Czech Senate debate on Roma integration reveals antigypsyism, crassness, ignorance
The recent Czech senate debate of recommendations from the Council of the EU for effective measures in the area of Romani integration in the EU Member States can only be characterized as dense. In addition to several truthful statements, the discourse included many zingers from infamous politicians such as Jaroslav Doubrava, Miroslav Krejči, Jaroslav Kubera and Pavel Lebeda.
News server Romea.cz is publishing excerpts from the speeches below. Full transcripts of them can be read on the website of the Senate and viewed in the video recording of the session at http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/domaci/co-senatori-pri-projednavani-navrhu-k-integraci-romu-odhalili-neznalost-problematiky-streotypy-lzi-hloupost-anticiganismus (in Czech only).
For now we would just like to draw attention to the fact that in addition to some positive phenomena, the speeches of some senators were infused with lies, myths, nationalist stereotypes, ordinary human crassness, racism/antigypsyism or a sense of superiority and the concomitant need to ridicule others, and total ignorance of the issue up for discussion. Some of the statements are more than telling about those who authored them; we will return to a fuller commentary in a later article.
Excerpts from the Senate debate on EU recommendations for Romani integration
Senator Vladimír Dryml:
- The problem of the Romani question is also one of petty crime which makes the life of most of the rest of the population more difficult and which is ignored, perhaps not even making it into statistics even though this is about not abiding by the law! That is why some of us talk about inadaptable individuals. This doesn't apply only to Romani people, it applies in general to those who don't want to abide by the rules society has adopted!
- What discrimination and exclusion from society! In my opinion the worst thing we could do to solve the Romani question is so-called positive discrimination!
- I don't understand why free vaccination programs should be introduced for a certain group of people. On access to housing, we well know how [the Roma] destroy even social apartments. Yes, that's the naked truth, let's not pretend it's not. These are big problems.
Senator Jaroslav Sykáček:
- People are afraid to leave their homes out of concern that someone will rob their house, their garden or their tool shed. The fact that one night a group of inadaptables committed a brutal attack was just the last straw.
Senator Dagmar Terelmešová
- If we look at the statistics of these programs, we will see how many Roma who go through them really find work, or if they find it, how long they can keep a job.
- Unfortunately, we have to say that we ourselves are partially responsible for what has now come to us from the EU. I recall a report that made it through and was submitted to us on the Health and Social Committee by former Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Šimůnková that stated that the Roma don't have the same access to education or health care, and as I very well remember, the entire Health Committee responded to it very negatively and Alenka Dernerová rewrote it. I believe she rewrote it to reflect reality. The report was approved by the Senate and made its way to Brussels.
- Please, let's not paint ourselves as worse than we are. Compared to other EU countries, I believe our approach to the Romani population is very accommodating and it is solely up to them how they respond to our aid.
Senate Vice-Chair Zdeněk Škromach
- Any divisions along the lines of ethnicity, nationality or sex lead only to one solution, that of concentration camps. No one anywhere has ever invented a different solution. That is the danger we face here.
- Should we ever one day want to privilege someone, should we ever want to give someone advantages, let's recall how such efforts turned out, for example, in the United States of America, where there was an effort to privilege a certain ethnicity in a certain way. These are things we should not do.
Senator Pavel Lebeda:
- The integration of the Romani population and in general our approach to this ethnicity is the subject of broad international attention. The Czech Republic has a very bad reputation in this respect. Year after year, with machine-like regularity, the US State Department report on the state of human rights in the world harps again and again on the Czech Republic and Roma. Or Gypsies. I am a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Coucil of Europe and there it's the same, it's an "evergreen". Once again the Czech Republic, once again the Roma.
- In this respect we have a bad reputation, so let's discuss how it came about. For example, when the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Mr Hammarberg, came to the Czech Republic and visited [Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner] Madame Šimůnková, [former Human Rights Minister] Mr Kocáb, former Minister Madame Džamila [Stehliková] of Kazahkstan, I've forgotten her surname, then these celebrities, naturally in the name of publicity and their jobs, if you will, described the situation such that it led to Mr Hammarberg writing a report from which it follows that we are extremists and racists and that we are harming the Roma in God knows how many ways.
- Access to education, or rather, the critics of our position prefer to start with the DH case, that was a judgment from the International [sic] Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, I believe from 2006 or 2007, I don't know precisely when. The prominent London [sic] lawyers who represented several Roma won their case against the Czech Republic and were in court about - what else? - naturally, about money.
- If, therefore, that [court] was the highest level here, then it follows, and it follows from the dissenting opinion of one justice, that the Czech Republic is doing its best conceptually to keep many people from total illiteracy who are either unable to graduate or don't want to graduate. They can't or they won't.
- The inclusive education project we adopted under pressure is total nonsense. We throw all the children together who are unable to gradauate from a full-fledged education, who don't want to complete their education, we throw them together with the obviously educable children and even with the geniuses, we add a completely resentful teacher to the mix (I could use an even worse term), we cook it all up and the result is a below-average level of education which naturally is controlled by the weakest individuals.
- Anyone in this country can have any kind of housing within his reach. If there are some families, especially gypsies, who are evicted, then it's because they didn't pay their rent.
