Horizontal Rule

Crusts from the table: policy formation towards Roma in the Czech Republic and Slovakia

15 August 2001

Eva Sobotka1

After the end of communism in Europe in 1989, Roma in the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic have experienced racially motivated attacks, racial discrimination and the increasing exclusion of their communities from all areas of life2. Between the dissolution of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993, and 1997, Czech and Slovak governments generally denied the worsening situation of Roma, and where they drafted policies pertaining to Roma at all, these were for the most part inadequate. Authorities frequently justified a lack of action on Romani issues with reference to a "civic principle" - an anchor for policy based on a rather extreme view of the primacy of the individual - according to which special measures for Roma would not be acceptable. The "civic principle", according to a commonly held view in both successor states of former Czechoslovakia, requires that the individual be free to determine his or her own nationality3. In the view of "civic principle" extremists, since many Roma do not claim to be Roma when asked by census-takers or other officials, it would be wrong to recognise them as Roma, regardless of the fact that they may be treated as "Gypsies" by society at large, suffer extreme discriminatory burdens, or indeed that the origin of the denial of ethnicity might be the stigma attached to being Roma in the countries of the former Czechoslovakia. At the end of the 1990s, both governments were forced into the process of minority policy formation by international pressure, especially after Roma began to flee both countries and apply for asylum abroad. Neither policy-making effort has to date paid off in concrete terms however, and the inadequacy of the policy documents of both countries give rise to the concern that they will not pay off in the future either.

Czechoslovak attempts

The independent Czech and Slovak Republics, formerly republics in the common state of Czechoslovakia, came into existence on January 1, 1993. Both states share a common past in the paternalistic and assimilationist policies towards Roma of the Czechoslovak state socialist regime. One typical socialist assimilation policy was the law on permanent settlement of nomads of 19584. Although most Roma in Czechoslovakia by that point were no longer itinerant, the policy defined nomadism as typical of a "Gypsy way of life". The cure was found in a social policy which aimed at fostering economic equality while at the same time attempting to supplant Romani identity, for example by prohibiting the use and cultivation of Romani language5.

In 1991, Roma were formally recognised as a national minority (národnost) in Czechoslovakia. However, due to the stigma associated with being Romani in Czechoslovakia, only a small part of the Romani population proclaimed Romani nationality in the population census in 1991. According to the census 32,903 people (approximately 0.3 percent of the population) in the Czech Republic and 80,591 (approximately 1.5 percent of the population) in Slovakia claimed Romani nationality. Some unofficial estimates indicate that in the Czech Republic there are possibly up to 300,000 Roma (2.4-3.0 percent of the total population)6. The real number of Roma in Slovakia has been estimated at 480,000-520,0007. Both countries are conducting censuses during the year 2001, and it is hoped that these will produce more accurate data than that hitherto existing. Preliminary data from the Czech Republic suggest, however, that contrary to recording a more accurate number of Roma in the Czech Republic, the number of Roma willing to declare Romani ethnicity to a census taker has actually slipped considerably since 1991, most likely due to fear of being identified as a "Gypsy".

In the period between 1990 and 1992, the government began to formulate policies at the level of republics specifically to address Romani issues8. Romani MPs in the Federal Assembly and National Councils were included in drafting the Romani minority policy in so-called "roundtables". In October 1991, the federal government approved Resolution 619/1991 "Principles of the government of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic on policy towards the Romani minority". The Resolution ordered Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic Government Jan Mikloško and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Petr Miller to continue working on the development of institutionalisation of the "problem of the Romani minority,9" education towards tolerance and human rights and the education of Romani children.

Resolution 619/1991 included hopeful and visionary language. It states, for example, "[…] the development of ethnic identity is the precondition of self-identification, emancipation and integration of Roma that will equalise their position in society." It was proposed that the plenipotentiary for the issue of the Romani minority be the deputy prime minister of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. Although concrete tasks were prepared in the beginning of 1992 in a document entitled "Principles of the Policy of the Government of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic towards National and Ethnic Minorities" in Resolution 86/1992, this document was not implemented or further elaborated in practice by the government.

