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Many Czechs aware of Romany problems - expert

Prague, 18.12.2008 21:11, (ROMEA)

The Czech Republic is often in focus of reports on the Romanies' situation in Europe, which might be "good news" showing that many Czechs realise it and try to speak up about problems that are ignored elsewhere, German journalist Markus Pape told today's issue of Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD).

Pape, who has dealt with Romany issues for years, also said the high attention paid to Czech Romanies might be connected with the historical fact that out of the post-communist countries the Czech Republic had the best preconditions to cope with the problems successfully.

He recalls that the education level of Czech Romanies was the highest in Europe in 1989. However, due to the forced assimilation under the previous regime, Romanies felt being Czechs, but the majority society did not accept them, Pape said.

Yet Romanies wanted to live like other Czechs, and this is why they were leaving the Czech Republic for abroad. After the "Romany exodus" the world realised that something was wrong, Pape told MfD.

Pape explained that problems of Romanies in Europe are also caused by the fact that they do not have their own state and own elites, such as lawyers, judges and journalists, to fill high posts and stand up for their rights.

Asked which European countries are "the best for Romanies," Pape said in general those with a low share of Romany population, and the countries where the protection of minorities is firmly embedded in laws and that also experienced the human rights threatening, such as Germany, as well as Scandinavian countries with a strong Romany representation.

Unlike in the West, discussion about a country's own approach to minorities was impossible in the former communist countries of eastern Europe for 40 years, which led to the revival of nationalism in the 1990s, Pape pointed out.

The Romany problem reflects solidarity between the majority society and a minority, he added.

"The majority thinks it is lending a helping hand to Romanies, but they do not use it to solve their problem themselves," Pape told MfD.

He said the majority population should develop a civic society as if it works well, there are no serious problems in cohabitation with Romanies. Romanies, on their part, should use a chance to participate in the solving of their problems.

"However, it is complicated. The majority should open up itself and the minority should integrate into society that basically rejects it," Pape concluded in the paper.

CTK
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