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Czech watchdog report, 1-15 July 2013

More anti-Romany marches in České Budějovice

The anti-Romany marches in South Bohemian city České Budějovice being near to pogroms continued. As there were attempts to make a breakthrough to the housing estate Máj („May“) where the Romanies live, on 6 July, 136 marchers were detained, on 13 July, 60 (most of them neo-Nazis in both cases).

In a response to these events, a watchdog civic initiative Konexe (“Connections”) organized two peaceful Czech-Romani gatherings to protest against violence aimed against the Romanies and to promote peace and reconciliation. Wide discussions about the situation in the city took place as well.

Twenty-six NGOs and individuals sent an open letter to the police president demanding not to trivialize racism, after regional police head Radomír Heřman defended racists on a press conference stating crowd’s chanting “black swines” had not been aimed against the Romanies, but the policemen wearing black uniforms. It is evident from the videotapes the chanting was racist though.

The watchdog fulfilled its function of implementing real changes by conducting dialogue between Czech and Romani neighbourhoods, and also acted in accordance with Article 21 of Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union rejecting any discrimination based race, colour, ethnic or social origin.

Photo from the protest.Greenpeace revealed illegally logged timber from Congolese rainforest in Czechia

In the premises of veneer plant Danzer in Horní Počaply, Greenpeace Czech Republic informed there is an illegally logged timber from Congolese rainforest. The logs of valuable tree “wenge” are marked with illegal concession contract. Only individuals can be permitted logging of wenge trees in Democratic Republic of Congo and no export is allowed. An EU Timber Regulation came into effect in March 2013, according to which import of illegally logged wood into the EU is prohibited. However, Czech Republic hasn’t adopted implementing regulations yet. A representative of Czech Ministry of Agriculture responded the facts with words “call us later, in August, the implementing regulations might be adopted until then”. A representative of Danzer stated the company is not the owner of the wood and assured the media Danzer will be helpful during investigation. By raising the issue of illegal logging, the watchdog fulfilled its intervening and alerting function.

Waterways Directorate of the Czech Republic lost all the court cases regarding the water channel Přelouč

The most recent court case related to the planned construction of a water channel nearby Přelouč was concluded by a court decision that not granting an exception from the Act on Nature and Landscape Protection was legal and right. The Waterways Directorate of the Czech Republic lost all 12 court cases related to this intention. According to the Children of the Earth, environmental watchdog involved in the case, it is another proof that the state investor enforces a construction that is contrary to the public interest of nature protection. The construction would damage biotopes of more than seventy especially protected species and hundreds of species of invertebrate animals. Environmental protection is one of the Charters fundamental rights.

School report.The Green Circle granted a “school report” to the retiring government

Association of Czech environmental NGOs Green Circle granted a “school report” to the government retiring after scandal when the prime minister’s assistant ordered military secret services to spy on his wife. The government was rated with “four minus” (in Czech Republic, school marks are given on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is the best and 5 is the worst; the teachers often improve the small scale by adding pluses or minuses to the marks). According to the watchdog, the government failed in protecting the environment: the results are air pollution, low share of recycling, reduced control of the polluters, closed services for tourists in national parks and not punished breaking of laws by the officers. The watchdog fulfils its function when pressurizing and reminding only three out of 69 expert recommendations were implemented in the laws during last three years. The activities comply with Article 37 of Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union laying down high level of environmental protection must be ensured.

The public urged to raise objections to the planned harmful changes in the Brno urban plan. 

In the second largest city, Brno, Independent Social Ecological Movement (NESEHNUTÍ) urges public to address local authorities and demand changes in proposed “update” of the city urban plan. Besides others, the proposal includes possibility of building new shopping malls in parks and woods, possibility of building parking lots in inner courtyards including those with playgrounds and gardens or new underground parking areas under the parks in the city centre. Any citizen of Brno can send his or her objections by an electronic form on NESEHNUTÍ’s website.

Logo funduszy szwajcarskich, Ecorys oraz Euroregion Bałtyk.

                                                                                                                                                             

This text is a result of a research prepared within the project “Powerful Watchdogs” supported by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union. The report aims to show the up-to-date information regarding activity of watchdog organizations in a given country. The author refers to the classification on watchdog functions, to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the international concepts of the transparent governance.

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