Prior to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, policy was also drafted at the level of National Councils and the Czech and Slovak republican governments. The Czech government adopted Resolution 463/1991, ordering the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to draft concrete measures, and the Slovak government similarly adopted Resolution No. 153/1991, entitled"Principles of Government Policy towards Roma", which laid out areas (education, social security, employment, culture and housing) for improving the situation of Roma. However, some of the tasks adopted in the Czech Resolution (463/1991) were cancelled in October 1992 in the context of the disintegration of the Czechoslovak state. In particular, tasks that ordered the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to draft a report on principles of state policy towards Roma, as well as systematic research on sources of conflict between Roma and non-Roma, were cancelled. In the words of Czech Romani leader Karel Holomek, "The end of Czechoslovakia put an end to Romani policy formation.10"

Stagnation and denial: The Czech Republic 1993–1997

Between 1993 and 1997, Roma were, for the Czech government, a very low priority. Previous systematic attempts were interrupted especially due to the "civic principle" approach advocated by government officials such as Jan Němec, the chairman of Council for National Minorities11. Resolution 210/1993 explicitly ordered the Council for National Minorities to prepare a "complex report on the state of Romani population on the basis of information supplied by the Ministries of Interior, Education, Health and Culture," by July 1993. However, no reports were submitted to the government until October 1997.

In 1993, four governmental resolutions ordered the Ministries to bring practical proposals on issues related to Roma12. The documents were barely taken seriously and, for the most part, the Romani issue was downplayed, in the spirit of the "civic principle". For example, the issue of the specific needs of Romani children was dissolved into the larger issue of children and youth at risk13. The document reads: "The Ministry of Education […] will evaluate projects and activities aimed at risky groups of children and youth, including Roma.14" (emphasis added)

Moreover, the Romani issue was slowly transferred from the responsibility of the Ministries to that of advisory bodies to the government, such as the Council for Nationalities. While Resolution 67/1993 ordered only the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to submit a "Report on the problems of the Romani community" on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic, including information on employment and education, the following Resolution 210/1993 shifted further research and tasks to complete reports to the Council for Nationalities. Romani issues were steadily moved to a side track in the structure of the government.

International pressure

Serious changes in policy approach began between summer 1997 and December 1998. In summer 1997, several hundred Roma sought asylum abroad and international criticism of the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic increased. As a result of embarrassment and suddenly heightened pressure on the Czech government from foreign governments and the international community, Prime Minister Václav Klaus admitted that Roma had not been sufficiently represented at the governmental level and suggested the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Commission for Romany Community Affairs.

In 1997, the government adopted a "Report on the Situation of the Romani Community in the Czech Republic and Government Measures Assisting its Integration in Society", familiarly named after the Minister without Portfolio who was in charge of preparing the document, "the Bratinka Report15". This document analysed the situation of Roma and recommended the adoption of measures to facilitate the integration of Roma into Czech society. The Bratinka Report was particularly critical of the government's failure to adopt adequate policies on Roma. In the wording of the report, the fact that the government left "the solution of a significant problem to the initiative and will of individual institutions or even the decision of individual bureaucrats" was deemed "an excuse" [for doing nothing]16. This led to the inclusion of Roma in the programmatic statement of the interim caretaker government set up in late 1997. The interim government promised to focus on "relations between state and national minorities", as well as on combating discrimination and racially motivated crime. It adopted no comprehensive policy, primarily because its life-span was only slated to be five months, until general elections could be held in 1998.

