Czech Politicians Make Statements against Roma and Equal Opportunities

19 June 2007

According to the Prague Daily Monitor of 2 April 2007, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek attacked equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups including women, the elderly and ethnic minorities during a speech at the launch of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. During his speech, Prime Minister Topolanek reportedly stated, "No well-meant effort to make equal that cannot be equal, no positive discrimination will guarantee the equality of opportunities. Positive discrimination sounds about the same as a pleasant beating." Although Prime Minister Topolanek's comments targeted mainly women, other groups such as the elderly, students, as well as ethnic minorities were part of his vision. Prime Minister Topolanek also attacked multiculturalism, saying that money spent by the state, "must go to the assimilation of individuals, not in support of the chimera of multiculturalism." On 11 April, the ERRC, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and the Czech Romani organisation Romodrom sent an open letter to Mr Vladimir Špidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, to express their concern about the remarks made by the Czech Prime Minister Topolanek on equal opportunities. At the time of publication, there had been no response to this letter.

Prime Minister Topolanek's statements followed closely on the heels of explicitly anti-Romani statements by Czech Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. In response to a question about whether non-Roma could receive the same state subsidies received by Roma, on 30 March, Deputy Prime Minister Cunek was quoted in the Czech tabloid Blesk as having stated that people would "have to get a good suntan somewhere, start trouble and light fires on town squares" to get politicians to feel sorry for them. On the same day, Radio Prague reported that 16 Romani organisations called on Prime Minister Topolanek to distance himself from the statement. On 11 April, Radio Prague reported that Romani organisations protested agains the statements outside the Office of the Government, calling for the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Cunek. Fourteen Romani organisations and 100 individuals also filed a criminal complaint against Deputy Prime Minister Cunek in connection with his statements, according to a 16 April report by Prague Daily Monitor.

(ERRC, Prague Daily Monitor, Radio Prague)


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