Czech Roma rights activists have decided to file a lawsuit against
Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek over his
comments regarding the Roma community. They say his statements might
amount to inciting hatred against the ethnic group. In a recent
interview for the popular tabloid Blesk, Mr Cunek said that in order to
be entitled to state subsidies like Romanies, other people would need
to get a suntan, behave in a disorderly way and light fires on town
squares before politicians would regard them as badly off.
Roma rights activists are calling for Mr Cunek's departure from government. They are planning to stage a protest outside the government headquarters in Prague on Wednesday.
Some 5,000 visitors have come to see Karlstejn Castle outside Prague during the Easter weekend, about the same number as last year. Sunday was the busiest day with 2,000 visitors, most of them foreigners. Easter Monday is the only Monday in the year when the monument is open to visitors. Karlstejn Castle in Central Bohemia is a monument with the longest tourist season in the country. It opens its doors to the public in March, a month earlier than other castles and chateaux, and closes at the end of November. Around 270,000 visitors see Karlstejn every year.
The Interior Ministry inspectorate is suspecting Interior Minister Ivan Langer of using borrowed mobile phones and SIM cards to make phone calls with members of the anti-organised crime police squad in order to prevent his calls from being monitored. Czech Television which broadcast the report on Sunday says Mr Langer denies the allegation. Ivan Langer's mobile phone number was among several dozen numbers monitored last year in connection with the leaked police report known as the "Kubice report" which suggested there were links between organised crime and the then ruling Social Democrats. The party says that the leak of the report harmed it in the general elections which ended in a narrow victory for the right-of-centre Civic Democrats. In all, 46 phone numbers were monitored during the police operation, some of them belonging to lawyers and also children.
Preliminary police statistics suggest that the long weekend has been relatively calm on Czech roads. Three people were killed in traffic accidents on Saturday. Sunday saw two people killed, and one dead has been reported on Monday. Experts assume that favourable weather has been a positive factor and also the fact that people were afraid of busy traffic and therefore drove more carefully. On Saturday, police reported 317 traffic accidents with 8 people seriously injured. On Sunday, there were 265 accidents and 7 people sustained serious injuries.
The cabinet minister responsible for minorities and human rights, Dzamila Stehlikova, has said the government will present a policy outline regarding the Roma community in June. A special governmental agency is to start working in the middle of the year assisting municipalities with integration programmes for the Roma. As of September, towns and villages will be able to draw money from European Union funds for their integration programmes.
According to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office, the number of Czechs who prefer to spend their holiday in the Czech Republic is on the rise. The number of Czechs who stayed in hotels around the country in 2006 grew by 4.3 percent year on year to 6.3 million. The South Bohemian region remains the most popular destination for domestic tourism, followed by South Moravia and the Hradec Kralove and Liberec regions. Since 2005, Czechs have been spending more on domestic holidays than on stays abroad.
In related news, Christian Democrat chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek says he first wants to discuss his further staying in government with his party colleagues on Tuesday and only then debate should start with the other two coalition partners. Mr Cunek, who is facing charges of corruption and also extensive criticism for his comments on the Roma population, made the statement on Czech TV on Monday in response to an earlier statement by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek who said that Mr Cunek's own Christian Democrats should persuade him to leave the cabinet. The party had earlier backed its leader. In an interview for Saturday's Mlada fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Topolanek said that dismissing Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Development Minister Jiri Cunek was the least desirable option open to him.
Many skiers in the Czech Republic have taken advantage of the prolonged weekend to visit the country's skiing resorts for the last time as the season is coming to a close. With between 15 to 40 centimetres of snow on the slopes in the Krkonose Mountains in East Bohemia, Easter Monday has been the last day of operation in some resorts. The resorts of Spindleruv Mlyn, Horni Misecky and Pec pod Snezkou will remain open for another week. All ski lifts were in operation at the weekend at the Ovcarna resort in the North Moravian mountains of Jeseniky- the only one still open to skiers in that area. With over a metre of snow on the slopes, the resort will remain open for at least another week.
Social Democrat chairman and former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says if the government-proposed package of fiscal reforms fails a vote in parliament it will not necessarily lead to early elections. Speaking in a live debate on Czech Television on Monday, Mr Paroubek said it was not appropriate for the government to speak about early elections only months after it received confidence. He also pointed out that opinion polls do not suggest the ruling Civic Democrats would win if early elections were held this autumn. The current centre-right coalition cabinet had pledged to step down if it fails to push the reforms through.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry has categorically denied the allegation that the ministry's inspectorate is suspecting Minister Langer of deliberately using other people's phones to talk to detectives from the anti-organised crime unit. She added that "the inspectorate is not investigating Minister Langer and therefore it cannot suspect him of anything."
Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad
Czech President Zeman addresses Council of Europe
Czech Republic faces court action over freedom of movement
Czech pre-election battle plugs into war of words over lithium mining deal
Communist era past catches up with Czech ANO leader ahead of polls