Policy formation 1998-2000

Between 1998 and 2000, the newly established Inter-Ministerial Commission for Romany Community Affairs worked on the preparation of a strategy for improving the situation of the Romani minority. A document entitled "Concept on Government Policy towards Members of the Romany Community, Supporting their Integration into Society" was approved by the Czech government as a resolution on June 14, 200017. The Concept represented a step forward in theoretical terms, although the form in which the government adopted it rendered it extremely weak as policy. In addition, some of the language of the Concept suggests approaches that have been tried and have failed in the past, or otherwise inaccurately assess the problems at issue.

In the first place, at points, the Concept shifts much of the burden of responsibility for the predicament of Roma onto Roma themselves. Thus, at one point, the Concept reads: "The government considers the integration of Romanies as an ethnic minority into Czech society a pressing task. [The government] is aware that the majority of Czech citizens is able and willing to accept Romanies only when they adapt to the majority and assimilate into it18." Further, the issue of racially motivated violence against Roma is downplayed when the government speaks of aiming to achieve "the emancipation of Roma and achieving conflict-free relations between Roma and the majority population19."

Nevertheless, in many areas, the Concept represents a step forward. The Concept states that it is necessary to fulfil individual tasks in the next twenty years in the following areas: racial discrimination, education, unemployment, housing and health conditions, "increasing participation in decision making process concerning Romany communities20," development of Romani culture and language, and creating a tolerant milieu without prejudices, through multicultural education and the training of teachers as well as students, public officials and state administrative staff21. Central to the Concept is a proposal for affirmative action for Romani firms in competition for state tenders; the Concept envisions tax credits or direct subsidies to firms with more than 60 percent Romani employees.

An enduring weakness of the Concept - one which the government ultimately took full advantage of - was the problem that there are few concrete tasks in the document. Rather, areas of social life are described and government action encouraged, but rather than take the risk of proposing action, the Concept often describes debates among experts. Thus, in the area of education, the Concept philosophises:

In the future, it will be necessary to consider ways of remunerating teachers who have classes with more Romany children or 'children from socio-culturally disadvanted backgrounds and with specific educational and upbringing needs'. Some propose supplementary charges for each pupil, others suggest counting each pupil twice, thus lowering the real number of pupils in the class. The objection to the supplementary charges is that they do not guarantee higher quality of teaching, while the decrease in the number of pupils in the class does. It will be perhaps suitable to combine both methods, i.e. to pay a not very large motivating supplementary rate for each such child and to reasonably lower the number of pupils in classes22.

It is telling that the government ultimately adopted neither measure.

In the field of racial discrimination, the Concept proposes changes to the Civil Code, and calls for "an analysis of the legal code and find out whether various forms of discriminatory behaviour are sufficiently defined and forbidden, whether administrative or perhaps penal sanctions are stated for them, whether institutions that should supervise the observance of laws are specified and in what form the sanctions are inflicted23." In particular, the Concept mentions the need for the reform of the legal system of the Czech Republic to provide adequate protection from racial discrimination.

The Concept, accompanied by a list of tasks to be assigned to ministries and other administrative organs was sent by its drafters to the cabinet. During discussion, members of the government reportedly objected to the large number of tasks for ministries and these were reduced significantly prior to adoption as a resolution24. Cabinet members further disagreed with the proposal to assist Romani businesses, and the plan was not taken up. A devastated version of the Concept was adopted as Resolution 599/2000, which also included the "Report of the Government Commission for Human Rights on the Current Situation of Romany Communities."

In the area of education, in the Resolution, the government took over projects developed by non-governmental organisations placing "Romani assistants" in schools in order to help Romani children overcome difficulties in school. Resolution 599/2000 codified the practice as government policy and ordered financing. Also in the field of education, evidently in response to criticism that the Czech school system is racially segregated due to the fact that Roma comprise a very disproportionate number of pupils in schools for the mentally handicapped, the Ministry of Education was assigned the task of ensuring "that pupils can move freely between special and primary schools [...].26" The Resolution does not specify how, precisely, this is to take place.

