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Roma entrepreneur and town councilor: Unemployment is the Czech Republic's big problem

Český Krumlov, 4.5.2011 18:57, (ROMEA)

The Český Krumlov Daily (Českokrumlovský deník) has published an interview with Roma entrepreneur and town council member Milan Kotlár entitled "I would make higher education mandatory, Roma man says" ("Uzákonil bych povinnost dalšího vzdělávání, říká Rom"). Mr Kotlár is the successful owner of an internationally-renowned restaurant and has also contributed to managing the town as a council member. He is also a brown belt in karate. An excerpt from the interview is reprinted below:

Q: Milan, let's talk about karate. Would you be able to maintain order at your pub thanks to that brown belt, which few people are aware you earned?

A: I don't practice karate anymore and my brown belt is hanging up in the closet somewhere, but I know how to maintain order at the pub without it. Luckily I have never needed it so far.

Q: How did you get into gastronomy?

A: When small-scale privatization happened I bought the house where I was living with my family, and in what used to be the garage I built a small pub. In the beginning it was mainly my Roma friends who frequented it. Gradually, however, it grew popular and attracted other people from town. I believe the Gypsy music played there by my relatives contributed to that.

Q: You have been repeatedly elected a member of the town council in Český Krumlov and you are a member of the ODS party (Civic Democrats). What led you to that political career?

A: In 1998 I joined ODS because right-wing sensibilities appealed to me. In that same year I ran as an ODS candidate and I became a member of the town council. That was a big life opportunity for me, a big experience, and I slowly started to grasp the issue of town leadership.

Q: It is well-known that you have taken care of your parents and also your disabled son with enormous care. How did you handle that together with running a business while your wife was studying at hotel school?

A: If you only have one child you must take care of him, even if he is severely disabled. The same applies to your elderly parents, who raised and took care of you. I simply feel this is a matter of course. When my wife was studying, we both had to expend maximum effort to manage both the family and the family business.

Q: We can't not discuss the Roma issue in Český Krumlov. How do you see it, as a Roma man, as a town council member, as the owner of a restaurant that is all but world-famous?

A: Roma problems here are the same as they are elsewhere in the republic. The biggest problem is unemployment, access to work, and bearing responsibility for oneself and one's family. It would be good to make higher education mandatory for those who graduate from elementary school - perhaps in apprenticeships. That would essentially create greater opportunities for people to find work on the labor market, and not just for Roma people. Increased employment reduces the likelihood or the risk of Roma families ending up in the insoluble trap of debt.

Q: You are known for not being allergic to your friends poking fun at Gypsies. Could you tell us a Gypsy joke?

A: Glad to, why not? A Gypsy goes to the Labor Office and asks: "Do you have a job for me?" "Sure I do," the bureaucrat says, "CZK 150 000 a month, car and mobile phone provided, eight weeks' vacation..." "You've got to be joking," the Gypsy says. The bureaucrat says: "You started it."

The entire interview (in Czech only) can be read at http://ceskokrumlovsky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/uzakonil-bych-povinnost-dalsiho-vzdelavani20110503.html

Gwendolyn Albert, Českokrumlovský deník, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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