The Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas has hailed the social reforms introduced by the government in January a success. Speaking on Thursday, Mr Nečas said that the reforms had saved the government over 10 billion crowns (688 million USD) in the first five months of their implementation. The government’s public finance reforms introduced healthcare fees in the Czech Republic, and altered rates of income and value added tax. Minister Nečas said on Thursday that these were only the first wave of reforms, and that he planned to bring more proposals to parliament this autumn.
A deal on the conditions under which US military personnel would operate
at a planned radar base in the Czech Republic should be agreed in the
autumn, Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová told reporters during a
visit to Washington. She said the main outstanding issue in talks on a
‘status of forces agreement’ was taxation. There had been speculation
treaty would be signed during the minister’s current visit to the US.
American Secretary of Defence Robert Gates told his Czech counterpart that
his country would go ahead with plans for a global missile defence shield
regardless of who won the upcoming US presidential election.
Last week the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg signed a treaty in Prague on building a US radar base in central Bohemia. The deal has yet to be approved by the Czech Parliament.
US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea will provide ballistic missile defence to the Czech Republic as part of the radar deal, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, quoting American officials.
Also on Thursday, the Czech Senate approved a new animal rights bill which restricts livestock transportation and outlaws the use of live animals for the purpose of training hunting dogs. The bill was presented to the Senate by Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič, who said that it introduced a number of ‘significant changes that improve the treatment of animals’. Livestock must now be transported for no longer than eight hours in total. Fines will be imposed for those who not only maltreat animals, but also fail to prevent the maltreatment of animals. The bill was previously rejected by the Senate, whose members were unhappy with the clause banning the use of live animals when training hunting dogs. But the Agriculture Minister revised the bill slightly, and on its second reading, it passed.
Leader of the Greens, Martin Bursík, has said that he will distribute a new draft of the party’s statutes to Green MPs by the end of the week. Mr Bursík is seeking to change the way the party is run in a bid to unify the Greens, who, he says, are currently too fragmented. Mr Bursík proposes to lessen the power that the party’s national council currently wields, shifting influence instead towards the party leadership. Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Mr Bursík also said that he was not happy for the Greens’ deputy chairwoman Dana Kuchtová to remain in the party leadership. Mr Bursík has called an extraordinary party conference to discuss these matters on September 5-7.
The Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration has said that the Czech Republic and Canada must work together to lower the number of Czechs seeking asylum in Canada. Speaking in Prague on Thursday, Diane Finley said that for the time being Canada was not planning to reintroduce visa restrictions for Czechs traveling to the North American country. The Canadian press has suggested, however, that once the number of Czech asylum requests reaches 580, Ottawa will consider visa reintroduction. The number of Czechs thought to have applied for asylum in Canada since visa restrictions were lifted last November is currently put at around 500. Not one of the recent Czech emigrants has been granted asylum, Ms Finley said.
The Senate has approved a bill which will allow people to do more of their government paperwork over the internet. The Interior Ministry hopes that the so-called ‘e-government bill’ will reduce bureaucracy and save citizens’ time. The law paves the way for the creation of electronic data boxes to which important documents will be sent. State bodies will be obliged to communicate with each other over the internet, while it is up to individuals whether they want to take part in the scheme. The law will come into effect on July 1, 2009.
The Czech Republic came one step closer to recognising the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, when Senators voted to acknowledge the treaty on which the court was founded. The Czech Republic is the only EU state not to recognise the international court, which handles serious crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ruling Civic Democrats, who have a majority in the Senate, previously blocked approval of the treaty that gave rise to the International Criminal Court. But critics such as Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg argued that continued opposition was undermining the Czech Republic’s international reputation. On Wednesday, Senators voted 60 to 10 to recognise the 1998 treaty. The proposal will now return to the lower house for a second vote.
The Czech Republic has opened an embassy in Kosovo, becoming the seventh state to do so. On Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar attended the opening, saying that the embassy’s establishment showed how seriously the Czech Republic took its commitment to Kosovo. The head of the Czech Embassy in Pristina will be Jana Hřebíčková, who has been in the former Serbian province for several months already. The Czech Republic formally recognised Kosovo’s independence in May this year. At the end of May, Belgrade recalled its ambassador from the Czech Republic in protest against the move.
The new coach of the Czech football team is Petr Rada, it was announced on Thursday. Rada takes over the post after years as former coach Karel Bruckner’s assistant. The 49-year-old manager of Teplice football club was elected Czech coach by the national football association on Thursday morning. He was vying for the post against Jozef Chovanec, who was widely seen as the favourite for the job. The post of Czech national coach has been open for a month, since the Czech Republic crashed out of Euro 2008 in the group stages of the competition. Rada’s debut will be on August 20, when the Czechs take on England at Wembley stadium.
Two Czech bug hunters arrested in India for poaching have maintained their innocence and called to be released. Emil Kučera and Petr Švácha are currently being detained in Darjeeling, awaiting their trial which is set to take place on July 21. The Indian press has suggested that the Czechs could belong to an international network of butterfly smugglers. If found guilty of poaching from the Singalila National Park, the pair could face up to seven years in prison. In a phone call to their colleague from the Czech Entomologists’ Association, Messrs Kučera and Švácha insisted that they were innocent.
Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad
Czech President Zeman addresses Council of Europe
Czech Republic faces court action over freedom of movement
Czech pre-election battle plugs into war of words over lithium mining deal
How should socialist architecture be treated now?