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Open letter to Czech Education Minister: Bátora's opinions incompatible with EdMin mission

Prague, 29.3.2011 19:07, (ROMEA)

A group of experts and organizations working on human rights, aid to immigrants and Roma education have sent a letter to Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs - VV) regarding his upcoming appointment of an adviser. It is speculated that the chair of the conservative D.O.S.T. initiative and one-time candidate for the nationalist National Party, Ladislav Bátora, may become the minister's adviser on Friday. The letter-writers are calling on the ministry to reconsider and choose an adviser "who will be sensitive to the needs of all groups in society", the Czech Press Agency reports.

The open letter was signed by representatives of Amnesty International, the Association for Opportunities for Young Migrants - Meta, the Open Society Fund, People in Need, the League of Human Rights, and three experts on education. The authors write that they were disturbed to learn that Bátora might become an adviser to the Education Minister.

Bátora was the leading candidate of the extreme-right National Party in 2006 for the Vysočina region. Even though he ran as an independent, the authors of the letter believe he must have recognized the party's ideas and stances. The party, which no longer exists, profiled itself as anti-foreigner and anti-Roma. In 2009 their video advertisement for the EP elections even included the words "final solution to the Gypsy question" ("konečné řešení otázky cikánské").

According to the authors, the new adviser is supposed to advise the minister on economic questions. They remind the minister that the government adopted a National Plan for Inclusive Education last year which is meant to improve the education of both immigrant and Roma children thanks to many of its measures. The authors point out that a corresponding financial investment will be needed to implement the steps.

"We are not sure whether you have thoroughly reviewed the question, in that context, of the compatibility of Mr Bátora's publicly advocated stances with the aims and mission of the Education Ministry," the activists and experts say in their letter. In their view, Bátora's appointment could have long-term effects which could mean that children's scholastic achievement might continue to depend on what sort of background or environment they come from.

According to the authors, a sympathy with the ideological aims of the defunct National Party "conflicts in many respects" with the purpose of the Education Ministry as regulated by the School Act, the White Paper on Education, and the above-mentioned National Plan. "Those documents speak of equal access to education without discrimination, about mutual respect and solidarity, about understanding and enforcing the principles of democracy and the rule of law, of human rights and a feeling for social cohesion," the letter-writers state. They believe Dobeš will consider their arguments.

Reports originally claimed the Education Minister wanted to appoint Bátora as his deputy minister, but that idea met with a wave of criticism and revulsion. Dobeš recently said Bátora had been recommended to him by people from Prague Castle. He has refused to comment on whether the head of D.O.S.T. will really be appointed his adviser, but recently said he would announce the appointment of an adviser on 1 April and "it won't be an April Fool's joke".

František Bikár, ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, brf, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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