Meet Dzeno Chairman, Ivan Vesely:
Ivan (center) in action leading a demonstration against Italy’s Roma finger-printing law last month at an OSCE meeting.
Last month, I was able to sit down with Ivan (my boss) to discuss the future of the “Roma Movement”. As evident by its absence in conversation, the interview took place before the Czech National Party’s decree to relocate all Romani people to India.
Colby Pacheco: Please describe what you feel constitutes the “Roma Movement”
Ivan Vesely: These were activities that started under the communist regime in Czechoslavakia in the late 1970’s. Some of the same people that became active in the ‘Velvet Revolution’ were active in the countryside of Czechoslavakia for Roma people. After the fall of Comunism, they began to work for Roma rights in Czechoslavakia.
At this time, the ‘International Roma Movement’ began in England. Post-Communist countries had little idea of what the situation of Roma was in the West, but after communism they could communicate with the West.
By 2000, the first two international Roma groups emerged: the National Roma Union and the Roma National Conference. Several years later the European Roma & Travellers Forum began, with consultative status to the Council of Europe. There is also the European Roma Information Organization and other small organizations such as Dzeno.
CP: What is the goal(s) of the the Roma Movement?
IV: A strategy to press the world for better treatment and emporment of Roma people. And to influence why this movement should have the power. The main aims are to improve access to education, closing the gap that exists, and to fight discrimination.
CP: As of today, has the movement been successful?
IV: Over the last 15 years in Roma ghettos, people continue to ask how papers will improve my life. They want to see actions, not declarations. It is very slow or no progress
CP: What, if any have been the major obstacles preventing the Roma Movement from achieving it’s objectives?
IV: The Council of europe has little international influence; it has a low voice. Similarly, we work on the beuracratic level but don’t have the influence.
There is also the problem of identification. Not many people in the Czech Republic know what the European Roma & Travellers Forum is, but they know Dzeno and other small organizations that work directly with the people.
We must also overcome the question of ‘why give power to this movement’, and the perception of how to implement human rights. The answer is that the power is in Roma ghettos, not in Strousburg or Brussles.
For Dzeno, our problem is capacity. The problem is not what to do or how to do it but how to fund it.Many people come to us and we do not have the capacity to help, not intellectual capacity but physical and monetary capacity.
I also see some renaissance of principals from the Fascists, instruments of the fascist regimes used today.
CP: In Italy?
IV: Yes, and elsewhere. The propoganda, arguments agaist minorities. There is big disillusion in post communist countries. Since people are unsatisfied they seek enemies; the roma, jewish immigrants, this is how the Nazis came to power.
CP: What changes would you like to see within the Movement?
IV: A body that has a larger influence on policies of the European Union. The way to do this is to implement change not to make papers and conferences.
I like the american approach, it is quick action compared to the European process, some think that alaigning with America will mean imperialism, but this is a false perception
CP: How long will it take to implement and then see results from these changes?
IV: It depends. People love statements [laughs]. Implementation costs money so this is the dirty game seen over the past years. We are now in European Union, but are in a similar position as Soviet Union in terms of the level of beauracracy that we must cut through.
CP: Why is the Croatian model of inclusive government so appealing to the Roma Movement?
IV: Roma representation at the local and national level, i see this in Croatia model. It is not something big, but it is an important first step.
CP: How can the ever-expanding European Union assist the Roma Movement over the next 5 years? 10 years?
IV: I don’t know if the European Union can help.
All beuracrats know of the human rights situation in post-communist countries but they say ‘why should we give you money or representation for Roma problems? We need it for other projects.’
We don’t receive money from the European Commision. We write proposals and they say, ‘this is good but we cannot fund you at this time’.
I am 42. I faught in the communist regime for human rights, i will fight here for human rights.
You must do what you can do. Freedom is a big value for me. Freedom of speech and of action, this is not only my view, this is the principle of many.
Posted By Colby Pacheco
Posted Aug 22nd, 2008