In the field of culture, the Concept reads: "The government would welcome the creation of a minority council democratically representing the Romany community, as presupposed by the general outline of the law concerning national minorities rights (hereafter "minority law") […] this would enable the delegation of some of the decisions concerning financing Romany culture27." However, precisely in the field of culture, the government approved the status quo: the Council for National Minorities, a government body which already provides financial support for cultural projects to all minorities, will continue to do so.

In the area of creating positions for Roma in the administration, the government rendered official practices on-going since 1998 - that of hiring so-called "Romani advisors" to administrative organs. It has been argued that Romani advisors are an important factor in facilitating communication between Roma and the local authorities. However, in the past year, according to government officials, there is a worrying trend that more and more "Romani advisors" are in fact non-Roma. One government representative estimated that as of Spring 2001 around half of the "Romani advisors" were not Romani27.

At the same time, the government sent a draft Law on Minorities to parliament in a form requiring minority concentration so high that Roma will likely not be able to create the envisioned administrative bodies at the regional level28. Indeed, the most significant watering down of the Concept during the process of negotiating its passage to adoption as a government resolution took place in the field of minority representation. A central feature of the Concept is its emphasis on minority representation and inclusion in advisory roles in government. Toward this end, the drafters submitted two options to the government. Option A proposed the establishment of an Office for Ethnic and Racial Equality, a state institution with an independent budget and a mandate to issue legally binding rulings on, for example, race discrimination cases. Option B proposed a consultative role for the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Romany Community Affairs. Option B was ultimately adopted. According to government sources, only four out of seventeen members of cabinet voted for Option A.

Finally, although the Resolution sets a December 2000 deadline for eight ministries to review the need for strengthened anti-discrimination laws, the deadline was missed, and thus far it is not known what action ministries are taking.

In short, from the point of view of 2001, although ambitious policy initiatives were undertaken in 1998 as a result of pressure arising especially from the issue of Romani asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, these have, to date, yielded almost nothing in the field of policy, and can be regarded as a complete and utter failure. Perhaps the best thing it is possible to say about Czech policy efforts after 1998 was said by the person primarily responsible for the creation of the Concept, former Chair of the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Romany Community Affairs Mr Petr Uhl: "The government adopted the Concept in theory, but not in practice29." Mr Uhl resigned in early 2001, following the adoption of the Concept30.

Slovakia: paternalist treatment 1993–1998

Following the split of Czechoslovakia, the cabinet(s) of Vladimir Mečiar adopted a paternalistic and nationalising populist platform31. The new government cancelled the tasks adopted in Resolution 153/1991 and, after dawdling for a period of over three years, adopted a policy paper drafted by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, issued in April 1996, and entitled "The Resolution of the Slovak Government to the Proposal of the Activities and Measures in Order to Solve the Problems of Citizens in Need of Special Care32." A special office of Government Commissioner for Citizens with Special Needs in charge of "assistance to citizens in need of special care" was established. Problem areas - education, employment, housing and health - were identified, though no policy priorities were drafted. A close reading of the document reveals that the "citizens in need of special care" are Roma, although nowhere is the equation explicitly made. The Slovak government approach in this period held Roma responsible for the complex structural exclusion of their existence and called Roma "socially unadaptable33".

Slovakia has been repeatedly criticised by international bodies for the treatment of Roma in the country. In response, while still in office, Prime Minister Mečiar repeatedly rejected claims that Roma suffered rights abuse in Slovakia, stating on one occassion, "If the critics show that there is a higher level of minority rights in other countries, Slovakia will be glad to adapt34."

In November 1997 the Government Commissioner for Citizens with Special Needs proposed a new document, the "Conceptual Intents of the Government of the Slovak Republic Regarding the Solution of the Problems of the Romani Population."The document was adopted as Resolution 796/1997 in late 1997, and it also places the burden of Romani exclusion on Roma themselves. Elections the following year which removed the Mečiar government from office ensured that Resolution 796/1997 remained a dead letter.

