The Czech Republic's Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra has said that the EU needs to reform in order to remain competitive on the global market. Speaking at a conference held in Prague to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which paved the way for the establishment of the European Union, the Civic Democrat senator also said that the Declaration of Berlin policy document, which is being prepared to mark the EU's 50th birthday should not hinder free economic competition and should be thoroughly discussed by member states before being accepted. Speaking at the same conference, former President Vaclav Havel said the EU should do more to speak out against human rights abuses around the world.
The municipal assembly of Brno voted on Tuesday to keep the UNESCO-listed Tugendhat Villa in its possession. The city had initially wanted to return the villa to the descendants of its pre-War owners via the state, but have had to reverse the decision because the state refused to take it. The city cannot give it back to the claimants directly as it then would be liable to a gift tax amounting to millions of Czech crowns. The villa was designed by renowned German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1928. Its original Jewish owners, Greta and Fritz Tugendhat, lived in the villa until 1938 when their family fled the country from the Nazis. The villa was confiscated by the state as Nazi property in 1945.
A mother has murdered her two children aged one and three years in the north Bohemian town of Ústí nad Labem. A police spokeswoman told the Czech Press Agency that further details of the crime would be divulged later on Tuesday, adding that the unnamed mother had been hospitalised in a psychiatric unit.
Eleven patients died in a hospital in the east Bohemian town of Havlickuv Brod due to incorrect medical treatment, an expert commission has concluded. The commission had been set up after it emerged that police had charged a former male nurse at the hospital Petr Zelenka last December with the murder of eight patients. Zelenka was charged with deliberately administering lethal doses of the blood-thinning drug Heparin. He has since admitted the charges and now faces life imprisonment, although his defence lawyers claim he is mentally ill. Altogether, the commission investigated more than 20 suspicious deaths. Of the 11 who died due to incorrect treatment, 10 were given excessive doses of Heparin while 1 is thought to have been given a lethal dose of insulin.
Prague city mayor Pavel Bém has been given permission to take a long leave of absence in order to climb Mt. Everest. On Tuesday, Prague city council approved an agreement which allows the mayor, who is a keen mountaineer, to take two months unpaid in order to fulfil his dream of climbing the world's highest mountain. Mr Bem is to depart with a team of Czech and Slovak climbers for the Himalayas next week. He had been heavily criticised for taking so much time off from his duties as Prague mayor.
The economic daily Hospodarske noviny writes that Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas is preparing a package of measures that he believes would allow the government to annually save 23 billion crowns (over 1 billion USD) on welfare benefits. The largest sum is to be saved on parental benefits and sickness benefits and the government also intends to withdraw social security benefits from people with higher incomes, the paper says. However, the changes will be smaller than was expected, Hospodarske noviny writes.
The proposed introduction of a flat tax of 15% in the Czech Republic would make things worse for 74% of taxpayers according to a study by analysts Patria Finance. The study finds that the taxation of people's gross wage before social and health insurance deductions were made means that most employees would be worse off as a result of the mooted changes. The study is based on a new taxation system that has been widely reported in the media but yet to be confirmed. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek is due to present his proposed tax reforms in early April.
Czech president Václav Klaus has responded to questions from American congressmen concerning climate change. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives energy and commerce committee had invited President Klaus to give his views on climate issues such as global warming ahead of a public hearing on the subject on Wednesday. Mr Klaus has repeatedly stated that he does not believe human activity has any major impact on our planet's climate and that environmental campaigners were guided by political not scientific considerations. A spokesman for Mr Klaus told the Czech Press Agency that the president would make his answers public after Wednesday's congress hearing, which should include contributions from former US Vice-President Al Gore among others.
Winter has returned with a vengeance in the regions of Moravia and Silesia, which have been experiencing heavy snowfalls. Meteorologists expect up to 20 cm of snow to fall in certain places by Wednesday afternoon. In the Moravian city of Ostrava, a covered tennis court collapsed under the weight of snow on uesday morning. No one was hurt in the incident.
Lidove noviny writes that three years ago Czech police wiretapped nobleman Franz Ulrich Kinsky, who had filed a number of restitution claims for family property in Bohemia which had been confiscated at the end of the Second World War, three years ago. The paper claims that his lawyer Jaroslav Capek's phone was also bugged. Police, who suspected Mr Kinsky of fraud, recorded telephone conversations between Mr Kinsky and his lawyer, a fact sharply criticised by the Czech Bar Association. A Czech court approved the wiretapping and the current Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil says that this was in accordance with the law. According to Lidove noviny, the wiretapping of Mr Kinsky's phone did not prove the suspicion and investigation was halted after two years.
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