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The Economist on Czech unrest: Nazi-era rhetoric, politicians also to blame

Great Britain, 26.9.2011 7:19, (ROMEA)
Varnsdorf, 17.9.2011 (FOTO: Lukáš Houdek)

The tense events of recent weeks in the Šluknov district of the Czech Republic are the topic of an article in the prestigious British magazine The Economist. In its reporting, published 22 September 2011, the magazine compares some of the slogans used by anti-Roma demonstrators there to the persecution committed by the Nazis. The magazine also links the unrest to the scandal around Ladislav Bátora, a bureaucrat at the Czech Education Ministry. For a brief time, TOP 09 party ministers refused to attend cabinet sessions in protest over Bátora's unsuitability as head of human resources at the ministry because of his ultra-nationalism. The magazine also describes the role Czech President Václav Klaus is playing in these events.

The Economist reports that the rhetoric used by those demonstrating is escalating. "The demonstrators are referring to Romani people as 'inadaptables'. Many would rather see them shut up in ghettos, which is still the most frequent practice in Slovakia. The harsh words are reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews and Roma - and of the Czech wartime collaboration with the Nazis," the magazine reports.

The Economist also reports that Czech politicians are flirting with anti-Roma sentiment. The magazine reminds readers of the former head of the Christian Democrats and former Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek, who "started his career in local politics by evicting Romani tenants from the center of town into 'container housing' on the outskirts."

In that context, the magazine also mentions the scandal with the TOP 09 boycott of cabinet sessions over Bátora, whom they call an "adviser with repulsive anti-Roma opinions". However, TOP 09 said they were refusing to attend cabinet sessions because of Bátora's insulting remarks about their party chair, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš eventually removed Bátora from his position as head of human resources at the ministry because of the protests, transferring him to the post of deputy director of the minister's cabinet, where he will participate in establishing long-term policy and priorities in Czech education. The move was a de facto promotion for Bátora.

In conclusion, the article also mentions Bátora's close ties to Czech President Václav Klaus, calling Bátora the "president's protégé" and characterizing Klaus as a man who "criticizes political correctness and has a weakness for hiring oddball assistants". The article speculates that after Klaus leaves office in 2013, he may establish a new "nationalist, euro-skeptic party", which would have no problem getting the votes of people dissatisfied with the Roma.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Radka Steklá, ras, Czech Press Agency, The Economist, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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