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Czech Senate rejects common EU solution to Roma exclusion

Prague, 5.8.2011 3:06, (ROMEA)

Yesterday the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic discussed a communication from the EU Commission to the European Parliament (EP) which proposed that a common EU framework for a Roma inclusion strategy be developed by 2020. National-level strategies would focus on four key areas – education, employment, health and housing.

The current Czech government does not presume that it will revise its already-developed Roma Integration Concept for 2010-2013 on the basis of this communication, as it already meets all of the required criteria. The Czech Senate yesterday adopted a resolution in which it opposed the Commission's communication to the EU and supported the government.

"On behalf of the Prime Minister, I must emphasize here that the Commission's communication fully respects the diversity of national approaches toward this issue and the recommendations in the communication in no way represent a criticism targeting any particular Member State. The Government does not presume that as a result of the process mentioned it will have to revise either its Roma Integration Concept 2010–13 or the 10 Basic Principles for Roma Inclusion, the two pivotal conceptual documents in this area. The Czech Republic currently has a highly developed national coordination mechanism in relation to the Roma agenda and it is neither desirable nor desired that new tasks be created for the ministries, particularly at a time of budget restrictions," Czech Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa told the Senate.

The Senate adopted a resolution in which it announced to the Commission that "it does not consider a common approach to Roma exclusion throughout the EU as sufficiently effective given the significant cultural and socioeconomic dissimiliarities between various communities, their varied ways of life (migrant, rural, settled or urban) and their existing degrees of inclusion into majority societies." Efforts at Roma inclusion, according to the Senate resolution, should reflect the concrete needs and situations of local communities. The Senate also believes success will depend on whether "representatives of Romani communities succeed in becoming involved in seeking solutions and implementing them."

Czech Senator Jaroslav Doubrava presented a news item to the plenary during the discussion. "In our country this directive has been fulfilled for years and it just depends on the Roma whether they accept the helping hand offered them or not. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that for the time being they are not doing their best to accept it," Doubrava said when submitting the draft resolution.

Czech Senator Alena Dernerová presented the standpoint of the Senate Committee for Health and Social Policy. "The vast majority of Roma complete primary education with difficulty. One of the main factors is the lack of motivation for education in their own families," Dernerová said with respect to education.

According to the Senate Committee, Roma access to health care is completely unhampered by discrimination. "Their shorter lifespan is doubtless determined by the poor lifestyle of most Roma, who suffer from the diseases of civilization more than the non-Roma population," the senator said.

The Committee emphasized that when seeking an EU-wide solution to the Roma agenda, national specifics must be sufficiently taken into account. The EU should only establish a framework to facilitate sufficiently differentiated approaches at national level. Dernerová supported the creation of jobs for "low-qualified" forms of public services or work.

Czech Senator Alena Gajdůšková, the Senate Vice-Chair, went to bat for the Commission's recommendation, which in her view is intended "to achieve concrete effects in the lives of the Romani population." She emphasized investment into the education of Romani children so they could acquire qualifications and added that the full employment inclusion of Romani people could, according to the World Bank, mean an economic benefit of roughly half a billion euro annually for some Member States. Gajdůšková believes it is correct to address Romani issues at EU level; she did not vote in favor of Senator Doubrava's resolution.

"Let's not believe the claim that we are the ones who will rescue them [the Roma]. They must escape on their own," said Czech Senator Jaroslav Kubera, who is also the Chief Magistrate of Teplice. In his view, Romani people in the Czech Republic have the same opportunities as everyone else. "Unfortunately, they don't know how to take advantage of those opportunities, and that is not their fault alone," Kubera said. However, he rejected the adoption of any measures showing a lack of knowledge of the "Romani mentality". "We'll let them live, but on the other hand if they cause disorder, and someone warns them not to, they can't report that to the police as racism," Kubera said.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Press Agency, senat.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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