June 22nd, 1998|
On Tuesday afernoon the situation of Roma in Central and Eastern
Europe was discussed at a special hearing of the Helsinki comittee of
the American Congress. As the spokeswoman of the Committee on security
and cooperation in Europe, Erika Schlager told the CTK news agency,
much harsh criticism of the Czech Republic has been raised.
According to Livia Plaks from the Project for Ethnic Relations in
Princetown, the human rights of a large proportion of the Roma
population are breached and many live in conditions of severe
financial need. Social, political and economic problems caused by the
changes in Central and Eastern Europe have also been reflected in
xenophobia and racism.
James Goldston from the Budapest European Roma Rights Centre also
reminded the Comittee of this year's racially motivated incidents in
the Czech Republic and stressed that since 1989 skinheads have killed
12 Roma in this country and have seriously injured many others.
Goldston also said that in matters of citizenship, the so-called
gypsies have been discriminated against in the Czech Republic and
On the other hand, history professor David Crowe, who observed the
hearing, said that the Roma problem in the Czech Republic is caused
to a certain extent by the prejudice of Czech citizens. Although it
will take generations to solve this problem, professor Crowe feels it
is necessary for the Czech government to take action in this matter.
Crowe praised the strong historic tradition of democracy in the Czech
Republic. However, he pointed out that today's democracy is quite
young and it probably considers other questions to be more important
at the moment.
Professor Crowe also stressed that the Czech Republic has achieved a
lot since the fall of communism. In his words, the point of the
hearing was to show that the Roma question must be solved before
developments such as United States investment in the Czech army take