The Czech Republic has launched its part in the EU campaign aimed at battling discrimination, entitled the European Year of Equal Opportunities. On Monday Czech EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Vladimir Spidla said that EU countries have not yet succeeded in fulfilling the idea of equal opportunities, although he indicated comparing particular states was difficult. The Czech campaign includes seven larger projects as well as seminars, conferences, and festivals aimed at increasing awareness. At the same time, the Czech Republic still lacks anti-discrimination legislation for which the country faces potential EU sanctions. Minister without Portfolio Dzamila Stehlikova - in charge of minorities - has said that the legislation could be passed this year.
The Czech Republic has lost an arbitration dispute with the Netherlands-based company Eastern Sugar BV, the parent company of a Czech branch that is the Czech Republic's second largest sugar producer. Both the head of the Czech branch of Eastern Sugar and a spokesman for the Finance Ministry on Monday confirmed the decision, after the story was first reported by the Prague-based journal Czech Business Weekly. The arbitration case saw Eastern Sugar seeking the equivalent of close to 120 million US dollars in damages for unfair quota allocation by the government, a case dating back to 2003. The final amount awarded is less than what was being asked for: 700 million crowns, the equivalent of around 33 million USD.
In ice hockey, the Detroit Red Wings - home to 42-year-old Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek - have entered the final week of the regular season atop NHL league standings. On Sunday Detroit downed Columbus 4:1, with the Blue Jackets spoiling Dominik Hasek's bid for a 76th career shutout with only around one minute remaining. Hasek made 31 saves on the night. The Red Wings have now earned points in six straight games to surpass Buffalo in the race for top spot.
The weekly magazine Euro has reported that the Czech branch of corruption watchdog Transparency International is under investigation for alleged embezzlement. The journal said Transparency has returned only half of a 30-million-crown interest-free loan it received from the Finance Ministry to host a conference (a case going back to 2001). The director of the Prague office of Transparency International, Adriana Krnacova, said criminal proceedings launched in connection with the case had a political subtext. The Czech branch of TI has strongly protested the accusation.
Rovshan Nazarov, the son of a former political advisor who was granted asylum in the Czech Republic, has reportedly been arrested in his homeland Azerbaijan. The Czech news agency CTK released the information on Monday after receiving news from Mr Nazarov's brother. Two years ago the Nazarovs' father Sadai - who received asylum in 1998 - was arrested for treason and persecuted by the regime of President Heydar Aliyev. He was released only after heightened diplomatic pressure and involvement by human rights groups. Mr Nazarov's son travelled to Azerbaijan this year on March 19th and was reportedly arrested seven days later.
Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny - quoting Interior Ministry files - has reported that the communist era secret police, the StB, probably enlisted singer/songwriter Jaromir Nohavica as a collaborator in exchange for dropping criminal charges of sedition against him. The newspaper writes that the StB had used the threat of a prison term to blackmail Mr Nohavica. The news follows an earlier report this year saying that the musician had informed on individuals in connection with a 1989 petition calling for the freeing of then-dissident Vaclav Havel.
The Supreme Court has rejected a proposal by Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil recommending a state attorney be dismissed for coming to work heavily inebriated last year. The Supreme Court said on Monday it recognised the case of state attorney Michaela Mixova was a "controversial one" but expressed understanding for her problems related to her private life. Last November Mrs Mixova came to work heavily drunk, apparently suffering from depression related to her failing marriage. An earlier decision by the High Court remains valid: the state attorney will see her salary cut by one quarter for six months.
The Greens have asked Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to hold a meeting of the leaders of the three government parties to decide whether "embattled" Minister for Regional Development Jiri Cunek should remain in the cabinet. Members of the Green Party have said that comments made by Mr Cunek last week, alluding to Romany citizens, had damaged the government's credibility. In a Czech tabloid on Friday Mr Cunek suggested that "non-Roma" wishing to earn state subsidies like the Roma needed to get "a suntan" and "cause trouble". The comments were denounced as xenophobic by the prime minister. Mr Cunek has since apologised for the incident. Political pressure on Mr Cunek has continued to increase, as he is also the subject of an on-going police investigation for alleged bribe-taking in 2002.
The director of the cult Czech musical Starci na Chmelu (The Hop Pickers), Ladislav Rychman, has died at the age of 84. To date his film, made in the early 1960s, remains the most successful of Czech musicals, seen by more than three million viewers in theatres. Six years ago a Prague stage production of the cult classic was also produced.
The Czech Republic is the most successful of the ten states which joined the European Union in 2004 in terms of acquiring protected status for its traditional foodstuffs, the Czech Press Agency reported. Czechs now have six protected foods on the EU list, including Stramberk Ears and Pohorelice carp. Winning a place on the list means that such foods cannot be made anywhere else. Six products is some way behind France and Italy with around 150 trademarked foods each, but it is still more than the other nine countries which joined the EU three years ago.
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