Defending Romanies against neo-Nazi pogrom attempts
In June, Czech neo-Nazis took advantage of several scuffles where Czechs and Romanies were present and called together two marches evolving into pogrom attempts.
The first one took place in Duchcov, North Bohemia, on 22 June. A watchdog civic initiative Konexe (“Connections”, http://oskonexe.wordpress.com/) organized a rally with cultural programme called “Čikhatar het!” in Romany language (“Out of the Mud!”). The aim of the event was to protest against racism, asserting collective guilt and anti-Romany march organized by national socialist political party Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti (“Workers’ Party of Social Justice“). The event visited by around 250 Romanies and their defenders was also aimed at improving neighbor relationships within the Czech-Romany community. Czech Helsinki Committee also supported the meeting.
Around one thousand people attended the nationalist meeting – partly they were party supporters, partly “common” local inhabitants. After some speeches, a mob of aggressive neo-Nazis tried to get close to the Romany gathering, chanting “Let us go on them!” and attacking the police with throwing stones and bottles. Eleven policemen were injured, as well as one photographer who was hit in the head by a stone. Twenty-two persons were detained and 38 weapons confiscated, including tools, knives, bars and a baseball bat.
A week later, on 27 June, similar events took place in České Budějovice, South Bohemia. Konexe organized a rally Čikhatar het II., where around 200 people gathered. Nearby demonstration against Romanies had around 500 people and shortly got closer to the rally supporting local neighborhood relationships and tried to physically attack the attendants. At the beginning, the police didn’t prevent the mob to advance to the housing estate Máj („May“) where the Romanies were gathered. The neo-Nazis were chanting fascist slogans, making Hitler salutes, throwing petards and glass bottles at the Romanies, burned down a waste container and even one car. Chaotic attempts of the police to react were accompanied by throwing stones at them. Around forty people were detained, ten injured.
The watchdog initiative fulfilled its intervening function responding to harm to a disadvantaged group of citizens, as well as promoted a requirement of non-discrimination stipulated by Article 21 of Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Protest against new Aliens Act proposal
Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic, an association of 12 NGOs assisting migrants, rejects new Aliens Act proposal because it is unduly restrictive. The proposal in particular:
- requires a residence permit for stays over three months even for EU citizens. For the first time the citizens of Slovakia would thus have to arrange a residence permit as well, otherwise they might be fined or sent to one of the detention facilities (newly possible even for children under age of 15).
- discriminates foreign-born family members of Czech citizens compared to family members of the citizens from the other member states of the EU, e.g. Ukrainian wife of Czech citizen would have worse status than Ukrainian wife of Slovak citizen living in the Czech Republic.
- worsens the status of aliens with permanent residence. Permanent residency can be revoked in the case of debts (which is contrary to the EU law) and the Ministry of the Interior would have online access to the database of financial authorities and The Czech Social Security Administration.
- establishes a category of “guest workers”: these foreign workers would be allowed to stay in the Czech Republic for only one year. Their families couldn’t accompany them. Though employed, they would not be permitted to have public health insurance and would never be able to settle down in the Czech Republic and integrate themselves into society; the settling of family members as well as the access to the permanent residence would be possible only for foreign nationals with substantial financial means (e.g. family of four would have to have a net monthly income of 28.000 Czech crowns – approximately 1.080 EUR – to be eligible to apply for permanent residency).
- addresses the issue of delays in processing residency applications just by extending deadlines.
- gives the intelligence agencies power of veto in the decision making process concerning the stay of a foreigner: in case the stay would be rejected, the applicant is not informed about the reasons of rejection and judicial review will not be allowed either.
- is more than twice as long and more complicated than the current regulation. It unnecessarily changes already established terminology and the structure of the immigration law, which foreign nationals and the professional community have got used to (e.g. the term “green card”, in which promotion was enormously invested, is purportedly to be replaced by the term “employment card”).
According to the Consortium, the new Aliens Act is inconsistent with the values of a free democratic society, and it asks this proposed legislation to be rejected and new discussion opened. The public can sign the on-line petition against the act and attend a protest rally taking place in Prague on 1 July.
Especially the requirement of having residence permit for stays over three months for EU citizens is in contradiction with Article 45 of Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union guaranteeing the right to reside freely within the territory of the EU member states.
Landslides on the D8 highway construction site
In the beginning of June, a huge landslide hit a part of the construction site of D8 highway Prague-Dresden in Protected Landscape Area České středohoří (Central Bohemian Uplands). According to the Children of the Earth, an environmental watchdog promoting more careful route of the highway since 1994, the risk of the landslides on this route had been known a long time ago. Children of the Earth themselves already warned about the risk in their press release in December 2004.
