MINELRES: ERRC Deeply Concerned about Czech Prime Minister's Statements on Equal Opportunity

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Apr 9 16:45:49 2007

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is deeply concerned about the
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s adverse statements on equal
opportunities for disadvantaged groups including women, the elderly and
ethnic minorities. The ERRC once more emphasises the fundamental role of
equal rights mechanisms and practices to establish a just, fair and
democratic society. 
Ironically, Mr. Topolanek’s erroneous statements on equal opportunity
came during his speech to launch the European Year of Equal
Opportunities for All. According to Prague Daily Monitor’s bulletin
published on 2 April 2007, Mr. Topolanek said in his speech that, “No
well meant effort to make equal that cannot be equal, no positive
discrimination will guarantee the equality of opportunities. Positive
discrimination sounds about the same as a pleasant beating." Although
Mr. Topolanek’s comments targeted mainly women, other groups such as the
elderly, students, as well as ethnic minorities were part of his vision.
He also attacked multiculturalism by saying that the money the state
spends in multiculturalism, “must go to the assimilation of individuals,
not in support of the chimera of multiculturalism”. 
It is obvious that Mr. Topolanek’s comprehension of equal rights, equal
opportunity and multiculturalism does not reflect the core values that
this concept suggests. International law as well as European acquis
firmly establish the equality of all persons regardless of their gender,
sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national or social origin, association with a national
minority, property, birth or other status. In this respect, the idea of
equality in accessing all services aims at securing this very
fundamental right by eliminating unjust and unfair treatment accumulated
throughout history. These practices do not give “privileges” to
disadvantaged groups, such as Roma, but attempt to balance historical
inequalities. Thus, equal opportunity practices aspire to create a
climate wherein all members of society can participate in social and
economic life on an equal basis with no hindrance.
Providing equal opportunities and rights to all citizens without
discrimination is one of the pillars of the European integration process
that all European Union (EU) Member States must comply with, including
the new and old accession countries. It is extremely sad and worrying
that the Prime Minister of a country that has recently joined the
European Union misinterprets and misrepresents such an important concept
as equal rights and opportunity. In this respect, it is the task of the
European Union, the foremost political and social structure in Europe,
to define and enforce the implementation of these practices, as well as
to guarantee the compliance of all parties with this process. 

Mr. Topolanek’s mendacious statements demonstrate the need for the EU to
improve the channels for communicating the fundamental concepts and
practices of human rights, as well as to hold high-ranking public
officials like the Czech Prime Minister accountable for public
statements such as the one he has made, reminding him of his obligations
under the various EU driven legislative programmes aimed at introducing,
maintaining, and ensuring the twin principles of equality and
non-discrimination in the EU member states. 


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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