Visiting the Šluknov foothills, US Ambassador says Czech Republic has a lot of work to do on Romani integration
US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen visited the Šluknov foothills yesterday together with the Norwegian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Jens Eikaas. Speaking to journalists after the visit, Eisen said that while the Czechs are well-known at the UN as advocates for human rights in Burma or the Middle East, they have a lot of work to do on the social inclusion of Romani people in their own country. Eisen added that such work is a never-ending process for all countries and called on the Czech Government to take the most effective measures possible to uphold the rights of Romani people.
Eisen said the USA is very familiar with the long-term impacts of inequality in the areas of education, housing and opportunities. In his discussion with mayors in the district, he tried to explain some of the experiences the United States has had with these issues. "The first step should be subsidies for projects that prevent social exclusion in the long run," Eisen said, stressing primarily the areas of employment, equal opportunities and housing.
Eisen said he believed many positive steps have already been taken in that direction. "Work in this area never ends, not in any country. When the rights of individuals and groups are not respected, all of society is harmed," Eisen said.
Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková said the experience of both Norway and the USA could be of great assistance to addressing the problems of socially excluded localities. Eisen recalled his experience as a young attorney working on a project for young people at risk of social decline. "We determined that it is very important to involve their parents too. We invited them to our courses and we even hired some of them to be part of the program," he said, recommending increased involvement of entire families in the Šluknov foothills.
Both diplomats wanted to get a picture of the current situation in the region, which was afflicted last August by racial unrest targeting Romani people. The ambassadors also visited the municipally-owned residential hotel on TGM street in the town of Varnsdorf, which was the target of protest marches more than once last summer during which police had to protect hotel residents from crowds. The ambassadors also visited a community center and schools in Krásná Lípa and Varnsdorf.
Norwegian Ambassador Eikaas said Norway is preparing to invest EUR 132 million over the next five years into the Norwegian Funds. Those grant programs promote health care, research, and strengthening society as a whole in the fight against inequality and in increasing inclusion.
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