The Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra has indicated that the Czech Republic would recognize Kosovo’s independence in the not too distant future. Mr Vondra declined to give a specific date but noted that the Czech Republic was prepared to be realistic with regard to Kosovo’s recognition. There is speculation that the Czech Republic may take this step after the Easter holidays. Since it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17, Kosovo has been recognized by 16 EU member states as well as the US. Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Slovakia have refused to recognize it.
The police are searching for the body of a possible train-crash victim near the town of Františkovy Lázně. The driver of a train which passed through the town late on Monday reported he had glimpsed the figure of a man on the track walking towards the oncoming train. The driver failed to break in time and said he felt a collision with an unspecified object but when the train came to a halt there was nothing on the tracks. The police are investigating the incident.
The ruling Civic Democrats are facing opposition from their coalition partners to some aspects of the health care reform introduced at the start of this year. Olga Zubová, an MP for the Green Party, says she is considering tabling a proposal according to which children should be exempted from having to pay direct fees for medical services which are now compulsory for all citizens. The Christian Democrats, also a member of the governing coalition, are preparing a similar proposal concerning mothers and newborns. Unlike the opposition Social Democrats who want to see direct payments abolished, the smaller governing parties say they merely want the law modified. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, of the Civic Democrats, recently admitted that children and pensioners might be exempted from the payments.
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who is 70, is currently recovering from heart surgery at a German clinic after undergoing surgery in Austria. The minister had a heart problem and suffered from hypertension. He is expected to remain at the clinic for a few more days before getting spa treatment. According to the ministry’s spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova Mr. Schwarzenberg should return to his duties in late March.
The police on Tuesday detained two youths, aged 15 and 13, who are believed to be responsible for a series of attacks against lone women in the vicinity of Ostrava. The two youths are believed to have attacked at least twelve elderly women during which they robbed their victims and inflicted some degree of bodily harm. One woman was reportedly dragged down a flight of stairs and kicked all over her body by both boys because she refused to let go of her handbag. The two boys are from socially-weak, single-parent families. The fifteen year old is being investigated in custody, the younger boy has been released because at age 13 he is not criminally responsible, but he may have to spend time in a correctional institution for adolescents.
Senators are divided over whether their colleague independent senator Liana Janáčková should be stripped of her immunity from prosecution in order to face charges of racism. The police say they have enough evidence to press charges after investigating a recording of Liana Janáčková made in 2005 when as mayor of Mariánské Hory she admitted to being a racist and suggested putting “Gypsies” behind an electric fence or blowing them up with dynamite. Senator Janáčková has tried to defend herself by saying that the statements were clearly exaggerated and made in the heat of an argument. Senators for the opposition Social Democrats want her to face prosecution but the ruling Civic Democrats, who have a majority in the Senate, are undecided.
The National Advertising Council has ruled that an advertisement billboard featuring Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg seemingly dozing at a session of Parliament is unethical and should be removed from all public places. The council concluded that the energy drink ad damaged the minister’s image and was used without his consent. The Foreign Ministry has distanced itself from the controversy surrounding the ad, with a spokesperson saying that the foreign minister was not asleep but “immersed deep in thought”.
A district court has slapped a 20,000 crown fine and a year-long driving ban on a Parliament deputy who was caught drunk-driving last year. Ondřej Plašil of the ruling Civic Democrats accepted the punishment without protest. He himself asked Parliament to strip him of his immunity so that he might face prosecution. There have been several cases of deputies and senators caught drunk-driving but not all of them have been willing to cooperate with the police and undergo a blood test.
Tennis legend Martina Navrátilová announced on Tuesday she had regained Czech citizenship more than 30 years after fleeing communist Czechoslovakia to make a new home in the United States. The 51-year-old former world champion said during a press conference in Tokyo that she had officially regained her Czech citizenship in January of this year. She has decided to maintain dual citizenship and keep her US passport. Born in Prague, Navrátilová fled to the United States in 1975 at the height of the Cold War and was subsequently stripped of her Czech citizenship by the communist regime. She became a US citizen six years later.
Newly released figures suggest that unemployment in the Czech Republic fell in February from 6.1% to 5.9%. According to the figures from the Czech Labour Ministry, the number of Czechs out of work currently stands at 330,641. Meanwhile, inflation levels continue to cause concerns as the prices of many household goods continue to climb. For the second month in a row, prices have risen by an average of 7.5%. Worldwide increases in basic food costs are partly blamed for the figures – the Czech Republic has seen the average price of a loaf of bread increase by 33% from the previous year. Energy prices have also gone up, with petrol, electricity and gas costs increasing by between 9 and 17% on the previous year. Analysts predict that high inflation figures will continue to pose a problem in the Czech Republic throughout the year.