Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is reported to have been the only Czech present at the annual conference of the Bilderberg Club in Chantilly, Virginia. The club is an informal, invitation-only organization of world politicians, representatives of the military and industry, bankers and businessmen. The list of its club members is not permanent and participants attend the annual meetings as private persons. According to the news website iDnes this year’s topics included nuclear weapons, Islamic radicalism, the situation in Afghanistan and relations between Europe and the United States.
A London court of arbitration has ordered the Czech Republic to pay the Japanese investment group Nomura 3.6 billion crowns in compensation for breaching its obligations to a foreign investor. The dispute concerns the fall of IPB bank in June of 2000 in which Nomura had a 46 % stake. Following a programme of state aid to IPB’s competitors, the Czech Republic placed IPB into forced administration and transferred its business to rival Československá Obchodní banka for the symbolic price of one Czech crown. Nomura filed a lawsuit and won its case last year. It was not clear until now how much the Czech Republic would have to pay for breaching its obligations to the Japanese investor. In 2006 the Czech state and Nomura negotiated a settlement, the conditions of which are being kept secret.
A forty-three year old Slovak has been charged with raping and murdering a nine-year-old boy. The man himself showed the police where he had hidden the child’s body. He admitted to having lured him away from a playground by offering to show him some computer games. He had tried to lead off several other small boys but none had agreed to come voluntarily. The man has history of pedophile activities and had fled from his home country where he was to have undergone therapy. He now faces a life sentence.
Czech teachers have gone on a one-day strike in protest against low wages. An estimated 130,000 teachers at elementary and secondary schools – that’s half the schools in the country – are said to have joined the strike action. The government’s promise of an extra half a billion crowns has failed to stem the protests, with teachers saying that anything below three billion would not even cover this year’s inflation. The government has promised to earmark an extra four billion crowns for the education sector next year but says it can spare no more at present.
Military police on Monday started forcibly evicting Greenpeace activists from their camp in the Brdy military area, where they have spent the past six weeks protesting against the siting of a US missile defense radar on Czech soil. Around twenty Greenpeace activists set up camp in the grass clearing chosen by officials from the U.S. Missile Defence Agency for the radar facility and have refused to budge in spite of repeated warnings that they were trespassing on military grounds. After cutting them off from visitors and waiting in vain for hunger and thirst to drive them away the military police launched a forcible eviction on Monday. According to the CTK news agency the activists were taken away for questioning.
The Czech Republic is sending a military contingent to Afghanistan where it will protect a Dutch military base in Uruzgan province. The contingent will be made up of soldiers from the Liberec chemical and biological warfare brigade and should have 63 members in all. A logistics team of twenty people has already departed for Uruzgan province. The Czech military also operates a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar, comprising 200 soldiers and 10 civilian experts and a 100-member field hospital in Kabul.
Trade unions on Monday staged another in a series of demonstrations against the centre-right government’s public finance reform. Some 2,000 people joined the protest in the centre of Prague, calling for the hard-hitting measures to be revised. Trade unions claim that the government’s reforms will put thousands of Czechs below the poverty-line, unable to afford proper health care and education. They plan to step up the pressure which should culminate on June 24th with a one-hour warning strike that is expected to paralyze transport in the Czech capital.
Czech TV has started airing antidiscrimination advertisements in the form of fictional job interviews during which the applicants are humiliated by the interviewers. The campaign was designed by a Czech gender studies NGO and financed by the European Social Fund. The Czech Republic has been criticized by the European Union for not having passed the antidiscrimination act; the act was approved by the Czech Parliament but President Václav Klaus vetoed the draft last month.