Ever since the fall of communism governments have struggled to deal with the segregation of Romany children, a vast number of whom end up in special schools which severely limits them in their future development. Now the incoming administration is looking at the problem in terms of money and it seems that, paradoxically, cost cutting measures may succeed where good intentions have failed.
Tortuous negotiations on who will fill key posts in the new centre-right cabinet appear to have ended in agreement, with the final pieces of the jigsaw falling into place for new prime minister Petr Nečas. His Civic Democrats seem to have made considerable concessions, with the powerful ministries of finance, foreign affairs and the interior all going to smaller coalition allies. But surprisingly – and for the first time in eight years – there’s not a single woman amongst them.
A Prague City councillor, Jiří Janeček of the Civic Democrats, has come forward with a controversial plan which – if implemented – would push long-term homeless people from the city centre. His aim, Czech TV reported on Tuesday, is for the city to build a camp somewhere on the periphery that would provide shelter as well as soup twice a day for those, he said, who “respected nothing” or presented a “hygiene or security risk”. Not surprisingly, the proposal has quickly drawn criticism from charities and NGOs.
New evidence emerged on Monday at the trial of four neo-Nazis accused of racially-motivated murder after throwing petrol bombs through the windows of the home of a Roma family last year. A two-year-old girl was horrifically burned in the attack, which has received unprecedented attention here in the Czech Republic.
The police uncovered over 4,400 illegal migrants on Czech territory in 2009, for the most part Ukranians, Vietnamese and Russians, according to an Interior Ministry report that the cabinet is due to receive on Monday. On the other hand the number of foreigners legally residing in the Czech Republic dropped for the first time since the year 2,000 by over 5,000 people. This is being ascribed to the economic crisis and fewer job opportunities. Seventy-five people were granted political asylum.
An estimated six hundred people took part in Saturday’s Queer Parade in the Moravian city of Brno. The march for gay rights was accompanied by a massive police operation to protect participants from attacks by over a hundred and fifty ultra-right radicals who were determined to disrupt the event. Six hundred officers, including mounted police and helicopters –were out in force for the parade creating a barrier between the two groups. Six extremists were detained. Many shops in the city centre were closed for the day and traffic was re-routed. Young Christian Democrats held their own march through the city a few hours earlier in support of traditional family values. The organizers of Queer Parade said they wanted to call attention to the fact that gays and lesbians still face discrimination in the Czech Republic. Although they can enter into registered partnerships, such couples cannot adopt children and their rights are not on par with those of heterosexual married couples. The first gay and lesbian march in Brno took place in 2008.
Last month’s election saw more women than ever before elected to the Czech Republic’s Chamber of Deputies: 44 (some 22 percent of all MPs). The three centre-right parties holding talks on forming the next government have since put forward three women politicians – Miroslava Němcová, Kateřina Klasnová, and Vlasta Parkanová – for important posts: the speaker of the lower house, and deputy chairpersons, respectively. A little earlier I spoke to Michaela Appeltová of Forum 50 percent – an NGO aimed at promoting the role of women in politics, and asked
This weekend, Prague’s Kampa Island turned into a melting pot of cultures from all over the world, hosting a festival called RefuFest. Now in its fifth year, the festival supports the integration of foreigners, mainly refugees, into Czech society. It offered visitors a rich programme, including music, theatre, film screenings, debates and workshops.
The Czech government is set to discuss a new approach to integrating economically weak groups into mainstream society on Monday. The main focus will be education opportunities for children living in ghettos and problematic family situations. The head of the caretaker government, Prime Minister Jan Fischer, will present a strategy to fight social exclusion which aims at lowering unemployment within such groups. One possible measure could be introducing a mandatory pre-school year for children from socially excluded families, who often are of Roma origin. This could help lower the high percentage of such children being sent to schools with a more practical curriculum because they lack basic social and other skills by the time they enter elementary school.
Last month Prague hosted Bookworld, one of Europe’s major international book fairs. Writers from around the world, whose work covers a Babel of different languages, converged on the Czech capital. As part of the event, six of the writers got together to talk about how literature can play a role in helping to build understanding between cultures. A lively discussion emerged, chaired by Radio Prague’s David Vaughan.
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