Prime and Labor Minister highlight importance of social reform in solving
Šluknov district’s racial tensions|
On Monday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas, Labor Minister Jaromír Drábek and
the government’s human rights commissioner set off on a visit to the
North Bohemian Šluknov district, where racial unrest is escalating and
unemployment and crime are on the rise. Government officials are now
meeting with local politicians to discuss possible solutions to a situation
that is threatening to spin out of control, but some say their reaction has
come too late.
In response to a series of racially-motivated demonstrations in North
Bohemia’s Šluknov district, Prime Minister Petr Nečas travelled the
region on Monday, meeting with local mayors, regional police officials and
representatives from civic initiatives. Mr. Nečas also visited a gaming
bar in Nový Bor, where he praised those locals who had not participated in
a series of anti-Romany gatherings after an attack by Romanies on patrons
of the bar triggered a number of such demonstrations.
Speaking after a meeting with local officials, the prime minister said
that while integration was important, the region’s high crime rate needs
to be addressed first.
“In the long term, integration is the only solution. But integration
works only if public order and safety are ensured, and if those two
conditions are not given, integration will not work.”
For his part, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek met
with local politicians and has pledged to create one hundred community
service jobs in several municipalities of the region, where unemployment is
rampant. In a news conference on Monday, he highlighted that the
country’s generous social policies had contributed to the problem.
While the majority of locals welcomed the ministers’ visit, some have
criticized Mr. Nečas for reacting too late. In an open letter, the mayors
of Rumburk, Varnsdorf and Šluknov wrote they feel the prime minister has
forgotten about the region and its problems. Is that a sentiment that is
spreading among locals? I put the question to Rumburk’s Protestant
priest, Filip Šimonovský, one of the signatories of the petition Světlo
pro Šluknovsko or Light for the Šluknov district.
“I think that it was a mistake that he did not come here earlier. It
would have been an important gesture. It is comparable to when a natural
disaster happens in America, the president travels to the site, and people
notice that. It makes them feel that he takes an interest, and that helps,
so it is shame that he didn’t get here earlier.”
Mr. Nečas’s visit comes on the heels of another anti-Romany gathering
on Saturday, the seventh such demonstration to be held in the region within
the last month. On Sunday evening, news of another attack by a Romany in
Varnsdorf, which may have been racially motivated, added further fuel to
the fire. But many say that such attacks have only stirred up hatred that
has been brewing among the region’s majority population for a long time.