Policy formation 1998–2001

Following its election in autumn 1998, the government of Mikuláš Dzurinda signalled an attempt to create substantive policies on Roma by adopting the "Strategy of the Government of the Slovak Republic for the Solution of the Problems of the Roma National Minority and the Set of Measures for its implementation" - "Stage I" on September 27, 1999, and "Stage II" on May 3, 200035. In "Stage I", the government described the general situation of Slovak Roma and set out some basic measures, in particular in education, training, housing, un-employment, regional development, human rights, language and culture and health. Further measures are assigned in "Stage II", adopted on May 3, 2000. Both documents include tasks for ministries and local administration.

The tasks in "Stage II" can be divided into three categories. First of all, the government ordered several state institutions to conduct research into the main areas of concern regarding the situation of the Romani minority. Secondly, the government called for co-operation with non-governmental organisations on the effective use of finances and experience in the "area of solving problems of the Romani national minority." Third, in several areas - for example education and preventing racial violence, the government emphasised that policies will be adopted in the future, once pilot projects prove that a chosen strategy brings improvements. In the meantime, Stage II suggests multicultural training for judges, police, army personnel, prison guards and other state employees.

Stage I and Stage II include both the language of multiculturalism and the racist paternalism known from the period of Meciar and decades of communism. In the logic of multiculturalism, the government calls for an improvement of relations between the non-Roma and Roma, identifying the situation of Roma as a "[…] problem concerning the whole of society36." In the logic of assimilation, the Romani way of life is described as problematic and backward, a possible target for elimination. For example, on page 18, in the section on unemployment, Stage I states: "A part of the Romani population lacks interest in working, suffers from bad work morale, poor reliability, low work endurance and has unrealistic wage requirements." Similarly, on page 14, Stage I states: "By adopting the presented material, the Government of the Slovak Republic has accepted as a fundamental reality the fact that the Roma, as they are, form a part of the life of our society"(emphasis added).This statement gives the impression that the Slovak government has finally realised that it cannot unfortunately ignore Roma. Both documents fail to acknowledge the existence of exclusion, racial discrimination and racial segregation.Much of the language deployed downplays the role of racial discrimination in the lives of Roma in Slovakia.

In sections on housing, for example, Stage I and Stage II charge ministries with improving the housing situation of Roma. However, there is no task clearly spelled out to end the racial segregation of Roma. There are around 600 Romani settlements in Slovakia (Stage I states that there were 591 at the end 1998), two-thirds of which are located in eastern Slovakia. The government identifies the problem of the Romani settlements as one of inadequate housing. Stage II states that housing is one of the "most burning challenges37" and that of the 591 settlements, 67 are located outside municipalities and 175 are located on the borders of municipalities. However, despite its international commitments38, the government does not call this situation racial segregation and has not assigned respective local authorities the task of desegregation. As a result, local authorities have focused primarily on research, counting the Romani settlements in their jurisdictions39. In some instances, where plans to re-house segregated Roma have been proposed, local authorities have deliberately obstructed action40.

The government's approach to the issue of violent abuse of Roma is particularly inadequate. Although the government acknowledges in its "Evaluation Report of the Strategy of the Government of the Slovak Republic on Solving the Problems of the Romani National Minority" – without providing the time period covered – that, as of October 2000, 29 racially motivated attacks had taken place41, elsewhere in the same document the following statement appears: "[…] In the end, it is possible to state that in past years there have been no larger racially motivated conflicts42." This stands in dramatic contrast to reports by independent organisations43, and does not take seriously the concerns expressed in the European Commission's regular reports on the progress of Slovakia toward accession to the European Union44. The troubling issue of police abuse of Roma is not acknowledged anywhere in the government Strategy or Evaluation Report.

