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Zeman sends draft treaty with Norway on child release to ForMin

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Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman has sent a draft treaty according to which children with Czech citizenship would be handed to their parents in Norway to Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said on Tuesday.

The treaty with Norway should solve the cases of Czech children taken away from their parents by the Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet).

Zeman also wants to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), they might meet in February, Ovcacek added.

He said Zeman had decided to consult the government on the matter and this is why he had turned to Zaoralek (CSSD) with the draft treaty.

Ovcacek previously said Zeman had found inspiration for the draft Czech-Norwegian treaty in a letter from MEP Petr Mach (Free Citizens Party, SSO) from January.

According to Mach’s draft treaty, released to CTK, the state would have to release the children to their homeland within 90 days after receiving a written request with a consent of at least one of the parents, a sibling or a grand-parent. The country whose citizenship the children have would file the request, but only after the respective authorities considering the case. The transfer costs would be covered by the children’s homeland.

The treaty would not apply to the cases of underage children being prosecuted or convicted of a crime or one of the parents not having Czech citizenship.

Ovcacek on Tuesday refused to comment on the detailed content of the draft treaty.

“However, this is the first concrete step in the gradual materialisation of this proposal,” he only said.

Another step might be the talks with Sobotka.

“The president will definitely have an opportunity to talk with the prime minister about this matter,” Ovcacek said.

He also said he cannot rule out that their meeting would be held in February.

Sobotka commented on Zeman’s proposal with scepticism in January.

He said he cannot imagine how Zeman’s proposal could help solve the problems of Czech children in Norway. The negotiating of an international treaty in complicated cases lasts minimally several years, he added.

Zeman previously said he he acted on the principle of a “creative perception” of the constitution according to which the president can negotiate international treaties, not only ratify them.

He also said the treaty would not interfere in Norway’s internal affairs, but it should protect Czech citizens irrespective of their age.

Zeman said “more drastic measures” must be taken in relation to Norway and its Barnevernet social service over the cases of children with Czech citizenship being taken away from their biological parents.

Two such cases have been publicised.

The Michalak brothers were taken away from their Czech mother Eva Michalakova on suspicion of abuse and neglect in May 2011.

Most recently, the case of a nine-month-old girl having been taken from her Czech mother and Norwegian father a couple of weeks ago has been in the limelight.

Lawmaker Jitka Chalankova (opposition TOP 09), who focuses on the issue, says there are three similar cases involving Czech children in Norway.

Children have also been taken away from a Slovak mother and a Romanian family of late.

Protests against Barnevernet were held in Prague and other European cities two weeks ago.

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