Czech Republic: Roma Minority

Although the topic of societal status of Roma minority is lively discussed in a public, the political parties reflect this issue very poorly. During the summer months of 2013,  many anti-Roma protests took place (mainly in north Bohemia and in several regional centres such as České Budějovice or Ostrava). Especially the protests in České Budějovice on July 22nd and in Ostrava a month later radicalised the Czech population. The riots were attended not only by right-wing radicals but by many so called “decent people” as well. The public discussion is characterised by term that describes the people dependent on social assistance as those who misuse the taxes paid by “normal people”. Often, it is targeted on Roma minority as a proof of misusing state social assistance; so far the latest development.

Greens (Green Party)

The general emphasis on human rights is evident, when it comes to minorities’ issues, especially in the case of the Roma minority. Greens strongly reject the discrimination of Roma, caused for example by placing Roma children in special schools for mentally disabled pupils. The party policy towards Roma minority emphasises: a) the equal principle of all groups living in the country with regards to their historical experience; b) inclusion of disadvantaged regardless of their origin; and c) understanding of diversity as an added value of current societal order.

  1. Concerning the equality of all groups, minorities, and individuals in general, the party emphasis  solving the situation of socially excluded as well as ethnic minorities. As Liska quoted in speech in Lety u Písku no one tries to solve the alarm situation in excluded ghettos… the situation is getting still worst. The Greens publicly opposed to the anti-Roma riots in summer 2013 as only actor officially defending minority rights and their position within public discourse. Nonetheless, the party strongly supports establishment of  Roma memorial in Lety u Písku as a remembrance place for Nazi crimes during WW II.
  2. Stressing inclusion of Roma minority:  the party keens on supporting both major and minority society. The Greens stress this process on different levels: participating Roma pupils on basic school education instead of school for mentally disabled pupils; involving Roma people into decision making processes on different levels; and supporting Roma to joining already existing political parties instead of founding their own one.
  3. Understanding diversity as a positively contributing element of society; therefore Greens supports Roma culture. As a sign or real effort to support the diversity, Greens built up a coalition with Roma Democratic Party for the 2013 election.

The party emphasises the Roma minority as an excluded group on behalf of its social situation and ethnical belonging. Nonetheless, this approach can be applicable on other minority groups as well. The idea is to perceive Roma from the individual equality perspective. Therefore, all individuals living in the country should have same conditions such as social conditions, educational possibilities and if possible to support their culture. The reason for this approach is that from involving all groups/individuals,  the society will benefit in general.

Úsvit přímé demokracie Tomia Okamury

Before Tomio Okamura, the leader of Úsvit movement, came up with idea to participate in parliament election, he created a “big success story” around his personality. Nonetheless, he elaborated selected policy fields in order to catch their public relevancy in high time. This was the case of Roma issue as well.

During the summer of 2013 anti-Roma riots, he appeared in public with prepared plans how to solve the situation. Although the presented himself as a mediator of both groups, all his proposals have been perceived as a weak or were not able to implemented. Nevertheless, his initial intention was to reach publicity by not to solve the problem in reality. Seeing the movement’s activities in context, this is a good starting point for analysis. Contrary to other parties that are covered by the case studies analysis, Okamura did not have certain ideological standpoint that analytics could go from. His political profile fills up the definition of populist movement perfectly. Therefore, Okamura started parliament election campaign right during the summer with this issue. His argumentation is consisted of three basic elements.

  1. Right to self-determination for national minorities: as movements argue, all ethnic minorities should have a right to live in their own state. The Gipsies should wake up their elites… and to struggle for their own state. The right to self-determination is right of every nation and therefore the Czech Republic should support this endeavour to create conditions to settle back to their origin county to India. The reality seems to be more simplistic. In order to attract votes, the movements representative did not even elaborated this idea; but the goal was reached: they were in public discourse. Off the record, the one MP has confirmed this intention. As he said, we had to promise something to the people.
  2. Equal principle in social system: as movement argues, the Roma people are very successful in gaining the social assistance even if they are obliged to gain it. Therefore, Úsvit proposes for instance to address the assistance namely or to enlarge the possibility to stop the payments if the conditions are not fulfilled – if they loose the assistance in gaming machines or spend on  alcohol. The movement does not refuse inclusion as such. Nevertheless, the message delivered by the election is that individuals must respect the rules and habits of majority. Secondly, Okamura refuses that 20 years-old Roma people should receive social assistance … such a 20 years guys should work as a bricklayers or helpers… or they should participate in  forest jobs during summer. Similarly to previous case, the movement did not publish any proposal how this idea should be implemented. Even the MP, we interviewed, acknowledged that such a proposal does not simply exist.
  3. Multicultural myth delivered by Brussels: the movement refuses to be labelled as a xenophobic or populist in sense of refusing immigration or gaining Roma minority space for developing their own culture. However the movement does not stress the negative attitudes against multiculturalism, some proclamations that they should be observed carefully. Two weeks after elections,  the leader of Úsvit’s MPs, Radim Fiala, published the article on his blog,  where he expressed a whole volume of anti-claims such as: the immigrants can be beneficial for the society… but often it is right opposite case. (…) I would follow the basic principle: we are here at home. If immigrant wants to be a part of our society, he/she has to show that will be beneficial and respect our rules. (…) otherwise, it would lead to the destabilization of the society. (…) We do not have to follow the liberal principles only because of Brussels.
    Fiala does not define any policy or procedures. He tries to delimit against the EU wide immigrant policy that is not relevant in the Czech Republic yet. It seems that Úsvit tries  to find policy that will resonate in the Czech society. After all, Úsvit gained 8 MPs and they have a great possibility to utilize this chance.
    To analyse any kind of ideological trust of the movement is extremely hard. The only identifiable line is that the party policies are strategy and on purpose drive much more then in case of traditional parties. On the other side, this approach demonstrates, how the movement acts as “people” wish. Therefore, the party opens sensitive feelings without having on mind the possible impact.

The movement operates with following tools:

  • Excluding disadvantaged group: One particular (minority) group is given advantage to the majority; in this respect, the movement rejects the others that do not follow their rules
  • Externally delivered multicultural policy that is not accepted by the people in the country. This terminology is used as an accusation of external influence that can be easily cruised but hard to be involved. Regarding to the party international cooperation, the movement does not intend to focus on explaining how the things in the EU work.

Nevertheless, the movement still gives very amateur impression. One could say that representatives do not enough endeavours to build up well functioning populist movement once presenting in the parliament. The movement and Okamura itself never fills up any issue completely. For instance the case of Roma minority; after the anti-Roma riots calmed down, Tomio Okamura moved its interest towards the immigrants. In same respect, the interest was moved to the critique of multiculturalism and Brussels. None of these issues have been elaborated with intention to be a possible societal cleavage; even if Radim Fiala in his blog used almost whole list of simplifications regarding the EU. Maybe the representatives consider a weak institutional structure.