Prague - The new minister for human rights and ethnic minorities Michael Kocáb introduced Thursday new staff in his office.
The singer and composer Kocáb replaced Džamila Stehlíková, the first human rights minister ever, as part of a government reshuffle headed by PM Mirek Topolánek (Civic Democrats).
Like Stehlíková, Kocáb was nominated by the Green Party. He does not have a specific vision nor priorities for his tenure, since his time in the office will be for less than eight months.
One of the first tasks Kocáb will have to deal with is to find a new head of the Agency for Social Integration, which is supposed to be helping socially marginalized people living in excluded localities, popularly known as ghettos.
The tender should be announced Thursday and the new head should be selected within two weeks.
"I know of some people who do a good job but it is a tender so they have to apply themselves," said Kocáb in an interview for Aktuálně.cz.
No money, no work
The Agency for Social Integration has been having problems for some time now. The agency cannot distribute funds due to missing legislative norms, so it does not operate at the moment. Some of its staff have left their jobs and the head Marek Podlaha has been dismissed.
The European social funds that the agency has received will not be spent at the moment. "We will wait for the new director. It will be up to him how to spend the money," said Kocáb.
Kocáb introduced a new spokesperson and a team of nine specialists that will work for him, keeping the rest of Stehlíková's personnel.
The new spokesperson Lejla Abbasová, a daughter of a Sudanese father and Czech mother, is a model, singer and TV presenter. She is also socially active and runs a number of projects, mainly in Africa. But she does not see that as a conflict of interest.
"I am willing to give up any of the government's money. We do not get that much anyway, since we have direct donors," said Abbasová.
One of the first tasks Kocáb is going to focus on in the upcoming weeks is the Romany Holocaust Memorial in Lety u Písku in south Bohemia. The former concentration camp stands on a pig farm and the Czech government earned much criticism for not being willing to remove the pig farm.
"I am saddened that it has not been resolved yet. It is a scandal," said Kocáb.
He also wants to deal with issues such as social integration of Romany, extremist movements, the handicapped and gender equalities.
„I will not prioritize neither of the issues, as my predecessor did, but I will try to see whether there is a chance of completing the tasks. We really have little time," said Kocáb.