In this special programme, David Vaughan looks at a unique project to encourage children with musical talent who come from some of the poorest families in the Czech Republic. The project enables primary school children to learn to play with some of the country’s foremost classical musicians. Its success is a reminder of the power of music to cross boundaries of language, class and culture.
Police Chief Petr Lessy on Thursday promised local mayors in Northern Bohemia an increased police presence in the area to ward against increased crime and disputes between locals and incoming Roma communities. Mr Lessy said he would be sending a 50-man patrol to Varnsdorf that would later be the foundation for a special force of 170 officers that should be established next year. Racial tensions in the area have been high of late, with anti-Roma demonstrations taking place on a weekly basis.
President Václav Klaus – on a three-day visit to the region of Ústí
in northern Bohemia – has slammed groups apparently trying to take
advantage of social unrest in the area for their own political gain. The
president accused some of purposely whipping up tensions in troubled
mentioning by name past fraudster Lukáš Kohout – an organiser of
anti-Roma demonstrations. In September police officials warned that
extremist right-wing groups would try and use growing social unrest in
northern Bohemia to their advantage.
Later on Wednesday, the Czech president will meet with local mayors to discuss developments. But some officials have charged the president should have more specifically tailored his visit to address what was going on. One local mayor, Josef Zoser, has criticised the president for not meeting members of the public but only with elected officials.
Members of the Belarusian community in the Czech Republic would like to be
officially recognized as an ethnic minority, the news website idnes.cz
reported on Saturday. They have addressed several petitions to the Czech
government; however, Czech officials said they would have to wait for the
results of this year’s population census to determine how many
Belarusians living in the country also have Czech citizenship, a
prerequisite to be recognized as a minority. The other is the community’s
historical roots in the country.
The Belarusian community in the Czech Republic is estimated to have around 1,000 members. The country officially recognizes 12 minorities, including Romanies, Slovaks, Ukrainians and others with the notable exception of the Vietnamese.
Romany representatives from around the Czech Republic held a national conference in Brno on Friday. They agreed on the establishment of an organization which would represent the minority in talks with government officials, parliament deputies and local authorities. The grouping is expected to form the basis of a future party. Calls for a Romany party have strengthened in the wake of growing racial tension in the north where a high unemployment rate and rising crime have triggered a wave of anti-Romany sentiment. Some municipalities have moreover created a system of residential and social policies that essentially displace Romanies to the community’s outskirts. According to available statistics there are around 400 slums in the Czech Republic with an estimated 80,000 inhabitants, predominantly from the Roma minority.
Romany rights activist Stanislav Daniel said at the conference that the government had neglected the minority’s problems for years closing its eyes to discrimination of Romanies on the job market and in the sphere of education. He also said it was a mistake to give people welfare benefits without asking them to devote time to community service in return.
The government on Wednesday debated a report on the plight of the
country’s Romany minority which for the most part lives in social
exclusion. According to available statistics there are around 400 slums in
the Czech Republic with an estimated 80,000 inhabitants, predominantly from
the Roma minority. Prime Minister Nečas told reporters that the key to
breaking the vicious circle of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion
was to give Romany children equal opportunities in education and help them
overcome cultural barriers.
The government report cites an alarming lack of progress in this sphere noting that Romany children were almost automatically placed in special schools for disadvantaged children which made it highly unlikely they would find a job and live a better life than their parents. With increasing racial tension in Roma populated areas some municipalities have moreover created a system of residential and social policies that essentially displace troublesome groups of people to the community’s outskirts.
Communist Senator Jaroslav Doubrava has come under criticism for quoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his speech in the Senate on Friday. In a debate about raising the VAT on books and other printed materials, Mr Doubrava mentioned the Protocols and said they offered an interesting view on the press. Other senators, mainly from the Civic Democrat party, criticized Mr Doubrava, and suggested the upper house passes a resolution distancing itself from his words. However, the communist senator later apologized for having referred to the anti-Semitic pamphlet.
Hundreds of people gathered in Ústí nad Labem, in the north of the country, on Saturday for an anti-Romany rally. The participants, protesting against “parasitism of the inadaptables”, marched through the city, shouting nationalist and racist slogans; the crowd was headed by members of the extremist Workers’ Party of Social Justice, the news website idnes.cz reported. Some 500 police officers oversaw the event, the latest in a series of anti-Romany rallies held in north Bohemia towns in recent months amidst rising ethnic tensions between Romanies and ethnic Czechs.
A demonstration of far-right extremists in the city of Ústí nad Labem on Saturday will be minded by 500 police officers. Around 1,000 people have planned attendance via Facebook. The location poses a threat of clashes with anarchist groups, which have a strong base in the Ústí nad Labem. Officers will be checking cars entering the city. A parallel protest against rising crime is to take place in the town of Varnsdorf where the locals have been calling for the resignation of the entire town council. Protests and marches reflecting growing racial tensions have been held every weekend in the region with police reinforcements costing taxpayers millions of crowns. The previous eight weekends have seen demonstrations of 300 to 700 people.
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