Cardinal Dominik Duka took part in a commemorative ceremony for Romany victims of the Holocaust at the Lety memorial in southern Bohemia on Monday. The event was attended by a number of foreign ambassadors, cultural dignitaries and Roma representatives. Czech political leaders were notably absent this year, with the exception of the deputy speaker of the Senate Miluše Horská. The Lety memorial, unveiled in 1995 by then president Václav Havel, is situated close to the site of a former concentration camp for Romanies where 300 Romany prisoners lost their lives and from where hundreds of others were transported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The fact that a pig farm is located on the site of the former camp has been the source of considerable controversy and embarrassment to the Czech government which says it does not have the money to relocate it.
Close to 100 Romany representatives from around the Czech Republic are meeting in Prague to finalize preparations for the establishment of the Romany Democratic Party. The head of the preparatory committee Miroslav Tancos told the CTK news agency the circumstances of the Romany minority would not improve unless it was represented in politics. There are around 250,000 Romanies living in the Czech Republic and a third of them live in slums. A vast number of Romanies are unemployed. An earlier Romany party, set up in 2005, was dissolved by the Supreme Administrative court two years ago, for failing to meet the conditions stipulated by law.
The police have charged 25 people with tax fraud relating to imported goods from Asia. Among those charged are five customs officers and several Vietnamese nationals. The damages could reach millions of crowns. Individual members of the group have also been charged with organized crime and taking or soliciting bribes.
A neo-Nazi march took place in Přerov, a town in eastern Czech Republic, on Wednesday. Around three hundred far-right extremists participated in the event which included a rally in the centre of the town followed by a march. The police reinforced their presence in the town; some seven hundred officers oversaw the rally in Přerov which was extremist groups’ main event held this year on May 1 in the country, according to the organizers.
The Czech government is going to back a motion in the lower house to
establish a remembrance day of the victims of Romany Holocaust, the news
agency ČTK reported on Saturday citing government documents. A group of
MPs from several parties want to introduce March 7 as the Remembrance Day
of the Victims of Romany Persecution during WWII; on that day in 1943, the
first transport of Bohemian and Moravian Romanies was sent to the Auschwitz
extermination camp. In total, nearly 9,000 Romanies were murdered in the
Holocaust, nearly 90 percent of their pre-war population.
All ministries have expressed consent with the idea; however, the Foreign Ministry noted Holocaust victims are remembered on January 27. Should a special day be established to honour Romany victims, the ministry said, it might be necessary to also remember victims from other ethnic or social groups persecuted during the war.
A draft agreement on transferring prisoners between the Czech Republic and Vietnam is being discussed by Czech government ministries, a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry said. Under the bilateral agreement, Vietnamese national sentenced to jail in the Czech Republic would serve their sentences in Vietnam while Czechs imprisoned in Vietnam would be transferred to the Czech Republic. After the document is reviewed by relevant ministries, it will be discussed by the Czech government, the spokeswoman said.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has criticized Switzerland’s decision to
extend the validity of quotas for long-term residence permits granted to
citizens from eight EU countries including the Czech Republic. In a
statement issued on Thursday the Czech Foreign Ministry said the move was
discriminatory and called for the matter to be addressed on a European
level. The Swiss authorities announced the decision on Wednesday, bowing to
growing unease about immigration from poorer neighbours.
The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said she regretted the Swiss action, adding that it was contrary to the 1999 treaty signed with Switzerland on the free movement of people since the quotas differentiate between countries. Under the terms of the treaty non-EU Switzerland may invoke a "safeguard clause" which allows temporary caps on work permits if the annual influx exceeds a certain number.
The US State Department, in its annual human rights report, criticised the Czech Republic for poor conditions suffered by ethnic Romanies, often socially-excluded and pushed to the periphery. The report maintains, similarly to previous years, that efforts by the government to try and improve the situation have been insufficient. Other problems highlighted in the report, concerning the Czech Republic, include corruption, prison overcrowding, domestic violence, and anti-Semitism.
Probably the first generation of Vietnamese who have grown up in the Czech Republic is now coming of age. Although students and immigrants from Vietnam have been coming to this country since the 1970’s, the face and lifestyle of the Vietnamese minority is changing, with the younger generation helping to build a cultural bridge. A Prague studio called Družina is hosting a month-long series of events entitled “Czech Vietnam” that tries to bridge the gap between Czechs and their Vietnamese neighbours.
A survey out this week has put Romanies at the bottom of the ladder as the least popular minority in the Czech Republic. It is not for the first time that they hold this unenviable position, nor is it likely to be the last. So what makes the Romany minority so unacceptable in the eyes of the majority white population? According to the Czech government agency for social inclusion the media is partly to blame.