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October 16th, 1998

Local authorities are being criticised drastically on homeground by Czech President Vaclav Havel regarding steps taken towards the Roma issue. In an exclusive interview with Cesky Rozhlas he specifically fired at authorities in Usti nad Labem, in connection with the now famous fence that is to be dividing Romas from the rest of the community.

A day before his visit to Great Britain, Mr. Havel focused on the problematic co-habitation between Romas and non-Romas on homeground and made his dissatisfaction of the way some local authorities handled this issue public. Having some officials in mind, he stated that the Czech Republic wanted a democracy and it had to take the risk that automatically comes with it which is the possibility for some suspicious individuals to come to power through an election .

"Of course, there are some cases where the mayor appears and behaves as though the town belongs to him, is pleased by any support, and neither cares about the disrespect he portrays towards representatives of foreign states nor about the worsening reputation of his country that results from his behaviour. He speaks for the people who voted for him and strongly has the impression that his duty is to reflect every single racial prejudice that the residents of his town have", Mr. Havel said, obviously talking about Mr. Ladislav Hruska, mayor of Usti nad Labem, who during a visit of a Council of Europe delegation publicly argued with accompanying local officials about his objection to their visit.

In response to Mr. Havel's criticism, Ivan Dostal, representative of the district council of Usti nad Labem had his opinion "The Roma issue viewed from the Prague Castle, or through the windows of Cafe Slavia may seem a little different from how it is in reality and therefore our President's view will be different from that of the public since it is the public that is living within the issue and not the president and moreover, when he talks about racism he is surely targeting a town other than Usti nad Labem".

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