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Respekt: Czechs blame Norway for its independent offices

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Prague, Oct 12 (CTK) – Being angry at the Norwegian government and embassy in the case of the two sons taken away from a Czech mother in fact means blaming Norway for having state institutions and courts that are independent of the political power, Marek Svehla writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday.
The Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet) has recently decided to put the younger son up for adoption and they have stripped the mother, Eva Michalakova, of her parental rights to her older son as well, thus banning her contact with the boys.
Barnevernet took the Michalak brothers, aged ten and six years now, away from their parents in May 2011 on suspicion of abuse and neglect and placed them in two different foster families. The suspicion has not been proved.
Michalakova unfortunately decided to live in a country that has stricter standards of good parental care than her homeland. Barnevernet may have made a wrong decision, it even might have caused great injustice to her, Svehla writes.
Let’s wish the desperate mother success in her fight for her children. But the rest of the Czech Republic has turned emotions into nationalist feelings, Svehla says.
When the news about the planned adoption and stripping of the parental rights arrived in the Czech Republic, the government sent a protest note to Norway and President Milos Zeman declared that it would be a good idea to expel Norwegian Ambassador to Prague Siri Ellen Sletner or to recall the Czech ambassador to Norway for consultations, Svehla writes.
But as both above mentioned steps are considered hostile in diplomacy, they were not taken and so Zeman at least announced that he would not invite Sletner to the official celebration of the Czech national holiday on October 28, Svehla writes.
Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told Respekt that Norwegian diplomacy repeatedly assured Czech representatives that the boy would not be adopted and Michalakova would not be stripped of the parental rights to her sons.
Sletner should have “provided consistent information that would reflect legal and factual reality,” Ovcacek said, explaining why the ambassador of Norway, which gives half a billion crowns to the Czech Republic for free every year was not invited, while representatives of various despotic countries will arrive, Svehla writes, referring to the Norway Grants.
But the head of the Czech Office for International Legal Protection of Children, Zdenek Kapitan, who takes part in the negotiations with Norway says Oslo did not guarantee anything, Svehla writes.
Svehla says they could not have given any guarantee because Barnevernet decides independently and only a court, not the government, can change its decisions, like in the Czech Republic.
Michalakova claims that Barnevernet is taking a revenge on her for her talking to Czech media about the case, Svehla writes.
Kapitan said Barnevernet did not mind the fact that Michalakova has been seeking support from politicians and media, but it disliked the fact that her sons may read about their case on the Internet as a result. According to child protectors, this may seriously disturb the children, Svehla writes.
As Michalakova undertook this risk and has been increasing it, Barnevernet seems to be losing trust in her, he adds.
Czech authorities have dealt with the cases of about 200 children taken away from 80 Czech families by the authorities of a foreign country since 2010. These cases have been similar to the Norwegian affair, but only Michalakova was able to involve the politicians and media in her fight, Svehla writes.
However, Michalakova’s effort has not been successful so far because Barnevernet is indifferent to emotions aroused somewhere in Central Europe and Norwegian media either are not interested in her case or respect the rule that reporting on such cases should be as reserved as possible, Svehla writes.
Experts in international relations point out that even very good relations between two countries may turn into a disaster. The Michalak case has caused a conflict in the Czech-Norwegian relations. If there were a politician similar to Zeman in Norway who would be interested in escalating the conflict, the disaster could really come, Svehla writes.
($1=23.856 crowns)

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