EU Urges Czechs to Stop Discriminating Roma Children at School

The European Commission formally urged Czech Republic to stop discriminating against Roma children in the country’s schools.

In a letter to the Czech government, the European Union’s executive arm reprimanded the Czechs yesterday for breaching the bloc’s laws by sending children of the Roma minority to inferior schools, a commission official, who didn’t give a name in line with policy, said in an e-mailed message. The Czech Republic has two months to reply.

“This is a success for Roma families in the Czech Republic who have challenged the persistent discrimination they face not only in schools, but in their daily lives,” said Violeta Naydenova, a policy analyst at the Brussels-based Open Society European Policy Institute. “Ensuring that Roma children have a fair shot at a decent education is a fundamental part of the struggle to overcome that discrimination.”

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2007 that the Czech Republic had discriminated against Roma children by placing them in “special schools” for the mentally handicapped and ordered it to end the practice. While Czech authorities have made changes, a 2012 report from the European Commissioner for Human Rights said an estimated 30 percent of Roma children in the Czech Republic are still placed in “schools designed for pupils with mild mental disabilities, compared to 2 percent of their non-Roma counterparts.”

About 300,000 Roma live in the Czech Republic, according to Open Society. Roma across the EU’s eastern members, where they make up as much as 10 percent of the population in countries including Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria often face persistent discrimination, impoverished living standards, and limited access to jobs and public services.

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