The government has approved a bill aimed at settling property disputes between the state and Czech churches. Under the new law, the state would pay CZK 83 billion in compensation for church property nationalised during the communist regime. With interest, the sum will reach almost CZK 270 billion, the Czech News Agency reported. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek described the move as an historical breakthrough and unique opportunity, though the head of the Czech Roman Catholic church, Archbishop Miloslav Vlk, has said the settlement mainly favours the state. If approved by parliament and signed by the president, the bill would take effect as of 2009.
The organiser of a neo-Nazi march banned by the authorities in Plzeň was a member of the governing Civic Democrats, the news website iDnes.cz reported. A spokesperson for the party said Václav Bureš had been expelled in January, after it emerged that he was behind the march, which was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the first transport of Jews from the city in 1942. The far-right gathering was banned last Thursday, two days before it was due to take place. In the end around 200 neo-Nazis attended a demonstration in Prague, which passed off peacefully.
The government is to create a special body aimed at combating the existence of ghettos in the Czech Republic. The new agency will operate in 12 places in Bohemia and Moravia and aims to turn ghettos, which are mostly populated by Romany citizens, into ordinary districts. It will focus on increasing co-operation between local authorities, schools, the police, labour offices, NGOs, companies and local people. The plan was devised by the minister for minorities and human rights, Džamila Stehlíková, and was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday. Around 300 districts and even individual apartment buildings in the Czech Republic have been classed as ghettos; inhabitants suffer from a range of social problems, including high unemployment.
A new-born baby discovered abandoned in a rubbish container has been brought home by his new adoptive parents. The child has been adopted following a two-month period in which his biological parents could have come forward and claimed him. The boy, named Vendelín Čtvrtek by carers, was discovered by chance by a homeless man in the middle of December.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says suggestions that a deal to allow a US radar base to be built in the Czech Republic could be announced in the very near future are premature. A Pentagon spokesperson was quoted on Tuesday as saying a treaty could be agreed in the next few weeks. However, Mr Topolánek told reporters on Wednesday that it would not be possible to comment on the progress of negotiations until after further meetings between both sides next week. He repeated earlier comments that Prague was interested in a quality rather than a speedy deal with Washington. The US would like to build a radar base in central Bohemia as part of a global anti-missile defence system. Prime Minister Topolánek had previously said the Czech Parliament would vote on the matter after a NATO summit in April. His government backs the US plan; polls suggest up to 70 percent of Czech citizens are opposed.
Prague police kicked around 2,800 people off night trams and buses in the city last year, a senior police official said on Wednesday. Passengers were mainly removed for being drunk, unruly behaviour and wearing dirty clothes. Patrols of Prague’s night transport network were doubled last year. Many of those expelled from night trams and buses are homeless; the city’s police are currently considering establishing a special unit focused on dealing with homeless people.
The Czech National Bank is ready to raise the interest rate in the event of price-hikes or increased inflation, member of the CNB Bank Board Vladimír Tomšík said on Monday. Mr Tomšík said that the Czech National Bank had already demonstrated its determination to fight inflation when last year it raised the key two-week repo rate four times to a five-year’s maximum of 3.5 percent. This year, the Bank Board will be dealing with interest rates on February 7, and it is generally expected to raise the interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point. By then the Czech National Bank will also have the new quarterly inflation prediction.
Slovak PM Robert Fico has criticized US plans to site part of its missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Monday, Mr Fico said that he considers the project to be pointless. He expressed the view that any decisions on defence-related issues should be subject to negotiations between NATO and the EU. The Slovak Prime Minister also rejected the notion that bilateral talks between the United States and individual European allies do not concern third countries, especially those neighbouring on the Czech Republic and Poland.
A 19-year-old Czech man was sentenced to life imprisonment in Ireland on Monday for the brutal murder of a 37-year-old mother of two. The man dragged his victim into a derelict house in the town of Longford, where he raped her and strangled her. He told the police he wanted to steal her handbag. The murderer was captured after the police traced the victim’s mobile phone which the man used to pay off his debt.