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Outgoing director of Czech Gov't Agency for Social Inclusion says Human Rights Minister doesn't understand the Agency's work

7.5.2015 6:34
Martin Šimáček, former director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)
Martin Šimáček, former director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)

In an interview for news server Romea.cz on 5 May, outgoing director Martin Šimáček has responded to the explanation given by Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier to the press about the situation in the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. Šimáček said he believes the minister's press conference shows that he completely lacks information about the work of the Agency and that his subordinates are reporting erroneous, incorrect information about it to him.  

No problem with monitoring

Dienstbier informed the press that one of the main reasons he has removed the director is a dispute between them about monitoring the impact of the Agency's work on the social integration of the Romani minority. The minister said the European Commission requires that there be a clearer relationship between the investments coming through the Agency to the municipalities and the Government's Romani Integration Strategy, more specifically, the effect those investments have on the life of Romani people in excluded localities.

The instrument for determining this effect is supposed to be a newly-introduced monitoring mechanism. Dienstbier said Šimáček has refused to discuss the Agency performing monitoring of this issue.

The minister said the outgoing director claimed that such monitoring would mean that the "ethno-emancipatory" and "social" approaches to combating social exclusion would be combined. Šimáček, however, is claiming that not only has he never had a problem with such monitoring, but that the Agency itself proposed what the indicators for such monitoring would be, and a set of indicators has already been approved and negotiated with the relevant ministries.

"I have the feeling that the minister has ascertained that the arguments he has been making for removing me are simply not working, so he is looking for a new topic," Šimáček said. "I cannot otherwise explain why he is raising the topic of a discrepancy between the 'ethno-emanicipatory' and 'social' approaches. The Agency has worked with both approaches and sees no essential contradiction between them. The European Commission doesn't either. This is an artificially induced conflict."

Ethnic or social?

Šimáček says the Agency does not see the larger solution to social inclusion as lying in an "ethnic" approach, but that it naturally supports the idea that programs targeting social

exclusion respond to the needs of the Romani community. He says an instrument should be available to show whether the Agency is sufficiently responding to those needs.

"The European Commission sees it the same way," the outgoing director explains. "It is emphasizing the need for support of the Romani minority, but at the same time, it knows that just because investment is predicated on ethnicity, that doesn't mean it will be effective. The funding does not have to be predicated on ethnicity. If Minister Dienstbier doesn't know that, then it means he doesn't understand a basic principle that the European Commission is working with in this area."

Šimáček went on to say that the Czech Republic has already run programs predicated on ethnicity within the framework of the operational programs focused on employment or on revitalization of excluded areas. Those programs have not worked satisfactorily in either case.

"There is no European dogma that this investment must be predicated on ethnicity. It may be that we are once again at risk of becoming 'more Catholic than the Pope'. This is simply about finding a method that will work, that will actually aid people," he said.  

Michal Komárek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Agentura pro sociální začleňování, Jiří Dienstbier, Martin Šimáček, odvolání, Strategie romské integrace do roku 2020



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