The leadership of the Social Democratic Party on Saturday failed to fill the post of deputy chairwoman, despite the fact that the party’s statutes say there must be at least one woman in the party leadership. The only candidate in the running 36-year–old Alena Borůvková failed to get enough support in two rounds of voting and the party leadership decided to leave the post unfilled until after the autumn general elections.
A commemorative ceremony has been held to mark the 67th anniversary of the Lidice massacre by the Nazis. The country’s political leaders, among them President Václav Klaus and Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka, cultural figures and war veterans attended a wreath laying ceremony and concert held in memory of those killed in the brutal massacre. The old Lidice, a village north-west of Prague was one of two villages which were completely destroyed by German forces in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich the highest ranking Nazi official in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On June 10th of 1942, all 192 men over 15 years of age were rounded up and shot, the women were sent to concentration camps and the children to be re-educated. The other village, Ležáky was razed to the ground in a similar manner a fortnight later.
A fire ravaged a country house in Semilsko, north of the country in the early hours of Saturday injuring eight people, two of them seriously. When fire-crews and a rescue helicopter arrived on the spot the house was in flames and the inner staircase had collapsed meaning that five of the eight inhabitants had to be airlifted from the roof. Police are investigating the cause of the fire.
The lower house of Parliament has assigned its audit committee to look into the finances of the Czech Supreme Audit Office on suspicion of mismanagement, the ctk news agency reported. Deputies from the audit committee said that in order to exclude suspicion of political bias they would most likely hire an independent auditor for the job. The lower house demanded an audit in connection with a number of dubious transactions. For instance it has come to light that the Supreme Audit Office repeatedly modified the extent of a contract so that its value dipped under two million crowns, which is the limit for compulsory public tenders.
The Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of a man who has accused the Office of the Government of age discrimination. The man claims that he and five other employees over 50 had been sacked on the grounds of a planned re-organization under which their posts were to have been scrapped, but a few months later these positions were all filled by young people under 28 years of age. Several court verdicts went in favour of the Office of the Government until the man filed a complaint with the Constitutional court, which overturned the earlier verdicts in a ruling that is seen as an important precedent. The case will now go back to a lower court to be reviewed.
According to the Prague-based Liberal Institute this year’s Tax Freedom Day in the Czech Republic falls on June 13th. Tax Freedom Day is the day in the year when the average Czech has earned enough to pay his annual tax bill. This means that people’s entire earnings in the first 163 days of the year will go to support government expenditures, anything earned after that is theirs alone. The day on which it falls this year reflects the economic crisis, last year it was on June 7th. The OECD average this year is June 11th.
Speaking at the commemorative ceremony in Lidice, President Vaclav Klaus expressed concern over growing extremism in the Czech Republic and said the authorities should take a much tougher line against its representatives. He said the country’s legislation afforded the means to do so but that some ministers and mayors were unnecessarily cautious in employing those means. Last week the police conducted the biggest ever anti-extremist operation in the country, arresting and charging ten far-right radicals in the process. The interior ministry has promised to provide towns and municipalities with a manual on how to fight various forms of extremism more effectively.
The Czech Republic's largest open-air classical music event - Smetana's Litomyšl International Opera Festival kicked off on Friday evening with a concert featuring works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartoldy and Bohuslav Martinů. The opera festival, now in its 51st year, is traditionally held in the town of Litomysl where Czech composer Bedřich Smetana was born. Among the highlights of this year’s festival is a concert of Italian and Spanish music of the 17th century performed by Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená and a top chamber ensemble of old instruments. The festival will run until July 6th.
The US pharmaceutical company Baxter has started producing a vaccine for the swine flu in one of its plants in the Czech Republic. The firm anticipates that the first batch of vaccines should be ready sometime in August. Full-scale production should be underway in the autumn. The Czech health authorities say they plan to acquire the vaccine for as many people as possible. The EU is recommending that governments acquire the vaccine for thirty-five percent of their country’s inhabitants. In the Czech Republic this would mean 3,5 million people. The Czech authorities currently have anti-viral drugs for 20 percent of the population.
The Czech health authorities are bracing for a possible epidemic of swine flu in the country, after the World Health Organization declared a swine flu pandemic on Thursday. So far only four cases of swine flu have been confirmed, all of them a mild form of the disease that did not require hospitalization. At present there are no plans to restrict travel, although people have been warned to cancel all non-essential trips to high-risk destinations. As EU president, the Czech Republic is cooperating closely with the World Health Organization in planning, coordinating and facilitating measures to contain and mitigate the effects of the disease on a global scale.
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