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Industrial pig farm still standing at Lety earns Czech Republic criticism from the European Parliament

Prague, 4.2.2008 14:58, (ROMEA/CRO)

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator:
Now it’s time for a debate on something very topical during our Radioforum duel. The European Parliament is criticising the Czech Republic over the fact that the industrial pig farm has not yet been removed from Lety by Písek. As we all know, the industrial pig farm is located on the site of a former concentration camp for Roma. Moreover, this is not the first time the MEPs have called on the Czech Republic to remove the farm. However, this most recent challenge is not to the liking of some Czech MEPs, who voted against it. They claim this is an EU-wide problem and that denouncing the Czech Republic in particular is hypocritical. This is the Radioforum duel and there is time here for your opinions as well. You can send them to us by e-mail at radioforum@rozhlas.cz, or by SMS to 9077703 at a cost of three crowns per message. Please keep your text 150 characters or shorter. The Radioforum duel is beginning. Good evening to Jan Březina, Czech MEP from the KDU-ČSL [Christian Democrats].

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/:
Good evening from Olomouc.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator:
You are in our studio in Olomouc, to be precise. We also have Čeňek Růžička, president of the Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust, on the line. Good evening to you.

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president of the Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust:
Good evening to you and all your listeners.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Mr Jan Březina, you are one of the MEPs who is critical of the European Parliamentary resolution we have just mentioned. In your opinion this is all cheap, populist moralizing unless the EU is willing to give the Czech Republic the 2 billion crowns needed to tear down the industrial pig farm. Isn’t this just throwing the problem into someone else’s lap? The farm was up at Lety before we ever joined the EU.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
That is true, and I definitely do not want to be here in the position of someone defending the existence of the farm. The fact that people suffered there and an industrial pig farm was then built on the site is not in order. As far as I am concerned, I am bothered by the way the cause of Lety is being presented to the European Parliament. As you said, this is not the first time; I was at the first exhibit on Lety and I take exception to the way this matter is being presented at the EP. You mentioned the Romani Holocaust. There is no doubt this was a terrible thing, but I have the feeling that the connection between the Czech Republic and Lety is emphasized far too much. You know, I was also moved at that exhibit to see that the photos were not only of the Roma who suffered there, but of the Czech gendarmes and guards, and nowhere was it ever emphasized that the camp was built in the [Nazi] Protectorate of Bohemian and Moravia – who was responsible for it, who ran it, who designed the Nurimberg laws? This is my point of view on this resolution, because in my point of view we, the Czech Republic, should take action to resolve this problem as soon as possible, but from my point of view this is interference by the other side in the sovereignty of our country, and since this is being done primarily by the Greens, they should be pointing out the wider context of this problem, i.e., who is responsible for the Holocaust.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
You’re talking about the European Greens?

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
Yes, I am talking about the European Greens.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Now Mr Čeněk Růžička, president of the Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust. Mr Růžička, if you were an MEP, would you be opposed to this resolution like Mr Březina, do his reasons make sense to you?

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
I would first mainly like to give some concrete information. Mr Březina, I don’t know – he obviously does not know that we indigenous Czech Roma and Sinti naturally do not question the matter of Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti. We would never dream of doing that, but at the same time we are also saying that the responsibility for what occurred at the concentration camp at Lety by Písek during the Protectorate era is unequivocally that of the camp commander and the Czech guards. The entire staff there was Czech. I would further like to take issue with Mr Březina’s claim that two billion crowns are needed to liquidate the pig farm and build a memorial. I really do not know where he came up with that amount. In my opinion he is simply shooting from the hip for his own purposes ... that amount of money ...to be used ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
What purpose?

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
To disturb the public. Since there is no political will to solve this problem, reasons have to be found not to solve it, and one such reason is this claim that two billion crowns will be needed.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Mr MEP, your claim is apparently disturbing the public.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
I am ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
This number has been selected for that purpose, we just heard.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
That number ... Of course. I am not the person who calculated it, but I know that that number turned up when the Paroubek government wanted to resolve this situation. I do not insist on it and I would like once more to emphasize the fact with which I am disagreeing on principle. If the conditions at the camp were the fault of the individual Czech guards, that is their specific fault, but it was not a freely elected representative of our nation that instigated the imprisonment of the Roma at Lety, and from this point of view I must reject assigning such blame to my nation, if ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Excuse me, that sounds – let’s give Mr Růžička a turn to respond, Mr Růžička, is that argument logical?

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
I would very much like to respond. I am Czech too, I was born here, my parents were born here, and we, as traditional Czech Roma and Sinti, have had our roots here for 600 years. Therefore, I feel as much compassion for the rest of the nation as you probably do, because we truly have had our roots here for 600 years. Naturally, we are not claiming that the Czech nation bears responsibility for the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti. During the time that I have been working on this and leading our association since 1998, I have had access to countless historical materials, and I cannot say that someone from the leadership in Prague, that means the Czech Protectorate government, issued an order to murder and liquidate Roma in the Lety concentration camp. That cannot be claimed.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Gentlemen, I am going to stop you for a moment. Let’s take a look at this from the local point of view, so to speak. Pay attention here, today the regional government of South Bohemia has responded to the European Parliament’s challenge. The region is refusing to relocate the industrial pig farm, and as to why exactly, we will now ask the governor of the South Bohemian region, Jan Zahradník of ODS. Good evening, Mr Governor.

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
Good evening.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
You have said that relocation of the industrial pig farm is not an adequate solution and you are promising to build a memorial for 50 million crowns. Recently the Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, Džamila Stehlíková of the Green Party, has said that she has repeatedly negotiated with you about the farm and that an acceptable solution is close at hand. What solution is that?

