Category Archives: Czech Republic

Extremism Rises In Czech Republic

A deepening economic crisis invariably results in attacks on the most vulnerable members of society. In the Czech Republic if one is angry at their economic situation or has other fears the easiest solution is to charge Romas as the source of all problems in society. Police report during the first six months of this year there were a reported 99 cases of extremism compared to 75 as this time last year. A march by extremists through a Roma neighborhood unleashed violent clashes between Romas and right wing thugs.

There have been reports of arson in which Roma homes have been burned down, there have been reports of violence toward individual Romas and there are also reports of desire by many Romas to leave the country and head toward Canada. Unfortunately, Canada does not wish more Roma immigrants and has ended the ability of Czech Republic citizens to enter their land without visas. The re-introduction of visas is directly linked to Roma migration from the Czech Republic.

Why Are Romas Leaving Czech Republic For Canada?

The decision by the Canadian government to again require visas for those in the Czech Republic to come to Canada is without question an effort to confront issues related to migration of Romas from their nation. Most Romany activists believe well-educated Czech Romanies who are integrated within the society may have decided it was wiser to leave before things become worse in a nation which contains a sizable number of right wing bigots who openly display hatred toward those who are “different.” It is also believed poor Romas are leaving for the simple reason they can not find good jobs and Canada appears to offer better economic opportunities for success.

Jozef Holek, who specializes in Roma issues, argues, “A common romany without education has almost zero chance to find a job and his position in society is completely frustrating in all aspects.” There is also the possible explanation that many Romas do not possess a deep patriotism for a society which regards them as inferior and they may well prefer seeking the patriotism of fellow countrymen who live in Canada. An unanswered question is whether or not key leaders of the Roma community are leaving.

Czech Republic And Romas Furious At Canada

The Czech Republic government is up in arms at recent decisions by Canada to re-impose visas for citizens from its country who wish to travel to their country. In Canada, the Roma community of Toronto is also angry because it believes re-introduction of visas was aimed at halting further influx of Romas who are fleeing from human rights abuses in the Czech Republic. Paul St. Clair, an activist from the Roma Community Center in Toronto accused Canada of shutting the door on people who are fleeing from terror. Human rights activists note the increase in neo-Nazi groups assaulting Romas in the Czech Republic, and discrimination in areas like education and jobs for those of Roma heritage.

The increase in neo-Nazi groups in eastern Europe has been stimulated by the presence of Romas who are treated like second class citizens in many nations. Romas flee to Canada seeking a new life free from persecution. Perhaps, the solution lies in addressing Czech Republic issues, not those of Canada.

Canada Decries Czech Republic Violence Towards Romas

Canada has witnessed a significant growth in the number of Roma immigrants from the Czech Republic and in the course of attempting to uncover reasons for their flight from Europe, it has become clear Romas face persecution and violence in their native country. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board sent investigators to Europe to explore the situation of Romas in the Czech Republic. They found at times Romas are not protected by authorities and local police are frequently indifferent to attacks by racists on Romas. They more than often treat Romas as the criminals rather than victims when neo-Fascist groups attack Roma communities.

At a shelter in Toronto, Zaneta Gananova lifted her shirt to show two swastikas that had been carved into her skin by skin head fascists. As they cut into her body, they laughed and said, “Hey Gypsy, today you will die.” She did not, but there are reports of Romas who have been killed. The usual reaction of local police is to promise to “investigate the problem.”

Nearly 1,100 Czech Republic Romas claimed refugee status so far this year. Is anyone in the Czech Republic interested why people flee from your country?

Should Hate Speech Be Allowed?

There is a growing movement within the European Union to ban any form of speech which is offensive to ethnic, racial or gender groups. At a recent Writer’s Festival, Czech Republic writer David Cerney argued attempts to stifle speech which some regard as demeaning or incorrect is the wrong approach and violates basic concepts of free speech. He points out banning racist speech does not halt racist thinking, but, may in effect, give a racist even stronger reasons for adhering to such thoughts. Dutch politician Geert Wilders called for banning the Koran and likened it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he was prosecuted and prevented from entering Great Britain.

Today’s “hate” can become tomorrow’s belief. People have the right to express their ideas regardless of how distasteful they might be to others. Words do not kill unless the words are expressed to a group which then sets about hurting people. Over a hundred fifty years ago, England gave refuge to Karl Marx whose ideas eventually became accepted by nearly one third of humanity. Communism was not defeated by passing laws saying it was illegal to think in a communist manner, communism was defeated in the marketplace of ideas and accomplishments.

