Embassy Row

By Morrison, James | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 23, 1999 | Go to article overview

Embassy Row


Morrison, James, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


CANDID CZECH

Jokes portray ambassadors as diplomats who never say "No" but also never say much of substance.

The jokes don't apply to Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra.

In a candid review of his country's progress 10 years after the collapse of Communism in the old Czechoslovakia, Mr. Vondra confronts two of the most serious faults of the Czech Republic, economic stagnation and racism against Gypsies.

Mr. Vondra, in his latest Czech Embassy newsletter, devotes his monthly column to the state of the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Mr. Vondra and Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora are hosting a series of cultural events to mark the anniversary to show that the Czech and Slovak republics remain friends after their peaceful separation in 1993.

"We would like to set an example of the spirit of lasting friendship in an era of so many wars and so much unrest, following the so-called new spring of nations around the world," Mr. Vondra wrote.

He notes that both countries now enjoy political freedom.

"This is not to say that everything is fine in my country now," he said. "We are still working to make our main goal a reality - to live in a stable democracy with a prosperous economy and a genuine civil society.

"The critical report of the European Commission reminds us how much we are still lacking when measured against the standards of Western democracies that were spared the ravages of communism.

"We are still learning how to coexist with people of different cultural and social traditions, as demonstrated by the current problems between the Czechs and the Roma."

A report in the newsletter says that Gypsies, or Roma, face "difficult conditions in the Czech Republic, causing some of its members to seek asylum in Canada and Great Britain."

The story recounts the tension in the Czech town of Usti nad Labem where the local council, responding to complaints about noise, dirt and crime last year, built a wall around a Gypsy neighborhood. The wall was later replaced by a 5-foot fence.

A report last month from the European Commission of the European Union notes that the Czech Republic "has failed to live up to its promises and has abandoned its self-declared [economic] priorities," the newsletter says. …

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