Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Saturday commemorated Romany victims of the Holocaust at the site of the former concentration camp in Lety, in southern Bohemia. Mr Sobotka said his government would not release funds necessary to remove a pig farm, established at the site in the 1970s, and suggested the money be instead used for the education of Romany children. Some 1,300 Czech Romanies passed through the camp between 1940 and 1943; round 330 of them died there, while another 500 were deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Mayors from 18 local councils in the north of the Czech Republic bordering Germany have sent a letter to the prime minister drawing his attention to the tinder box situation in the area, the daily Lidové Noviny reported on Monday. The deprived Šluknov area was the scene of demonstrations by extreme right wing groups and ethnic tensions with the local Roma community three years ago. Since then, mayors say little has changed in terms of creating jobs or opportunities or increasing local police numbers and council budgets. The mayors warn Bohuslav Sobotka that without action the tensions could boil over again this summer.
The leader of the Dawn party, Tomio Okamura, said one of his party’s candidates in the European elections, Klára Samková, had “not a drop of Gypsy blood” in her veins. Ms Samková has worked as attorney for a number of Romany clients and was married to a Romany man. Mr Okamura made the comment on Facebook when asked why the party, known for its anti-Romany rhetoric, had fielded Ms Samková for the election. The comments came under criticism from Romany advocates; for her part, Klára Samková came out in defence of Mr Okamura, saying he meant no offence.
Representatives of the country’s Olah Romanies elected a new king in the town of Hradec Králové on Saturday. Their new monarch is to be fifty-two-year- old entrepreneur Robert Beneš from Brno. Although Benes was elected by Olah representatives from dozens of towns and cities, he may not be accepted by all Olah Romanies. For instance the Olah clan from Ostrava was notably absent from the vote. Elections of previous Olah kings have been known to stir controversy. In 2001 Jan Lipa was elected king of the Olahs, but a congregation of Olah Romanies in Brno refused to accept him and elected Jan Horvátko instead. Lipa died in 2012, Horvátko a year later.
Overcoming the language barrier is one of the main hurdles Romany children face on starting school and is one of the oft-cited reasons for putting them in “special schools” for children with learning disabilities. Deputies in the lower house are now engaged in a debate on whether to introduce a special dual-language curriculum for Romany children.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has promised that his cabinet will deal with the issue of discrimination against the Roma minority in the Czech Republic, the news site novinky.cz reported. Mr. Sobotka made the pledge in a reply to a letter the government received from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks, who called for action to halt a growing number of anti-Roma demonstrations. The Czech leader said his cabinet would stand up to all forms of violence, hostility and discrimination, including “anti-gypsyism”. Mr. Sobotka said the government was preparing a national strategy on Roma integration that would be in place until 2020.
Continuing discrimination and violence against Roma, domestic violence, failure to deal with cases of human trafficking and corruption are highlighted as black marks against the Czech Republic in the US state department’s annual survey of human rights in the world. Societal discrimination and violence against Roma was a problem last year with human rights organisations attacking the government’s failure to deal with it, the report said. Exploitation of illegal and migrant workers and discrimination against labour unions were also highlighted in the report. Attempts to stamp out abuses in the police and other forces were taken but areas of immunity persisted, it added.
The authorities in Prague 7 have fined an artist over a series of works combining the Czech national flag with that of the Romany people. He says the flags, which appeared on an embankment in the city last summer, were meant to foster debate on tensions between the two communities. However, the local town hall accuses him of defaming a Czech national symbol.
Jiří Rusnok’s cabinet has approved a set of seven measures drawn up to help avoid future conflicts in and around socially excluded areas in the Czech Republic. The measures include changes in housing benefits, and an increased number of social workers and social services offered in high-risk localities and ghettos. The measures were supposed to include changes in social housing, but Regional Development Ministry failed to come up with the documentation. The new measures are meant as a response to the growing number of ghettos, populated mostly by Romanies, and an increasing number of violent protests by extremists and local citizens against the Roma minority.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico arrived in Prague on Thursday for a brief official visit. He met with the Czech prime minister, Jiří Rusnok; the two officials signed an agreement on mutual recognizing of university degrees between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and discussed the situation of their countries’ Roma communities. The head of the Slovak cabinet also delivered a lecture at Prague’s Charles University during his visit.