gábor. The design committee has 34 members, including representatives of the majority society. Daniel said the new organization would not be an institution for addressing and resolving all of the Romani community's difficulties, because that would not be within their power. "We are offering cooperation [to the Government and others]," he said.

Daniel said those designing the organization would be looking for a way to fund its operations. He added that the Brno conference at the fairgrounds had been financed by Romani entrepreneurs.

Daniel also rejected characterizing the meeting as the formation of a Romani political party and denied that the organization has anything to do with the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD). The conference was opened by Governor Michal Hašek (ČSSD). "All the governors are Social Democrats right now," Daniel noted.

The Association of National Minorities and Roma in Hodonín (Sdružení Romů a národnostních menšin Hodonín) was the initiator of the statewide Romani conference. "We called up all the organizations and based the conference on the needs and situation in the Czech Republic," Vladimír Galbavý said on behalf of the organizers. He and his colleagues said they did their best to invite representatives from every region. He also indirectly refuted speculation that the organizers had intentionally not invited particular Romani activists. The program declaration produced by the conference emphasizes the need to cooperate at the level of municipalities, regions and the state on the various areas concerning Roma.

Cyril Koky, the Romani Affairs Coordinator for the Central Bohemian Region, who is also a member of the drafting committee, expressed skepticism to news server Romea.cz regarding the future of this initiative: "I am agnostic about this, we'll see what happens next. There have already been several initiatives that have attempted something similar, but for the time being they have all either collapsed, or those participating have been unable to reach agreement," Koky said, adding that if people could learn from their previous mistakes and the initiative were to work, he would be glad, because it is greatly needed.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, su, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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