The Czech Republic has become the first of the 27 member states of the EU to hold an official event to launch the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. The European Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Špidla and the Czech Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Petr Šimerka attended Friday’s launch in Prague. According to data from the European statistics office Eurostat, 17 percent of the EU’s population is living in poverty.
An employee of a company that provides snow-clearing services died after falling 12 floors from the roof of an apartment building while he was working on Friday. Police and the man’s colleague tried to provide first aid but the man, who was 33, died on the spot. Police said that the incident, which occurred in a suburb of the north Moravian city of Ostrava, was more than likely an accident.
Eight Czech citizens have been found guilty by a court in Strasbourg of aggravated procuring. The eight, who were operating out of France, received jail terms of between one and eight years. Further details regarding the case are not known, the Czech News Agency reported. In March of last year, a similar case made headlines. A former Czech model and a French photographer were suspected of operating a crime ring involved in trafficking high-end prostitutes. The case is still being investigated. French police regularly look into cases of prostitutes being trafficked to France from Eastern European countries.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski discussed the European Union, bilateral relations and the global financial crisis with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer in Prague on Friday. At the start of a two-day visit, Mr. Kaczynski had held talks with Czech President Václav Klaus on Thursday. The two heads of state criticized the EU’s response to the earthquake in Haiti as not proactive enough, while Mr Klaus presented his counterpart with the highest Czech honor, the Order of the White Lion. Mr. Kaczynski, meanwhile, gave Poland’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit to Czech Minister of Culture Václav Riedlbauch. The Polish president’s final official meeting was with Prague mayor Pavel Bém, who gave him a symbolic key to the city on Friday afternoon.
The Czech Republic’s team for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next month will be the biggest ever, with 88 members. Among the country’s main medal hopefuls are the speed skater Martina Sáblíková and the cross country skier Lukáš Bauer. While the Czech Olympic Committee has set the financial rewards it will give team members who win medals in Canada, officials admit they would not have sufficient funding to pay the ice hockey team if it wins gold in Vancouver; however, they say they are hopeful a sponsor could be found to cover any such shortfall. The Winter Olympics get underway on February 12.
The Vinselekt Michlovský in Moravia was the biggest winner at the Prague Wine Trophy awards, where it picked up 11 medals. The competition, which organizers say is the biggest of its kind in the Czech Republic, gave out over 300 medals; over 1000 wines were submitted to the competition this year. Awards were handed out on Friday afternoon, at a tasting gala at Prague’s Břevnov monastery. The competition is one of many wine-related events happening during the Prague Wine Week, which is taking place for the second time this year.
According to data published by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic, Czech women visit doctors considerably more often than men. The study, which is based on a population sample of over 2000 people, suggests that Czech women visit general practitioners and dentists one and a half times as often as men. As far as visits to specialists are concerned, the gap is even more pronounced: women see specialists more than twice as often as men do. Mortality rates for cancer, heart attacks, and strokes are higher for Czech men than for Czech women.
After the birth of another Golden Takin, the Liberec zoo now boasts six of the endangered goat-antelope species. The Golden Takin is native to China, and the zoo in Liberec is the only zoo outside of that country and Japan that displays members of this endangered species. The baby was born to parents Adam and Eva, two older Golden Takins that were imported to the Czech Republic from China in 2002.
The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has suggested updating the Czech labor law to crack down on employers who don’t respect the privacy of their employees. The new law would make it possible for inspectors of the Ministry of Labor to search companies for hidden cameras and spying software installed on employee’s computers. In addition, the ministry could fine employers if they breach their employees’ privacy. While unwarranted spying on employees is already banned by current laws, some employers take advantage of their authority to spy on their staff.
The results of a Eurobarometer poll published on Thursday suggest that Czechs trust EU institutions more than they trust their own government. This despite the fact that few respondents had a clear idea about how the EU functions. The poll revealed that 60 percent of Czechs trust the European Parliament and the European Commission while the Czech government got a 37 percent trust rating and the Czech Parliament a mere 15 percent. Sixty-three percent of Czechs think EU membership has benefited their country. Experts say the high level of trust in EU institutions stems from the fact that many Czechs are hoping that strict EU norms will improve the Czech environment.
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