3 Oct 2014
President Zeman for – foreign minister Zaoralek against
Prague – Top Czech politicians are continuing to argue over whether the Prague authorities should enable the Czech minority in Ukraine (Volhynia Czechs) to return to their ancestral homeland.
President Milos Zeman is pleading in favour of acceding to the wish of dozens of Volhynia-Czech families who are worried about their safety, while the Social Democrat (CSSD) foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek rejected this last Friday.
“Unhappy and irresponsible”
“The foreign ministry regrets that one hears contradictory information on the situation of the compatriots in Ukraine. We would regard it as unhappy and irresponsible if the Czech compatriots in Ukraine became hostages to the situation,” the foreign ministry explained in an official statement. Czech diplomacy is dealing “intensively” with the requirements of the Volhynia community with the aim to improve living conditions in their current place of habitation, according to the foreign ministry. Zaoralek was reacting to information from last Thursday, according to which 70 Volhynia-Czech families had already contacted Zeman requesting assistance in emigrating.
During the last month, Zeman had publicly supported the repeatedly expressed wish of the Volhynia-Czech families wishing to leave. Until now, only 40 families had been talked about, with the head of state demanding that the minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec (CSSD), assist these compatriots to return to their erstwhile homeland. The current situation in Ukraine does not offer the possibility of a “fully adequate” life, Zeman argued. Chovanec demonstrated willingness by declaring that the interior ministry would reexamine the matter. “If there is a statutory possibility to bring these Czechs back to their homeland, why not?” – Chovanec said.
Zaoralek visited the Volhynia Czechs’ region in mid-September and rejected the emigration of the families wishing to leave. The Czech government had “no intention of uprooting the Ukrainian Czechs” as it was not a matter of “mass exodus.”
Meeting with Zeman
Zaoralek wanted to meet with Zeman on Friday and discuss the question of the Volhynia Czechs. Prior to the meeting, he published the new explanation. A new comment from Zeman is not expected before Monday’s regular press conference held by his speaker, Jiri Ovcacek.
The number of Volhynia Czechs is estimated at 20,000. Their ancestors settled in Volhynia during the second half of the 19th century due to economic difficulties in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Russia, which Volhynia belonged to at that time, used financial incentives to attract workers from abroad (APA, 3.10.2014)