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December 12, 2018
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MEP Soraya Post supports Romani photo campaign responding to Czech President's antigypsyist remarks

5.10.2018 10:52
Soraya Post, left, along with conference participants Maria Žigová and Nataša Botošová, Prague, Czech Republic, 2016. (PHOTO: Vincent Farnsworth)
Soraya Post, left, along with conference participants Maria Žigová and Nataša Botošová, Prague, Czech Republic, 2016. (PHOTO: Vincent Farnsworth)

Czech President Zeman's antigypsyist remarks from last week continue to resonate at all levels of political life. MEP Soraya Post of Sweden has tweeted her support of the photo campaign initiated by Romani community member Štefan Pongo and the ROMEA organization in response to Zeman's remarks.

Since Tuesday afternoon, Romani people have flooded social networks with photographs of themselves at their place of employment with a clear message for Zeman: "We are working, stop insulting us!" Post is a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Civic Freedoms, Justice and Internal Affairs and the Subcommittee on Human Rights and tweeted a photo of herself from her office in Strasbourg as her contribution to the campaign.

Speaking during a visit to the Olomouc Region last week, Zeman declared: "I am decidedly no friend of communism, but during communism Romani people had to work. Most of them worked as ditch- diggers, and if they refused to work, they were designated as work-shy and went to prison. The Romani labor platoons were led by Romani men who had natural authority. If somebody on their team didn't work, they slapped him around. It's a very humane method that worked most of the time."

Post gave the following comment on Zeman's remarks to news server europeaninterest.eu: “The recent statements made by Czech president Miloš Zeman about Roma people are clearly racist and show the ongoing anti-Gypsyism, even at the highest levels of government, in the Czech Republic. Nobody should express him or herself like this, especially not a president of an EU member state. I condemn this statement and I expect the country’s judiciary to act on this – this is hate speech and racism, and that is against European law. The European Council framework decision on racism and xenophobia clearly states that hate speech is a crime and it is punishable by criminal penalties.”

“The European Commission has already initiated an infringement procedure against the Czech Republic due to the systemic segregation in the field of education against Roma children. We urge the President to stop making the situation worse, and instead work to improve the opportunities of Roma people living in the Czech Republic,” she added.

Political scientist Lukáš Novotný commented on Zeman's remarks for the news server Lidovky.cz in the Czech Republic and attempted to put them into a broader context:  "By using the abbreviated reference that he did, [Zeman] perfectly approximated the mindset of the average Czech. This is exactly what scores him political points. Whether a President is meant to express himself this way is another question, because it does abet the creation of a certain ethnic tension. Instead, a President should attempt to offer solutions in problematic regions. I would be interested to know whether the President would ever say such a thing face-to-face with Romani people. This is precisely the kind of remark that is unambiguously expressed to a specific clientele in a specific region."

Novotný went on to say that in his view, the most that could be said of the President's remarks was that he had used an imprecise argument, because "It was communism in particular that so shamefully neglected the integration of Romani people. Today, by the way, we are reaping, to a certain degree, what was sown by communism, although we ourselves are also abetting it," he explained.

According to the political scientist, it is no accident that Zeman has discredited himself in the eyes of the Romani minority. "He knows exactly why he is saying these things," Novotný said, adding that the speeches given by the President in the regions are thought through in advance.

"I comprehend the fact that in some regions there are enormous problems with the integration of Romani people, but who else other than a President should be bringing the two sides together and proposing solutions?" the political scientist asked rhetorically. Zemans remarks were earlier protested by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), which called them an obvious demonstration of hatred and racism.

"Your abusive rhetoric, designed to stoke fear and racist resentment, poses a direct threat to democratic values and the security of individuals and communities," the ERRC said in an open letter to the Czech President. The organization then went on to call for his resignation.

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zda, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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antigypsyism, European Parliament, Miloš Zeman, opinions



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