Representatives of a new Roma civic association had their first audience with Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Monday. As the Roma community’s problems seem to be worsening the group is seeking other support from that government than investment, and have petitioned the prime minister for a Roma cabinet position with real authority to effect change.
The Nationwide Association of Roma was founded last autumn with the aim of bringing the many Roma organisations together to defend the community’s interests, and to serve as a partner for the government and other state authorities in their dealings with Roma issues.
This week the association had its first opportunity to try out that latter aim, with a one-hour meeting with Prime Minister Nečas, where they presented some of their recommendations. Cyril Koky is the coordinator for Roma issues and the integration of foreigners in the region of Central Bohemia and was one of those present at the meeting.
“We had some recommendations for the Prime Minister, chief among them being the creation of a strong position within the government for a representative of the Roma minority. It would be a position that would deal full-time with Roma issues, which is needed, because the Roma situation as it is at present is not good.”
Speaking after the meeting, Prime Minister Nečas said that a representative or minister dealing specifically with Roma issues was an idea worth thinking about. There is already a government representative for human rights, Monika Šimůnková, but the Nationwide Association of Roma suggests that the role itself is too broad to deal effectively with the wide range of problems that the Roma community faces. Mr Koky says they have great respect for whoever holds the post of government representative for human rights, as it is not a popular one among the public, and adds this:
“We have nothing against the government’s current human rights representative, but we need Roma issues to be taken out of her competencies and establish a specific system so that Roma problems are truly resolved in the places and cities where they are worst. We have also proposed programmes which would deal with socially excluded areas where many Roma live in inhuman conditions at the edge of society, they are out of work, and they are in debt. We need changes to the education system, in which a relatively large part of Roma children are educated outside of the school system. These are major problems that have to be dealt with.”
Importantly, the heads of the Roma association stress that any new representative must wield real power, with their own sub-office within the office of the government and two divisions: one comprised of the current government agency for social inclusion in Roma localities, the other dealing with coordinating the use of money from EU funds.
The prime minister agreed with the association on more mutual communication in order for the government to receive direct input from the minority representatives. He also suggested that steps be taken for the public to hear more about successful members of the community, not only as role models for the Roma themselves, but also as a message to the majority population to judge people according to the way they really are.