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
We first discussed this entire matter several years ago with representatives of the South Bohemian Roma, and we are of the opinion that a memorial to the Roma Holocaust is necessary. We had prepared a ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Where, at the site of the pig farm or next to it?

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
There, at the place that today is being commemorated as, we might say, the already established memorial, and we discussed our investment intentions with representatives of the South Bohemian Roma, as well as with representatives of the current government of the Czech Republic, and we have received support for them from the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister with the proviso that the Prime Minister decided to establish the working group chaired by Madame Minister Stehlíková. Several meetings of this group have already taken place in Prague, one was even ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Permit me to interrupt you, I would like to ask what the results are.

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
... where we agreed that these hearings are ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Governor can you hear me?

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
I hear you very well, yes.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Please, what will the result look like, the decision that is supposedly at hand, as Madame Minister Stehlíková said today?

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
I don’t know what the result will look like ... about which Ms Stehlíková will decide, or rather about which the government of the Czech Republic will decide. I am just saying what solution we have proposed together with representatives of the Czech regions and in completely unanimous agreement with representatives of the South Bohemian Roma.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
I am asking you because Madame Minister said she had negotiated this with you repeatedly.

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
Yes, yes, that is true.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Today she also said that we understandably must respect the decision of the European Parliament.

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
Well, I don’t know. Madame Minister probably has to, well, naturally Madame Minister must respond in this case, but I would remind us that if it is so necessary, and if the government recognizes it as appropriate to shut down the feedlot, the pig farm, then naturally we will have to settle with the owners somehow, who today are rather disadvantaged by this uncertain situation. We will also have to take into account the jobs, right, that this enterprise offers, and the processing of local raw materials. These are matters which, of course, might be minor or less significant. Of course, if the government allocates resources for this and decides to shut it down, then no one will be able to do anything but agree. I am simply repeating, again and again, the point of view of the South Bohemian administration and also of the South Bohemian Roma, with whom we are in total agreement.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Jan Zahradník of ODS, governor of the South Bohemian region. Thank you for your contribution to the Radioforum duel. Have a nice evening.

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, governor of the South Bohemian region, (ODS)
I would like to add that I cannot imagine why the European Parliament doesn’t have anything else to do in this complicated matter, which is an EU-wide matter, than to so explicitly draw attention to us. I cannot understand it and in principle it is disproportionate.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Thank you, have a nice evening. Jan Zahradník.

Jan ZAHRADNÍK, nepřiměřené.
Thank you very much. Good-bye.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Mr Březina, you are an MEP for KDU-ČSL [Christian Democrats], a party that has been in government for a long time, does your party feel responsible for the fact that the problem with this pig farm remains unsolved after so many years? A moment ago Mr Růžička said you all should have been faster.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
I think all the previous governments should have been faster. I said at the start that ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
You were in the majority of those governments.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
Well naturally it is a question of what positions we were in, but let’s take a look at something else. I heard that Ms Džamila Stehlíková is even considering taking up a [voluntary] collection for this purpose, and speaking for myself I can say that if something like that were to be started here, I would be one of the first to contribute, because as a Christian I am personally sorry about this situation.

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
I would, if you will permit ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Yes, Mr Růžička.

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
...me I would like to say something about that. The working group the governor mentioned ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Zahradník.

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
Zahradník, South Bohemian region, I am in that working group too, and we have not been negotiating about any kind of reconstruction there, nor about resolving the question of the pig farm at all. That working group was created solely for the purpose of developing a proposal for a solution to the sacred site, nothing else. Now they’re talking about spending 50 million crowns. Personally we, the bereaved and the survivors, perceive this merely as a sort of signal to calm down the foreign criticism, to make sure there is no more fuss. That’s one thing. I ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
I would like to ask you about something more specific. Today Madame Minister Stehlíková said that removal of the industrial pig farm is, I quote, "a mid-range goal which it will take years to achieve." Apparently, the satisfaction of the survivors and the bereaved is a fundamental condition. What are the demands of the survivors and the bereaved?

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, president, Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust
There is one basic demand: A pig farm has no place on the site of a former concentration camp. That farm has been there since 1974, and after the revolution Czech politicians began to concern themselves with the problem. They have not yet solved it. I ...

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Let’s hear from Mr MEP now. I have one message from our listeners here for you. I quote: "I do not agree that today’s taxpayers should pay compensation. The events at Lety are a matter of another era and a different generation." Please respond to that, and I would also like to ask, in your opinion, do we have to respect the European Parliament’s resolution or not, and within what timeframe?

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
The resolution is, of course, a political instrument, and I have already experienced the vote on this second resolution, and I would like to point out one danger here. The Romani Holocaust and Lety and the Czech Republic are being forced into the same context, which is completely historically and rationally unjustifiable.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Excuse me, a brief interjection, you have 15 seconds.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
This is a question about which something must be done. Precisely becuase I believe that it would not be good to somehow burden today’s taxpayers, I believe the idea of a [voluntary] collection is not so bad.

Vít DVOŘÁK, moderator
Gentlemen, time is running out for today’s duel unfortunately. I see there is a great deal to talk about here. We definitely will devote more time to this topic on Radiožurnál. Jan Březina, MEP and Čeněk Růžička, president of the Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust, good evening, thank you and hear from you again soon.

Čeněk RŮŽIČKA, předseda Výboru pro odškodnění romského holocaustu
Goodbye.

Jan BŘEZINA, Czech MEP /KDU-ČSL/
Goodbye.

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Czech republic, Rozhovory



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