- Integration, as we have already correctly heard mentioned here, is naturally a bilateral process. We keep lamenting, or rather, lambasting ourselves for poorly integrating [the Roma], asking what else we should do, where else we need to throw more money. For integration the will of the Romani ethnicity [sic] is actually also needed, and that does not exist here.
- Of adult Roma, 60 - 80 % of them are long-term unemployed, which is naturally a big problem. The problem also is that they simply refuse the jobs offered them.
- If some crazy thugs go set the home of a criminal, problematic Romani family on fire and get 22 years "inside" for it, then that is just a social execution, they didn't set out to murder anyone at all, not that I approve of what they did. However, if I compare it to the sentencing given to the violent thugs with the machetes who managed to crack someone's skull, then that is attempted murder, it's attempted murder pure and simple, but the verdicts in the two cases were completely different.
- The question now arises: So what, how to go on? I don't really know, but I believe that only through economic pressure will we be able to lead the Romani community into civil society and integration.
Senator Alena Dernerová:
- The state is to blame for many things, including for the high welfare benefits Romani people are receiving, because when Madame Director tells me that of 28 children completing ninth grade, only six decide to go to an apprenticeship program and the rest say they will just register with the Labor Office, something is probably wrong.
Senator Jaroslav Doubrava:
- It has been recommended to us that we facilitate Romani access to education. You know, this might be considered an heretical idea, but I claim that those "special schools" or whatever we call them today were essentially a gift from God for those children, because they do receive instruction there and the intensity of the instruction is adjusted to their capability and capacity. I insist it is an error to back down on this.
- Access to education. Who prevents [theRoma] in this country from accessing education but they themselves? No one prevents them, on the contrary, they have essentially better conditions as far as school equipment, etc., than majority children do.
- Access to health care. That was also mentioned here. If it's true that even regulatory fees or whatever they are called are paid for [the Roma] by social services in the pharmacies, then I insist that in this case they are the ones being privileged and no one is preventing them from receiving a doctor's care.
- The question of employment. I know [the Roma] basically have a more complicated time of it. However, I am also convinced that those who want to work will find jobs.
- It was said here that the Romani issue is one of the most complex problems in the EU. However, I am convinced that if we give them more and more money, that will not resolve anything. You know, my assistant and I were walking past the town hall in Ústí nad Labem. Two of them were standing there, brand names all over them like from a fashion magazine, and right when we walked past, one of them says "Just imagine, they've [and here I'll say "screwed me over" instead of what she really said]... just imagine, they cut my welfare. I was only getting CZK 40 000." The other woman says to her: "Girl, at least something". Do you understand that? "At least something"? How many people make CZK 40 000 per month here?
- What I mean to say is that I am not against giving [the Roma] money, but I want them to be given money for work! For work even if it means they have to sweep a sidewalk that has already been swept 100 times for the 101st time, they should sweep it, they should get money for work!
Senator Jaroslav Zeman:
- I ask you: What am I to say, as an employer, to my 200 people who pay taxes, who go to work, to the single mothers fearing for their jobs, while on the other hand the Romani, gypsy community doesn't work and just lives off of our taxes.
- Unless we force the Roma to work, their children will not go to school.
Senator Miroslav Krejča:
- We are a strange nation. A strange nation that loves to snitch on itself, to sue itself. I am thinking of some of our Government [Human Rights] Commissioners, starting with Mr Uhl and ending with Madame Šimůnková, who have done their utmost to defame the Czech Republic to international institutions.
Senator Jaroslav Kubera:
- The first thing we should do is to restrict the production of children for the purpose of profit. This is no one's fault, it's our fault. We set up the systems so that it pays to produce children for the purpose of profit, so who wouldn't produce them?
- If it pays more to be on welfare than to have a job, who wouldn't go on welfare? What do you want to criticize about this? It's logical, after all.
- [Romani people's] knowledge of legal regulations in the sense of their rights is so perfect that social welfare authority staffers don't know how to advise them, they already know it all precisely.
- When [the Roma] go to apply for their disability identification, they make such a scene at the authority that everyone prefers to shut their mouths and just give them what they want so there won't be problems. It's only because we treat them differently.
- One prescription would be to treat [the Roma] normally. It's enough if Dežo comes up to you and you say "Dežo, dude, don't mess with me, understand, or you'll see what happens, dude." Dežo will suddenly calm down and you can talk to him normally.
- It is the lie of lies to say [the Roma] are not hard-working. A gypsy is capable of digging a 300-meter ditch to remove a cable to sell for scrap, but first he has to set fire to it.
- Towns that have Romani advisors paradoxically have more problems than towns that don't. The reason is simple. Romani advisors will cause as many problems as they can so that the need for their job remains.
- How many advisors would I have to have if I have Jews, Kazakhs, Roma, Ukrainians, Vietnamese and I don't know who else in my town? I'd have to have an authority full of advisors. That is social engineering. When we don't know what to do, it's best to make an authority, and now the most recent hit is to make a ministry, I think they want one for equality or something like that.
- Simple solutions. No agencies. Whether that's [former Human Rights Minister] Kocáb, or my beloved [former Human Rights Minister] Džamila [Stehliková], whom I immediately wrote an e-mail telling her to stay away from my town, but otherwise I liked her. Don't bother me here, because you are just one big vaccuum cleaner for money, just like the fight against corruption has become an excellent business opportunity, all of these activities always lead to someone turning them into a top-notch business.
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