The first part of a 200-strong Czech reconstruction team left for the Afghan province of Logar on Monday. According to Deputy Defence Minister Martin Barták the team will help re-build the province’s war-torn infrastructure and assist ordinary citizens. It will operate in Afghanistan for a period of three years and will include civilian experts in agriculture, construction and water management.
The Czech cabinet has approved a pension reform bill that would gradually increase the retirement age to 65 years. The first stage of the pension reform could be debated in the lower house in March. At present males usually retire at the age of 61, childless females at the age of 60 and mothers earlier, according to the number of children. The reform bill also wants to extend the obligatory social insurance period to 35 years. Under the new bill, mothers of two or more children would still have a chance to retire earlier.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Monday told journalists that he wanted the chairmen of the coalition and opposition parties to agree on the voting method in the presidential election that will start on Friday, February 15. Mr Topolánek said the public vote proved inefficient in the first election and he would therefore try to ensure wider support for a secret ballot that previously only the Civic Democrats were pushing for.
Social Democratic MP Evžen Snítilý, who collapsed during the presidential election on Saturday, has been released from Prague’s Střešovice hospital. His condition is reported to be much improved. His collapse sparked a highly publicized conflict between the ruling Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats. Several Social Democrat deputies accused Interior Minister Ivan Langer and another MP from the Civic Democrats of pressuring Mr Snítilý to support Václav Klaus in the third round of presidential elections.
The High Court in Prague has halted the prosecution of Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, a former prosecutor who took part in the 1950s communist show trial of Milada Horáková. Ms Brožová, now aged 86, was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for judicial murder, but she appealed against the verdict. The court ruled on Monday that the offence was barred under the statute if limitations. Milada Horáková, a lawyer and politician, is the only woman to have been executed during Czechoslovakia's 1950s show trials.
President Václav Klaus signed into law a new amendment under which the Czech Republic may limit the access of Bulgarians and Romanians to its labour market. The limitation will also concern citizens of other countries that will join the European Union in future. Bulgarians and Romanians have been able to work freely in the Czech Republic since last January, when their countries became members of the EU.
A group of Czech senators who proposed economist Jan Švejnar as presidential candidate for the first election that ended without a result on Saturday is collecting signatures to nominate him again. It means that Mr Švejnar will most probably run in the second election on February 15 against incumbent President Václav Klaus. Senator Jiří Zlatuška said he expected that Jan Švejnar will be officially proposed by the same senators as in the first election.
The Czech foreign police have detained two US citizens who have been in
the country for more than three months without securing a visa. The two
Americans have been taken to a holding centre in Poštorná and are to be
deported from the country. The two men have reportedly applied for asylum.
Until the Czech Republic’s entry to the Schengen zone, Americans could live in the country without a visa, leaving every 90 days to get a stamp in their passport. As of the end of last December, visa-less US citizens are only allowed to remain in the country or any other part of the Schengen area for a maximum of 3 out of six months.
Former dissident and foreign minister Jiří Dientsbier, who was named as a potential candidate by the Communist Party in the second round of presidential elections, said he would only run for the post if Jan Švejnar backed out of the race and if he himself received broad support across the political spectrum. Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, whose name was also floated by the Communists, made a similar statement. The chairman of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský, MEP Jana Bobošíková and the head of the Czech Academy of Sciences Václav Pačes were also included on the Communists’ list of possible presidential candidates.
Meanwhile, Christian Democrat senator Josef Kalbáč, who was also hospitalised during Saturday’s presidential election, claims he got into a skirmish with an unknown lobbyist who attempted to influence him ahead of the third vote. Senator Kalbáč said the incident upset him so badly he had to seek medical assistance. Karel Barták, another senator who absented himself from all three rounds of the presidential election, refuted claims that he had felt unwell, explaining that he refused to take part in a public vote on principle.
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