What’s Best Education For Roma Children?

Romas in the Czech Republic encounter daily prejudice, they lack equal opportunity to access good jobs, and their children invariably struggle to survive in schools. As is so often the issue with children whose families are poor, educational authorities face complex issues. Should Roma children be provided separate classes in which teachers know all children have basically the same problems or should Roma children be integrated with other students. A primary school in the Czech Republic town of Valasske Mezirici decided to open two primary classes, one specifically for Roma children and the other for remaining town students.

The Ministry of Education decided segregation in the long run damaged opportunities for Roma children to succeed in school and ordered integration of all children in the community. This is a wise decision. Once children in school are placed in “special classes” the stigma lives with them for their entire educational experience. Teachers tend to “teach down” rather than expecting better performance. Roma children will have to live in a society containing those of various backgrounds and abilities, where best to begin the journey but in elementary school?

What To Do About Racist Political Groups?

A democracy inevitably confronts the issue of handling extremists who employ the media to spread hatred and fear of minorities, those who they seek to demonize, and the unknown in all its manifestations. People in the Czech Republic have been subjected to propaganda from racist political parties which seek to use the presence of a Roma minority as their wedge to secure support from the general populace. A recent poll reveals three fourths of the Czech people support the ban of all parties that use racist slogans in their election campaign. A recent anti-Roma video was used by the National Party in its quest for votes and even included a statement about “the final solution to the Roma question” which could have come from any Nazi statement concerning that group.

Over two-thirds of the population supports the request of the Interior Minister to seek a court order to dissolve the National Party. The Czech Radio has refused to play certain statements by the National Party. A strict adherence to democracy would argue the National Party has a right to be racist. Are there times when society has the right to halt speech? We believe there is a difference between “speech” and “action.” Any person has a right to utter words, but no one has the right to instigate violent action against other members of society.

Money Alone Can’t Solve Roma Problems

The European Union is willing to spend millions of Euros in an effort to improve the lives of Roma children in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Educational opportunities undoubtedly are a key component of dealing with issues of prejudice and bigotry, but money in itself spent in school improvement is not sufficient for the tasks that lie ahead. An estimated 300,000-500,000 Romas live in Slovakia and a large number inhabit settlements which lack running water or electricity. Roma children do not succeed in school which places them at a disadvantage in seeking decent paying jobs or even securing modern housing.

The story in America of dealing with poverty and discrimination is the importance of simultaneously confronting education, housing, and jobs as well as undertaking programs for adult education. Spending another hundred or two hundred million Euros will not result in much difference unless it also addresses other issues. There is also need for an extensive program dealing with multiculturalism for children in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Sarkozy And The Imperial Presidency

Alexandr Vondra, former Czech deputy PM for European Affairs, blasted French President Ncolas Sarkozy for his a bsence from the EU Eastern Partnership Summit. “He has not made our EU presidency easier,” he told the French newspaper, Le Monde. In particular, what upset the Czech diplomat was “his imperial style has complicated the team presidency. When he wakes up in the morning, no one knows what his mood is like.” However, in addition to the absence of Sarkozy, neither the prime ministers of Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom or Austria was at the summit meeting.

Most probably, Sarkozy regards an eastern thrust as a counter weight to his favorite project of constructing a Union for the Mediterranean which Sarkozy believes is a way to integrate regional nations and keep Turkey from entering the European Union. At the meeting Sarkozy called to discuss this project, no representative from the Czech Republic was present. Is there a connection between the two events?

Romas –Convenient Scapegoats In East Europe

A crowd of fans from the soccer club, 1.FC Brno, marched through a square in Brno shouting vulgarities at Romas and blacks while imitating monkeys. In the town of Chomutov, they fired a rocket in the air while shouting, “Czech Land To Czechs.” Even as the ignorant displayed their ignorance, hundreds of Romas throughout the Czech Republic were holding demonstrations to express their frustration at failure of the government to take a pro-active stance in the fight for Roma rights. There were Romas present in at least fourteen towns to make known their concerns at recent murders of their fellow countrymen and the need for action to foster respect for the dignity of all humans.

In Hungary, a recent survey indicated that 84% of respondents said that Roma people disliked working and that is why they encounter economic problems. Nearly 80% said it was hopeless trying to help build good relations between Romas and other Hungarian citizens. And, over seventy percent rejected any ideas about affirmative action programs.

The United States learned years ago that change begins with new laws that protect the rights of those subject to bigotry and prejudice. Eventually, if laws are enforced, most humans will grow accustomed to change in their views. They need to work and live with people who are different.