Last week’s heavy snowfall in northern Moravia which brought down power lines and left thousands of people without light and heating across the region is estimated to have cost tens of millions of crowns in damages, the CTK news agency reported on Tuesday. The snow calamity has now been called off but in some areas maintenance workers are still clearing away fallen trees and electricity supplier ČEZ has yet to restore power to several hundred homes.
Caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fischer is to present Parliament with his
government’s policy programme and a draft budget for 2010 on Wednesday.
The draft budget is expected to pass smoothly through its first reading in
the lower house after four parties pledged to support it in the first vote.
The 2010 budget proposal envisages a deficit of 163 billion crowns, which is 5.3 percent of GDP, revenues of 1,022 billion crowns and expenditures of almost 1,185 billion.
Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová has said she will check out the credentials of all judges and state attorneys in connection with gross irregularities uncovered at the Plzen law faculty. An investigation by a team of academics recently revealed widespread malpractice including plagiarism and fast-track degrees given to high-ranking civil servants, politicians and others. Those involved in the affair have been sacked but the faculty’s future remains uncertain and the scandal has touched all of the law school’s graduates.
The Czech Supreme Administrative Court has complied with a complaint lodged by environmentalists to whom the power company CEZ refused to disclose information on the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. The court ruled that as a public institution the state-controlled energy giant was bound by law to provide the respective information. The civic group had requested safety related information and the results of an analysis of fuel supplied by the firm Westinghouse.
The Office for the Protection of Private Data has questioned the right of the police to take DNA samples from all criminals, including light offenders. The office claims that police overuse the right to collect DNA samples and do not adequately protect the database. It wants light offenders to be exempted from this practice and is lobbying for a change of the law.
The European Commission has warned Canada to lift visa requirements for Czech citizens by the end of the year or face retaliatory action from the EU. Canada re-imposed visas on Czechs in July of this year, citing a growing number of asylum seekers, and has shown no indication of reconsidering or softening the measure in the foreseeable future. A European Commission spokesman said on Tuesday that unless the problem was resolved by the end of the year, it would act on the solidarity principle and recommend retaliatory action targeting Canadian diplomats and government employees. Even if such a recommendation were made, it would be up to individual member states to decide whether they want to implement it.
The Czech Football Association on Tuesday appointed former Sparta Prague and Real Betis midfielder Michal Bilek the country’s national team coach. The 44-year-old Bilek was assistant to the team’s last coach Ivan Hašek, who announced his resignation a week ago after the Czechs failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Bílek is already the fourth Czech coach this year after Hašek, František Straka and Petr Rada. Bílek, capped 35 times with 11 goals, played at the 1990 World Championships in Italy, after which he moved from Sparta Prague to Real Betis in the Spanish La Liga. With Sparta, he won the top Czech league seven times and was elected Footballer of the Year 1989.
The supervisory board of Czech Airlines is meeting to decide on a definitive plan for restructuring the struggling carrier which made record losses in the first half of the year. The main focus will be on extracting pay cuts from employees and cutting the 4,600 workforce. The government is due to decide by the end of the month whether to go ahead with Czech Airlines' privatisation and accept the sole bid from the Unimex-Travel Service consortium.
In a related development, Milan Kindl, a former vice-dean of the Plzen law faculty has requested an investigation into the affair by an independent parliamentary commission. Mr Kindl, who is one of the central figures in this scandal, claims that the alleged irregularities are being blown out of proportion. The investigation revealed that dozens of graduation theses were missing from the faculty’s library and that over 400 graduates had acquired fast-track degrees, some over a period of two months during the summer holidays.
Slovakia has declared that it will not support Czech President Václav
Klaus’ demand for an exemption from the Lisbon treaty unless the same
exemption applies to it as well. Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák
said the country could not support something that put it at a
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Monday he was convinced a wording
could be found to suit Slovakia.
President Klaus has declared he will not ratify the Lisbon treaty unless he is given a firm guarantee in the form of an exemption from its Charter of Fundamental Rights that Germans expelled after WWII cannot use it to reclaim property. The so-called Beneš decrees that paved the way for these expulsions applied in Slovakia as well with German and Hungarian minorities forced to leave. Slovakia has already ratified the Lisbon treaty with the Czech Republic the last country to do so. Bratislava’s move increases fears that the ratification process could start to unravel.
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