Council of Europe inspectors have completed their five-day “monitoring visit” to the Czech Republic in order to determine how the country is performing on its commitment to uphold the rights of national minorities. Several weeks ago, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg sharply criticized the Czech Republic for its attitude toward Roma people and called for greater efforts to include them into society.
The results of the monitoring are not yet known but will most likely be published in June. The government will then be able to respond to them, according to a press release issued by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková today.
“The delegation did not present any specific results, but as they were leaving they expressed thanks and said the Czech Republic is making an exemplary effort to fulfill the obligations of the Convention,” the press release reads. The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has been in effect in the Czech Republic since February 1998. It sets out legal protections against anti-minority assimilation, diatribes, and discrimination and also safeguards equal access to education. Šimůnková said the problem in most Council of Europe countries is implementing these measures in practice and went on to say that cohesion and collaboration between human rights institutions and municipalities is necessary to the handling of such issues.
The monitors met with representatives of various minorities, government institutions, ministries, the ombudsman, and town halls during their visit. They visited the Moravian-Silesian region, which is home to a large Polish minority. They also met with the director of the National Minority House in Prague and with the program directors of public radio and television.
The monitors are said to have expressed appreciation for debates on extremism that have been held during breaks in the television broadcasts of football matches, for minority radio programming, and for the approach taken by the Czech Interior Ministry toward the fight against extremism. “One of the main priorities with respect to minority protections in the Czech Republic is the fight against rising extremism,” Šimůnková said.
Hammarberg published his report criticizing the Czech Republic at the start of March in Strasbourg. In it, he said that an anti-Roma approach and ongoing segregation in education and housing are the main obstacles to including Roma people into Czech society. Hammarberg was disturbed by the anti-Roma statements made by some politicians and believes the Czech Republic should fight against extremists and racially motivated violence more effectively. He recommended the creation of social housing and an end to the practice of pushing Roma people into ghettos on the outskirts of towns. He also drew attention to the large number of children in children’s homes and to the high percentage of Roma children among them.
fk, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert