Karel Holomek: Solutions never implemented, ethnic relations will deteriorate
Relations between Romani people and Czechs (non-Roma) are proceeding as anticipated. Between 2003 and 2005, a Working Group of citizens and experts proposed essential preparatory steps to take and also predicted what might happen if those steps were not be taken: The situation would deteriorate until we begin to address Romani problems as a whole at both the local and statewide level instead of permitting the disorganized improvisation that has characterized this effort until now.
However, the detailed, recommended process for implementing these proposals, based on both domestic and international experience, was never approved by the Government (nor rejected by it), nor implemented. It seems we must, therefore, wait for a further deterioration of relations between Romani people and Czechs before we start designing a concrete solution - after everything else fails.
This does not mean that nothing has been done. Some partial expert studies of our situation do exist that are of comparable quality to similar studies performed abroad. Tens of millions of Czech crowns are expended on this issue from both the Czech and EU budgets, and some partial problems have improved in selected localities (perhaps temporarily). New state bodies and organizations have been created - unfortunately almost without any legislative activity, money, or powers of their own. Hundreds of employees, politicians and volunteers have done their best to help, with dedication, but they are starting to see the hopelessness of their isolated attempts and are now becoming passive.
Naturally, during a security crisis when children are being set on fire and mass violence is being prevented only with difficulty, the police must intervene. However, what looks like a security problem is just the typical situation of the "new ghettos", i.e., the housing crisis. For years we have passively watched entrepreneurs and politicians abuse inappropriate legislation to create these ghettos in an organized fashion. Primary school education in such environments always fails when it is not tended to: We overlooked this in silence. That is why in this country people have been raised for years who are unemployable or can only be employed with difficulty. They will be led by their environment to the routine commission of crime. Unemployment is growing.
The prisons are supposed to correct people and serve as deterrents. Neither corrections nor deterrence will work with people who live 12 to one room without hope, jobs, or money. The other citizens pay hundreds of thousands of crows annually to maintain these prisoners. The lack of a law regulating gaming rooms, one of the main causes of these problems, has been remarked upon for six years. We are also ignoring - or only tending to in an amateur way - half a dozen other difficulties, and not only ones concerning Romani people. Like everywhere else, we too need to design, adopt, and implement a studied process (or strategy or concept or plan, whatever you want to call it), that will take into consideration, within budgetary limitations, all of the most important problems, not just some of them - and not only from the point of view of bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and politicians.
Over the years we have already designed many plans. They have come about because someone was selected to summarize his or her partial ideas. Then several dozens of people commented on them through an improvised procedure, administrative staffs prepared this all for publication - and the Government and municipalities ignored all of the key, concrete proposals because it wasn't possible for them to do anything with them. Such an approach has never worked anywhere, and has fallen out of use elsewhere. It is necessary and possible to ask groups of experts and those involved to design their own variations of solutions to these problems through a tried-and-true process, to compare the results, and to let the Government and the mayors decide which solutions to pick.
One typical deficiency has been that estimates of the potential impact of inaction have been left out of the equation: What will happen with these partial problems if a particular option is adopted? What if the decision to adopt a solution is deferred? What if social support is changed statewide? What if the global economic crisis deteriorates? What can we expect after one year? After 10 years? Who will monitor the situation?
No one can precisely and reliably calculate such impacts. However, it is remarkable how often significant warnings do arise when citizens, experienced politicians, practitioners, and NGOs participate in impartially managed discussions of comparably well-designed options for addressing these problems.
Just as in several places abroad, this growing conflict, neglected for years, has led to the question: Should we help Romani people, or be strict with them? This question is understandable from a human perspective - it is posed by those who are suffering. It is also a tactical question posed by those who want to politically capitalize on that suffering. It has never led to a solution and never will. The only known way to address this is to compare the anticipated outcomes of specific options for addressing these problems, options that have been designed impartially. Experience shows that this usually leads to justified distinctions as to when to be strict with whom, and whom to help.
We lack a crisis team these days. Not only that, but in the weeks to come, pressure will rise at the municipal, regional and statewide levels for leaders to immediately communicate their (non-existent) concrete integration plans for long-term improvements - or for plans to be rapidly designed through the improvised approach that has operated until now and has always failed everywhere it has been tried. If that is attempted again, it will further deteriorate the situation and therefore, surprisingly, bring us closer to the time when we will start working together on a real solution. If we want to stop the total breakdown of society, we will have no other choice.
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