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Czech report Czech report
by Euro Reporter
2012-11-10 11:48:17
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Czech parliament votes to return confiscated church property

The Czech parliament on Thursday approved an ambitious plan to return billions of dollars worth of church property that was confiscated by the communists in a vote that represented a victory for Prime Minister Petr Necas. The law envisages handing churches land, property, and financial compensation worth about $7 billion over a period of 30 years. Under the plan, the churches would become independent from the state and gradually stop getting government financing. The agreement should unlock about 6 percent of the country's forests and fields that once belonged to mostly Christian churches but which have been tied up pending a resolution of the restitution question.

That land, which was confiscated by the communists after 1948, could in future be developed, rented or sold. The 200-seat lower house of parliament approved the necessary legislation with 102 MPs voting in favor, overturning a veto by the Senate, the upper house, which opposed the move. After two decades of negotiations among politicians led by the Roman Catholic Church, the churches are delighted with the agreement, hoping it will restore their fortunes and reverse their declining role in Czech society.

The vote was a victory for Necas, whose unstable coalition quelled a backbench rebellion on Wednesday, rushing through tax hikes and changes to the pension system. The deal was supported by Necas and his conservative allies, but is highly unpopular among the mostly atheist Czech populace and the centre-left opposition. The financial compensation component comes to about only $100 million per year but has huge symbolic value at a time of tax hikes and austerity measures that the government has adopted to try to cut the budget deficit.


Czech official unemployment rate rises to 8.5%

The unemployment rate in the recession-struck Czech Republic rose to 8.5 percent in October from 8.4 percent in September and 8.3 percent in August, official data showed on Thursday, AFP reported.
The labour and social affairs ministry said it registered 496,762 job seekers in the country of 10.5 million in October, up by 3,577 from September. In October 2011 unemployment stood at 7.9 percent.

"The situation on the labour market keeps getting worse, slowly but surely," UniCredit Bank analyst Pavel Sobisek said. Problems on the labour market are rooted in the lack of job creation amid recession rather than layoffs, Sobisek said. Unemployment in the Czech Republic, an EU member since 2004 which is yet to join the eurozone, has been on the rise since June when it stood at 8.1 percent after a four-month decline.


Czech government still failing to address discrimination against Romani children in schools

Romani children in the Czech Republic are still being denied the educational opportunities offered to other students five years after the European Court of Human Rights found the authorities guilty of discrimination, Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) said in a report published today. “The Czech Republic’s education system is failing Romani children, with devastating consequences for their future. Thousands of Romani pupils are trapped in segregated schools which leaves them with few chances for further education and extremely limited options of finding work,” said Dezideriu Gergely the Executive Director of the European Roma Rights Centre. ”Unfortunately, many Romani pupils in Czech Republic today are reliving the experience of the applicants who lodged the complaint with the European Court more than a decade ago,” Gergely added.

Five more years of injustice: Segregated education for Roma in the Czech Republic provides evidence that Romani children continue to be over-represented in schools and classes designed for children with mild disabilities and Roma-only schools. The report exposes the shortcomings in the Czech educational system that excludes Romani children from integrated mainstream education. “For five years now the government failed to address the problem. This inaction amounts to a serious ongoing breach of the government’s obligations. The right to education free from discrimination has been recognized in international human rights law since at least 1948. Despite this, and, despite the 2007 ruling from the European Court, Romani children continue to be denied the right to education,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director. In November 2007, the Czech Republic was condemned by the European Court for violating the right of Romani children to education free from discrimination by placing them in “special schools” for children with mental disabilities, which offered lower quality education.

“While the Czech government acknowledged the existence of segregation of Romani pupils in schools, so far it has not been able carry out its own plans and commitments to eradicate it,” said Dalhuisen. “The Czech education system still allows pupils to be placed in 'practical' education too easily; which disproportionately affects Romani children who continue being overrepresented in this stream of education,” said Dezideriu Gergely from the ERRC. The report by Amnesty International and the ERRC focuses on four schools in Ostrava which are known for being “Roma-only”. The report is based on interviews with Romani parents and their children currently enrolled in the same schools as some of the applicants in the original case, D.H. v the Czech Republic. Kristián is the brother of one of the applicants of the European Court case. When he was in the fourth grade of a mainstream (mostly non-Roma) elementary school he had problems coping with the curriculum. He was tested and diagnosed with a mild mental disability.

The psychologist told his mother that she should transfer Kristián to a practical school with reduced curriculum because “he was slow”. The psychologist, and the mainstream school did not offer measures to help such as individual support or after-school tutoring. His brother (a former applicant in the D.H. case, Julek) believes that Kristián is re-living his own experience, and is concerned about the impact this will have on Kristián’s future. Maria’s children were also applicants in the D.H. case case. All four of her children attended a special school. She was not happy with the quality of education they received. “Children never brought their homework or books from the school. […] None of them finished secondary school and now they are all unemployed and dependent on social allowances.” When Maria’s granddaughter Laura reached school age, Maria wanted her to go to a mixed mainstream school: “I wanted Laura to go to school with white children so that she does not end up like my other four.” “Without access to quality education Roma will not be able to escape poverty and marginalization. Unless desegregation and the elimination of separate and unequal education is placed at the centre of the Czech educational policy the vicious circle of discrimination will continue,” said Dezideriu Gergely. 

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