Cablegate: European Parliament Pans Pig Farm at Former Roma

Published: Tue 17 May 2005 01:25 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: The Czech government's long-standing
failure to remove a pig farm from the site of a WWII Roma
concentration camp has resurfaced as a political issue
following a critical European Parliament resolution and the
allegation of President Klaus that the site was not a real
"concentration camp." The stumbling block to clearing the
site has been the cost, combined with the lack of effective
lobbying by Roma groups. While the debate has prompted the
new government to promise to take the issue seriously, with
elections looming next year we expect little action on this,
as in many other areas.
2. (U) Passage of a European Parliament (EP) resolution on
April 28 calling for an end to discrimination of Romanies in
member countries, perceived by some Czechs as unfairly
singling out the Czech Republic, has reignited the dispute
in the country over the site of a Nazi-era Roma
concentration camp at Lety. The resolution calls for the
removal of a pig farm on the site, and the erection of a
suitable memorial. The pig farm was built over part of the
former camp site by the Communist regime in the 1970s, and
is currently home to some 15,000 pigs.
3. (U) The Czech opposition Civil Democrat Party (ODS),
while not disagreeing that a solution should be found for
Lety, has protested that the Czech Republic is the only
country specifically named in the EP resolution, and
declares that solving the Lety issue should be an internal
Czech, not a European, matter. The ODS position on Lety is
backed by their honorary chairman, Czech President Vaclav
Klaus. Klaus, a firm opponent of the adoption of the
European Constitution, appears to have seized the
opportunity to spin the Lety issue into his own plans,
claiming that the EP should not be interfering in Czech
domestic politics. But in addition to bristling at the EP
resolution, Klaus stated in a May 14 press interview that
the camp was never a "concentration" camp per se, and rather
a place where people were sent who "didn't want to work."
4. (U) Klaus is not alone in his revisionist view of
history: a Czech Communist MEP, Miloslav Ransdorf, also
stated to the media that there was never a "genuine"
concentration camp in Lety. Klaus and Ransdorf's comments
have caused widespread outcry, and former Human Rights
Commissioner and journalist Petr Uhl has lodged a formal
complaint against Ransdorf for his remarks. Uhl's complaint
is based upon the Czech law which sets a prison sentence of
up to three years upon those who publicly deny or question
Nazi- and Communist-committed genocide. In addition to Uhl,
new Czech Prime Minister Paroubek, Senate Vice-President
Pithart, Interior Minister Bublan, Defense Minister Kuehnl
and current Human Rights Commissioner Karasek have all also
come out in favor of the removal of the pig farm at Lety.
5. (SBU) At a yearly memorial service held at Lety on May
13, Deputy Minister for European Integration of the Ministry
of Regional Development, Vera Jourova, commented to Poloff
that although Paroubek told her he sincerely feels the Lety
issue should be solved by his new government, she was not
optimistic he would succeed. Jourova, who was formerly
General Director under Paroubek when he was Minister for
Regional Development, noted that she maintains a close
relationship with the new PM. Even if Lety is a government
goal, the new leadership would have but a few months to act
in autumn (after summer break) before focusing on pre-
election campaigns at the beginning of 2006. The main
stumbling block to removing the pig farm is the expense,
further complicated because the farm was sold to a private
owner ten years ago. Jourova commented that though the
Czechs could probably secure EU funds for Lety, and the
German government has also offered funding, she feels it is
the Czech government's duty to move the camp. Vladimir
Spidla, former PM and current European Commissioner, has
also commented that although he agrees with the cause, given
the cost of moving the camp (estimated at 600 to 800 million
CZK, or 25-34 million USD), the funds might better be spent
on improving the situation of existing Roma in the country
before restoring the site.
6. (U) Although the Czech Roma community has called for
removal of the pig farm for over ten years, the community's
voice suffers from a lack of cohesion that would give it
strength. The Czech Republic has several Roma NGOs, a "Roma
Parliament" created last year, and a Roma Democratic Party
established some two weeks ago. However, none of these
organizations seem to have anything good to say about any of
their counterparts, and they do not work together. The Roma
Parliament Deputy Speaker, who is also a member of the
advisory body to the Government Council for Roma Affairs,
has been sentenced for tax fraud and must therefore
relinquish his position on the Council. Regional Roma
Coordinators, hired by the government, bickered amongst each
other at a recent meeting hosted by the Deputy Minister of
Interior. This lack of coordination and cooperation amongst
the Roma community hampers their ability to effectively
lobby the government on issues like Lety, and also
education, discrimination, and chronic Roma unemployment.
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