In June, Children of the Earth also symbolically succeeded with their lawsuit related to the highway construction – the court decided felling of 410 trees and shrubs was permitted illegally, as the NGO complained. It is a twelfth successful lawsuit brought by this NGO to a court related to the construction.
Large penalty for unauthorized provision of personal data
Iuridicum Remedium succeeded with its complaint, when fined the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs for providing Česká spořitelna (Czech Savings Bank) with personal data of 336.558 persons. The fine is 2,5 million Czech crowns (approximately 97.000 EUR). The ministry provided the data in connection with sCard, a debit card of Česká spořitelna that was originally mandatory for all the citizens receiving social benefits. According to Iuridicum Remedium, it is a dangerous trend to “privatize state power” or transfer powers of the ministry to a private bank.
Right to the protection of personal data is also protected by Article 8 of Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Environmental NGOs demand thorough assessment of new State Energy Policy
Czech environmental NGOs Arnika, Calla, Zelený kruh (Green Circle), Greenpeace, Centrum pro dopravu a energetiku (Center for Transport and Energetics), Ekologický právní servis (Environmental Law Service), Hnutí DUHA a Jihočeské matky (South Bohemian Mothers) demand thorough assessment of the new State Energy Policy considering different variants, not just formal assessment with predefined results. The NGOs suggest reduction of greenhouse gasses to be one of the key aspects for the assessment; they also object cross-border impact of the policy is not considered – e.g. air pollution or risks of nuclear accident. The NGOs published their own two policies comparable to the one presented by the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic. These are called Smart Energy and Energetic (R)evolution; specifically calculated studies propose how to ensure sufficient energy for all the Czech housings, reduce domestic energy bills and reduce dependency of Czech economics on opencast coal mining, dangerous nuclear power plants or imported oil and gas. State Energy Policy document should be determining the direction of energy development in the next 25 years. More information in Czech here.
The watchdogs fulfilled its expert function by being able to bring expert studies and propose to take them into consideration.
Greenpeace: Czech coal power plants kill almost 1.700 people a year
According to a new study of experts from Stuttgart University, Czech coal power plants kill almost 1.700 people a year prematurely, which is two times more deaths than car accidents cause. Main health concerns related to the impact of coal power plants are respiratory diseases, heart attacks, lung cancer and asthma. According to the study, ČEZ (half state-owned Czech Energetics Company) is the sixth biggest polluter in Europe.
Arnika focuses on five projects of waste incinerators
Czech environmental watchdog Arnika focuses on at least five projects of waste incinerators as it takes part in decision making processes, draws attention to mistakes and shortcomings in the documents, watches compliance with strategic documents and objects technological shortcomings and incompatibilities with international agreements. Two of the projects were stopped already: communal waste incinerators in Most and Karviná being under observation of Arnika didn’t reach on European subsidies. Three other projects are under criticism; for example in Cheb, Western Bohemia, a boiler house using biomass would be more environmental friendly solution to produce heat instead of the waste incinerator and would not hinder efforts to raise a share of recycled waste.
The Most Beautiful Law
Which law is the most beautiful? The one, according to which all the contracts signed by the state or any public institution would have to be published in a public registry on the internet. As a part of the campaign Reconstruction of the State (we informed about the campaign in March), adoption of such law is promoted separately by a very provocative viral video about the law that “will piss off the godfathers”. According to the experience from Slovakia, where such law has been adopted several years ago, it is the best defense against overpriced contracts, useless purchases or disadvantageous sales of public property. More information on the website of the Most Beautiful Law.
NGOs without gambling
Jan Böhm, online communications professional for nonprofits, established a website “NGOs without gambling” where any NGO can announce it rejects funding from gambling and can publish its written statement. Within few days, more than 50 NGOs joined the site and publicly rejected funds from gambling. The website was established as a reaction to Tereza Maxová Foundation’s letter to authorities in Brno lobbying for looser regulation of gambling in the city, pursuing the fundraising interests of the organization that is aimed at supporting children to grow in the families instead of the institutional care. Shortly after that, Tereza Maxová Foundation publicly apologized for the letter and promised to return all the unused gambling funds and not to receive any more gambling funds in the future.
Fifth round of The Sexist Piglet competition started
Independent Social Ecological Movement, NESEHNUTÍ, launched the fifth round of the competition “The Sexist Piglet” seeking for the most sexist advertisement. The opening took place as a happening, where sexist advertisement of a festival Theatre World was modified. On the billboard, where a naked woman is being spied by a mime, head of the Mayor of Brno appeared as city Brno is the organizer of the festival (see the gallery here). Anyone can now submit a sexist advertisement to the competition. The watchdog fulfills its alerting function as it’s raising an unpopular and partly unknown issue.
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.