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Council of Europe calls on Czech Republic to protect minority languages like German and Romani more

2.12.2015 18:40
A Slovak-Romani textbook and Czech-Romani dictionary. Collage:  Romea.cz
A Slovak-Romani textbook and Czech-Romani dictionary. Collage: Romea.cz

The Council of Europe (CoE) has called on the Czech Republic to increase its efforts to protect and support minority languages, especially German and Romani. The CoE's press release issued today says its Committee of Ministers (CoM) has sent many recommendations to Prague on the basis of a report by its Committee of Experts assessing the degree to which the country complies with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The CoM's report points out that while a well-developed general framework does exist in the Czech Republic for protecting national minorities, as does a special program financing the fulfillment of the terms of the Charter, the country must do more to increase its support for awareness and tolerance of minority cultures and languages as an integral component of its cultural heritage. The report says what are especially needed are measures to support the German and Romani languages in the area of education and use in the media and public life.

Currently there is said to be low awareness in Czech society of traditional minority languages and their contribution to the national cultural heritage. German, for example, is predominantly perceived and taught as a foreign language.

The presence of the Romani language in mainstream education is limited and its instruction is complicated by negative perceptions of Romani people by the public. On the other hand, the Polish language is in a good situation in the field of education, for the most part in areas where it is traditionally spoken.

The report recommends changing legal regulations regarding the country's own committees on national minorities so that barriers to applying the obligations of the Charter in the field of education do not arise. It also calls on the Czech Republic to eliminate the condition from its legal norms that a person must submit a declaration to the effect that he or she does not have command of the Czech language in order to use a minority language during a criminal proceeding.

The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers is its most important body because of its decision-making powers. The CoM is the governmental apparatus of the Council of Europe, where its member states are able to discuss various national approaches to solving problems that plague other European countries as well.

At the same time it is a collective forum where Europe-wide recommendations are formulated in response to challenges. The CoM is composed of the foreign ministers of all CoE member countries.

The CoE has criticized the Czech Republic in many areas. The CoE's European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), for example, asserts that the Czech Republic is violating the European Social Charter.

What is primarily criticized is insufficient legislation addressing the relationship between employees and employers in the new Labor Code. In 2010 the ESCR criticized the Czech Republic for insufficiently legislating overtime.

Under current law, theoretically it could happen that an employee might have less than eight hours' rest per day as a result of working overtime. Czech legislators are not open to this criticism, believing that limitations on overtime would lead to fewer jobs and a higher unemployment rate, according to the CoE website. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Council of Europe, Culture, Czech Republic, Romani language



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