According to the Slovak government in Stage I, education "is a priority area in addressing the problems of the Romani community45." Stage II additionally states, "The government's goal is to create conditions to change the educational system such that Romani children are as successful as others46." The education of Romani children in Slovakia is, in practice, discriminatory. According to a study conducted by the Save the Children Fund UK, in Slovakia in 2000, Romani children are 24.5 times more likely to be placed in remedial special schools for mentally handicapped than non-Romani children47. The result is de facto racial segregation in education. Most of the projects recommended by the Stage I and the Stage II are "experimental projects", such as preparatory classes, and although an evaluation report from February 2001 states that most of the tasks in the field of education had been fulfilled, the position of Romani children within the educational system remains unchanged as of mid-2001.

The implementation of Stage I and II is in its infancy. The evaluation of the Stage I and II from February 2001 noted that much of the Stage II implementation calendar had not been fulfilled and that some of the tasks assigned had not been addressed48. Some early difficulties appear self-inflicted. In the first place, the government has committed little in the way of domestic financial resources, preferring to try to secure funding from international sources, such as the European Union. Additionally, the national government has had to struggle with the reluctance of local authorities to become actively involved in implementation of the policy priorities.

Conclusion: Roma participation

In both Czech Republic and Slovakia, Roma were practically ignored until the late 1990s. Under pressure, both countries began adopting serious policy documents in the years 1997/1998. At present, however, both programmes appear doomed to have little long-term impact, since both fail to integrate Roma in any significant way into the process of policy formation, or to ensure real Romani participation in decision making.

In the Czech Republic, the participation of Roma in representative bodies at a local, regional and national level remains minimal49. It would be unreasonable to expect that the single Romani MP, Ms Monika Horakova, could adequately represent the full range of interests of the Romani minority. At the level of government, the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Romany Community Affairs has improved somewhat communication between some Roma and the Czech government. However, the Inter-Ministerial Commission does not have the power to facilitate the political participation that the Concept identifies as crucial. Within the structure of the government, the Inter-Ministerial Commission has no powers, its inter-office framework is not properly defined, it is not a part of state administration and it is powerless vis-á-vis national and local state administration.

In Slovakia, a framework for Romani participation in drafting the policy on Roma is only in a nascent state. There is a Government Plenipotentiary for the Resolution of Problems of the Roma National Minority, responsible for drafting recommendations to the government on issues pertaining to Roma through Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky50. Until recently, the Plenipotentiary was Mr Vincent Danihel. However, on May 9, 2001, Deputy Prime Minister Csáky announced publicly that the government had dismissed Mr Danihel, in the wake of Mr Danihel's public allegations that Mr Csáky had misused World Bank funds. His successor is Ms Klára Orgovánová. Deputy Prime Minister Csáky also chairs an advisory Council for National Minorities and Ethnic Groups, the primary activity of which involves allocating grants for cultural projects. Many Romani representatives remain largely unsatisfied with the policy making of the government, although some were included in the drafting of the Stage I, via participation in meetings with the Plenipotentiary. The exclusion of Roma from policy-making could matter politically in the future in Slovakia. Roma constitute a proportionally larger segment of electorate there than in the Czech Republic. Although at present Roma are not very well organised, this could easily change, and a mobilised Romani community could be a political force in Slovakia. In both countries, serious and creative policy-making is wanted to address the issues Roma face in a thorough-going and effective manner.

Endnotes:

