A Prague district court has ruled that the Prague-Koloděje Chateau, used by the Czech government for sessions as well as events, is to be returned to a descendant of the original owners, the Kumpera family. The Czechoslovak state confiscated the chateau under the controversial post-war Beneš Decrees in 1948. But in 2007 the Land Register decided that the chateau as well as surrounding land, owned by Prague City Hall, should be returned to the former owners under the country’s restitution law, granting the rights to Vítězslav Kumpera. The government took the matter to court; Friday’s decision can be appealed.
Some 39 percent of Czech families lost child benefits as of January due to public finance reforms that took effect at the beginning of January, according to statistics revealed by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry on Friday. According to the numbers, some 1.5 million families who received child benefits up until the end of 2007, more than 580 thousand lost the possibility. Of some 200 thousand families previously entitled to social benefits, more than 20 thousand lost the right as of January 1. Labour Ministry spokesman Jiří Sezemský has stressed, despite the changes, that a majority of Czech families will not lose out, as taxes have been lowered. But union organisations have largely argued the opposite, saying peoples’ financial situations will worsen. They contend that families with children, as well as pensioners, will be the hardest hit.
The country’s largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, originally wanted to back Constitutional Court chairman and former justice minister Pavel Rychetský for president, Czech daily Lidové noviny has reported. A party insider told the newspaper that Mr Rychetský was to have been the party’s trump card in the upcoming race. The Social Democrats, under party leader Jiří Paroubek, opted to back Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar instead. Mr Švejnar has also backed by the Greens. That decision garnered criticism from former party leader - and former prime minister - Miloš Zeman this week. He criticised the party for backing the economist as opposed to fielding their own candidate. Mr Švejnar is generally viewed as being more on the political right than leftist parties might traditionally support.
Police in west Bohemia have suggested that a march banned by officials which neo-Nazis had planned to hold in the city of Plzeň on Saturday may be moved to Prague. Police representatives revealed on Friday that some 700 extremists – including radicals from abroad – may still try and meet in the capital’s Palacký square. The square is the city’s version of speaker’s corner in London’s Hyde Park, where demonstrators can meet without permission from the authorities. Police have reacted by saying the number of patrols on the street will be increased in Prague on Saturday, while in west Bohemia officials are also preparing extensive measures: as many as 1,000 officers will be at the ready to break up any demonstration by right-wing radicals.
In NHL ice hockey action on Thursday Czech goalie Dominik Hašek cam through the winner in a match between his Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks. During the game, Hašek turned away 26 shots, while his counterpart for the Canucks, Roberto Luongo stopped 47. With the game tied 2:2 and no goals in OT, the game went to a penalty shootout, which was won by Detroit. The Red Wings continue to top the National League.
Perpetrators of domestic violence in the Czech Republic could gain the chance to undergo therapy or be given special aid in the future, the minister in charge of human rights and ethnic minorities, Džamila Stehlíková, stated on Friday. Guidelines for working with individuals with tendencies towards violence will be prepared by the committee for domestic violence prevention, part of the government Council for Equal Opportunities. Similar programmes already exist in the US, Canada, Scandinavia as well as neighbouring Austria. Since 2007, legislation has ensured police in the Czech Republic can evict individuals from their homes for ten days, a measure aimed to protect victims and break the cycle of abuse. Last year almost 900 male and less 10 female perpetrators were forced to temporarily leave their homes. Almost 60 were repeat cases. Minister Stehlikova has pointed out that cases of repeated violence show there is a need to focus more on the perpetrators in dealing with the problem.
An Environment Ministry official has revealed that the European Commission is likely to order the Czech Republic to raise its renewable sources share in energy production by 14 percent by 2020. The information was revealed by Pavel Zámyslický of the Department of Climate Change, based on preliminary information from talks between Environment Minister Martin Bursík and his British counterpart on Thursday. The European Commission is to publish proposed new measures on January 23. Mr Zámyslický called the target number “a challenge” for the Czech Republic; currently 5 percent of energy in the country is based on renewable sources.
Czech tennis star Nicole Vaidišová has made it to the final 16 in the women’s singles competition at the Australian Open. In the third round, Vaidišová – the twelfth seed - defeated Ai Sugiyama of Japan in straight sets: 6:3, 6:4. Vaidišová will next face US player Serena Williams. Williams defeated the Czech player at the Australian Open last year in the semi-finals.
According to reports, the date for a planned debate between the two presidential candidates – incumbent Václav Klaus and challenger Jan Švejnar – has been set for Tuesday, January 29 in roughly ten days’ time. The debate will take place in the Senate and is organised by senators from the opposition Social Democratic party. Both Mr Klaus and Mr Švejnar will field questions from senators across the political spectrum. Previously, Mr Klaus rejected a public debate on the grounds the country’s president is elected by Parliament – not by direct vote.
The European Union expects the Czech Republic to return 430 million CZK (21.5 million USD) worth of grant money, after it was revealed that the money had been misused by the Czech Ministry of Regional Development. On Thursday, the newspaper Právo reported that the European Commission had already asked for the first 330 million CZK to be returned, and would decide upon the final 100 million CZK later. The Czech Finance Ministry has confirmed the reports. The scandal surrounding the misuse of EU funds took place at the Ministry of Regional Development in the 1990s. In 2006, ten businessmen and some high-ranking ministry officials were found guilty of embezzling funds from the EUs Phare programme.