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The visit of the delegation of the Standing Commission of the Czech Senate on Czechs Living Abroad

The delegation of the Standing Commission of the Czech Senate on Czechs Living Abroad visited Denmark 5-7 September 2011.

The delegation consisted of the Chairman of the Commission, Tomáš Grulich, member of the commission Petr Guziana and secretary Bronislava Hegrová. The senators were followed by Stanislav Kázecký, authorised representative for expatriate matters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. The main goal of the trip was to meet with the Czech expatriates in Denmark but also to meet with non-governmental organisations that are concerned with e.g. teaching Danish for the Danes living abroad.

In Copenhagen the delegation was welcomed by the non-governmental organisation Danes Worldwide. The Secretary General, Anne Marie Dalgaard, informed about the activities of the organisation which defends the interests and rights of Danes living abroad and helps them to stay in touch with Danish culture and language (according to data from OECD there are 100.000 people with Danish origin living abroad but according to Danes Worldwide’s estimation it can be up to 250 000 people). The organisation was founded in 1919, it has approximately 5000 members and it is financed mainly by member contributions but also partly by the corporate members’contributions. The Danish Ministry of Education’s contribution is intended for the development of didactic materials for teaching Danish. The organisation offers consulting support in everyday life issues, in family law etc. (it employs a lawyer and some other experts).

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The Secretary General Anne Marie Dalgaard and the Czech Ambassador Zdeněk Lyčka

The organisation Danes Worldwide is also concerned with questions regarding dual citizenship and it strives for moderation of the rigorous regulations in the relevant Danish law. Denmark doesn’t allow having dual citizenship and the condition of togetherness with Denmark (in the case of exceptional dual citizenship, e.g. when children born in mixed marriages reach full age) restricts the rights of the citizens living abroad according to Danes Worldwide. In order to have the option of dual citizenship, a change in the law on citizenship is required. The organisation also deals with the right to vote by Danes living abroad.

In recent years a great part of Danes Worldwide’s activities comprise teaching Danish to Danish children living abroad through e-learning which is now used by 450 children. The teaching takes place on all levels from kindergarden to the end of elementary school. The teaching is provided by 4 teachers employed in Danes Worldwide and by 3 students of pedagogy who are doing their practical training. After finishing a school year, the children get a certificate of completing the course. After finishing the whole school cycle, the pupils have to obligatorily take part in a Danish Summer school, arranged by the organisation in Denmark. The pupils obtain a certificate of completing Danish on the elementary school level. Neither the Danish Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of Education have any organ available which would deal with the expatriates’ issues.

In the afternoon the delegation met the Czech Group in Copenhagen. In the residence of the Ambassador, the parents together with their children presented their activities which support the development of Czech language used by children of  mixed families living in Denmark.

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A demontration of the activities in the Czech Group in Copenhagen led by Zdenka Orabi Kyjovská

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About 50 Czechs living in Denmark came to the residence of the Ambassador in the evening where they could hear a lecture by the Chairman of the Commission, Tomáš Grulich, about the history of Czechs moving abroad. Afterwards both expatriate organisations – Dansk-Tjekkisk Forening (Danish-Czech Society) and vKodani.cz (inCopenhagen.cz) presented their activities. After the presentations the guests were discussing while enjoying a small refreshment prepared by the Embassy.

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Presentation of Dansk-Tjekkisk Forening by Zuzana Knudsen

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Presentation of  vKodani.cz by Michala Kristensen

The following day, the delegation together with Ambassador Zdeněk Lyčka and Consul Barbora Stejskalová went to Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, where they were joined by Honorary Consul Niels Brøchner. The senators were at first welcomed at the Aarhus City Hall where they spoke with Councillor Niels Brammer and the Director of the Mayor’s Secretariat, Jørgen Sønderkjær, about the migration issue of involving non-Danish ethnic groups into city life and supporting the teaching of mother languages. Aarhus councillors are very aware of the fact that offering good schools to children of foreign workers is very important  for the city’s development and business.

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The delegation with the representatives of Aarhus City Hall where the Czech flag was waving

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From the left: Ambassador Zdeněk Lyčka, Councillor Niels Brammer, the Director of the Mayors Secretariat, Jørgen Sønderkjær, Honorary Consul Niels Brøchner, authorised representative for expatriate matters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stanislav Kázecký, Senator Petr Guziana, Senator Tomáš Grulich and the Secretary of the Commission, Bronislava Hegrová

Afterwards the delegation visited Aarhus University where they met with Professor of Czech Studies, Peter Bugge, who informed them about the possibilities of teaching Czech language, literature and history in different forms of studies. Currently there are two students of Czech Studies and literature at Aarhus University. Professor Brugge pointed out that neither of the students have Czech roots. Compared to other language studies, the students are usually expatriates and their descendants.

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At Aarhus University (from the left): authorised representative for expatriate matters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stanislav Kázecký, Senator Tomáš Grulich, Professor Peter Bugge and Senator Petr Guziana

In the evening the delegation visited the museum Den Gamle By (The Old Town) – a unique open air musem which presents life in a town from the beginning of the 18th century to the 70s of the 20th century. The Director of the museum, Thomas Bloch Ravn, said that The Old Town has a teaching and activating programme for schools, immigrant families and people with Alzheimer’s desease.

In the evening there was a meeting with the expatriates community in Aarhus where the members of the delegation could hear about the experiences of expatriates through many generations who have settled far away from the capital city. The community in Aarhus arranges regular meetings but it is not a registered society. The number of parents who are interested in teaching their children the Czech language and having contact with Czech culture is quite small but it is increasing.


Senator Tomáš Grulich together with the expatriates in Aarhus

The delegation left for Norway 7 September.