  1. Eva Sobotka is a political scientist affiliated with the Richardson Institute for Peace Research at the University of Lancaster, UK.
  2. For more information on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic, see http://errc.org. For more information on Roma in Slovakia, see http://errc.org.
  3. Article 3(2) of the Czech Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, a component of the Czech Consitution, states: "Everyone has the right freely to choose his or her nationality. Any form of influence on this decision and all forms of pressure aiming at the loss of nationality are prohibited". (unofficial translation by the author).
  4. Law No. 74/ 1958.
  5. On policies on Roma in pre-1989 Czechoslovakia, see Guy, Will, "Ways of Looking at Roms: The Case of Czechoslovakia", in Tong, Diane ed., Gypsies: An Interdisciplinary Reader, 1996, pp.15-69.
  6. Davidová, Eva, Romano Drom 1945-1990, Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 1995, p.39; Liégois, J.P, Roma, Gypsies, Travellers, Council of Europe, 1995. A recent Czech government estimate is that 166,000-206,000 (approximately 1.6-1.99 percent of the total population) Roma lived in the Czech Republic as of June 2000 (see "Report of the plenipotentiary for Human Rights on the contemporary situation of Roma communities", in "Strategy of the Governmental Policy towards Members of Roma Community, in Assisting their Integration into the Society", 2000, p.2; all official documents of the Czech government referred to in this article are available in Czech on the Czech government website at http://www.vlada.cz. All translations are unofficial, except where specified).
  7. Liégois, Jean-Pierre, Roma, Gypsies, Travellers, Council of Europe, 1995; The Statistical Yearbook of the Slovak Republic from 1994 provides an estimate of 350,000 Roma in Slovakia (Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, Statistical Yearbook of the Slovak Republic, 1994, p.127).
  8. See "Proposal of principles of a state policy on societal growth of Roma population", Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, section of Social policy, No. F 33-25653-7121, Prague, January 14, 1991. For more details on Czechoslovak policy towards Roma, see also Tritt, Rachel, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies, Human Rights Watch, 1992, p. 14, as well as Sulitka, Andrej, "Vývoj a sočastný stav praktických rieseni a kompetencii vrcholnych organov štátu poroku 1989", Romové České republice, Prague: Socioklub, 1998, p.230.
  9. Sulitka, Op. cit., p.225.
  10. Holomek, Karel, personal communication with the author, September 2000.
  11. Sulitka, Op cit., p.233.
  12. Resolution 31 from January 1993 on problems related to migration, Resolution 67 from February 1993 on the Report about the consultation about Romani Issues, Resolution 210 from April 1993 on the status report about Romani community issues and Resolution 506 from September 1993 on measures concerning the situation of Romani children and youth.
  13. Resolution 506/1993 from September 8, 1993.
  14. Resolution 506/1993, Appendix, Paragraphs 1 and 2.
  15. Adopted as Resolution 686/1997 on October 17, 1997.
  16. "Report on the Situation of the Romani Community in the Czech Republic and Government Measures Assisting its Integration in Society" no. 686. October 1997, p.35.
  17. The Concept was first submitted on the basis of government decree 279 of April 7, 1999, concerning the "Concept of the government policy towards members of the Romany community, supporting their integration into society" (official translation, hereinafter "Concept") and on the basis of the government decision of February 2, 2000 about returning this document for further elaboration according to the government's comments. The government approved the Concept as Resolution 599 of June 14 , 2000.
  18. Concept, 1.2.
  19. Concept, 1.7.
  20. Concept, 1.7.e.
  21. Concept, 1.7.g., and 9, 10 and 11.
  22. Concept, 6.17.
  23. Concept, 2.
  24. Uhl, Petr, interview with the author, April 2001.
  25. Tasks concerning the implementation of the Concept of the Government Policy towards Member of the Romani Community, Supporting their Integration into Society, Appendix to government decree no. 599 of June 14 , 2000, paragraph 5a. On racial segregation in the Czech school system, see European Roma Rights Center, A Special Remedy: Roma and Schools for the Mentally Handicapped in the Czech Republic, Budapest, June 1999.
  26. Concept, 1.10.
  27. Sekyt, Viktor, Interview with the author, May 2001.
  28. The draft Minorities law would lower from 10 percent to 5 percent the level of representation required to form a Committee for National Minorities as specified Under Law 129/2000 on Regions (Regional Administration). At the time of writing in June 2001, the Minorities bill was pending before the Lower Chamber of the Parliament and was slated for debate by that body in autumn 2001.
  29. Uhl, Petr, interview with the author, April 2001.
  30. Mr Uhl's explicit reasons for resigning were that the fact of his wife's appointment as Deputy Ombudsperson created a "conflict of interest". Privately he has stated that he was frustrated by the attitudes and obstruction of other members of the government.
  31. See especially, European Roma Rights Center, Time of the Skinheads: Denial and Exclusion of Roma in Slovakia, Country Reports Series No. 3, Budapest, January 1997, p.69, on the ERRC Internet website at: http://errc.org.
  32. The "Resolution of the Government of the Slovak Republic to the Proposal of the Activities and Measures in Order to Solve the Problems of Citizens in Need of Special Care" of April 30, 1996, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Government of the Slovak Republic. All official documents of the Slovak government referred to in this article are available in Slovak on the Slovak government website at http://www.government.sk/.
  33. Ibid. For an analysis of the policy, see European Roma Rights Center, Time of the Skinheads: Denial and Exclusion of Roma in Slovakia, Op. cit., p.70.
  34. Open Media Research Insitute (OMRI), "Slovak Prime Minister Meets with OSCE official", OMRI, 1996, Daily Digest 8, part 7.
  35. Strategy of the government Stage I, adopted as Resolution 821/1999; Strategy of the government Stage II, adopted as Resolution 294/2000.
  36. Stage I, p.15.
  37. Stage II, p.19.
  38. Including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Slovakia succeeded on May 27, 1993.
  39. "Evaluation Report of the Strategy of the Government of the Slovak Republic on Solving the Problems of the Romani National Minority", p.25.
  40. See European Roma Rights Center, "Snapshots around Europe", Roma Rights 1/2001, on the Internet at: www.errc.org.
  41. Evaluation Report, p.6.
  42. Evaluation Report, p.10.
  43. See for example cases provided on the European Roma Rights Center website at: http://errc.org.
  44. The most recent report by the Commission notes, among other things, "The Roma continue to suffer discrimination, violence at the hands of thugs ("skinheads"), and lack of sufficient police protection." (See European Commission, "2000 Regular Report from the Commission on the Czech Republic's Progress Toward Accession", p.20, on the Internet at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/czech/index.htm).
  45. Stage I, p.16.
  46. Stage II, p.10.
  47. Save the Children Fund-UK Slovakia, Denied a Future?, forthcoming.
  48. Evaluation Report, p.1.
  49. There are not enough Roma in the Czech Republic to provide a viable electorate for a Romani political party to stand in parliamentary elections. The Czech Republic has a proportional electoral system with a minimum 5 percent hurdle for parties to enter parliament.
  50. See http://www.government.gov.sk/uznesenia/1999/0210/uz_0127_1999.html;

