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Czech Romanies mark International Roma Day in Prague

Prague, 7.4.2007 17:50, (CTK)

Activists from the Czech Romany association Athinganoi met at the "Tree of Ethnic Minorities" in Prague's Letna plain today to mark Sunday's International Roma Day, joined by Minister Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens, SZ) and a few passers-by.

A green and blue flag with a red circle, which symbolises Romanies' ties with their old homeland, India, against the backround of grass and the sky, was hoisted next to the linden tree.

"We all have equal rights and we must approach each other like a man in relation to a man, that means with respect," said Stehlikova, minister in charge of minorities and human rights.

She said she believes that like at the Letna plain today, all people have tolerance and solidarity in their hearts and that relations between citizens will result in cooperation and mutual benefit rather than confrontation as is sometimes the case on the political scene.

Czech Romany organisations have called a demonstration outside the Government Office on April 11. They demand the resignation of Deputy PM Jiri Cunek, head of the junior ruling Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), over his recent controversial statements on Romanies.

The tabloid Blesk recently quoted Cunek as saying while answering the question of whether other people would receive state subsidies similar to those received by Romanies:

"For this they will have to get sunburnt (alluding to Romanies' colour of skin), make a mess with your family, put up fires in the square and only then will some politicians say - you are really a poor man."

The senior ruling Civic Democrats (ODS) have dissociated themselves from Cunek's words. The other junior ruling party, the SZ, wants Cunek's departure from the cabinet.

Czech Romany organisations' demand for Cunek's withdrawal has been backed by a hundred representatives of Romany groups, international institutions and personalities from several countries.

Stehlikova told CTK that she is ready to meet Romanies on Wednesday and react to them immediately.

"Of course, I understand their demands," she said, adding that Cunek's statements were not in harmony with either democratic values or the government's policy statement, and were at odds with the spirit and values of the Czech constitution as well.

Today's meeting was part of the week-long programme that is to peak with a concert of Romany music bands on Sunday.

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