Horizontal Rule

ERRC submission to the European Commission on Roma Inclusion in enlargement countries (May 2017)

25 May 2017

Written comments by the ERRC to the European Commission on enlargement component of the EU Roma Framework.

 

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Roma Rights 1 2017: Roma and Conflict: Understanding the Impact of War and Political Violence

16 May 2017

The impact of conflict on minority populations merits special attention, especially if those minorities have long been marginalized, viewed by the warring parties with a mixture of ambivalence and contempt, and deemed to be communities of little consequence in the peace-building processes that follow the conclusion of hostilities. This issue of Roma Rights Journal takes a look at the fate of Roma during and after conflicts.

Sometimes Roma have been the direct targets of murderous aggression or subject to reprisals. Then there have been the many times where individual Roma actively took a side, but too often the roles played by Roma, Travellers and other minorities were elided from the dominant national narratives that followed.

In many conflicts, caught between warring groups with no foreign power or military alliance to champion their claims, Roma found themselves displaced, despised and declaimed as bogus refugees, nomads and “mere” economic migrants in the aftermath.

As long as Europe’s largest ethnic minority is written out and rendered invisible in the histories of Europe’s wars and conflicts; and excluded from the politics of reconstruction and peace-making, the continent’s self-understanding will remain fatally flawed.

Editors: Marek Szilvasi, Kieran O’Reilly, Bernard Rorke

Roma Rights 1 2017 (PDF)

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