- The Czech National Bank has agreed to release funds for a 1.5 billion-euro loan to the IMF approved by the government on Wednesday.
- The European Commission has threatened legal action against the Czech Republic due to its restrictions on free movement.
- The Czech capital has failed to secure a billion crown EU subsidy for the reconstruction of a water plant.
- According to a landmark ruling by Prague’s city court, homebirths should be covered by medical insurance.
- Police have found the body of a Brno judge who hung himself in his office inside the regional court building.
Czech National Bank approves 1.5 billion euro loan to IMF
The board of the Czech National Bank on Thursday approved a 1.5 billion-euro loan to the IMF as part of the EU’s efforts to contain the debt crisis in the euro zone, according to a report by Czech Television. The board made it clear that it would release the funds only on the condition that the Czech Parliament approves government guarantees for the loan, part of a 200 billion euro package to rescue the single European currency.
In December, EU leaders agreed to lend 200 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund in an attempt to ward off the bloc’s debt crisis. The EU asked the Czech Republic to contribute some 3.5 billion euros to the loan; an amount deemed too high by the country’s cabinet.
European Commission threatens legal action against Czech Republic due to restrictions on free movement
The European Commission on Thursday threatened to take legal steps against the Czech Republic due to the restrictions it poses on the free movement of EU citizens. According to the commission, a current policy under which foreign EU nationals have to present a confirmation of accommodation to Czech authorities in order to establish temporary residence in the country is against the EU directive on free movement. Member states were ordered to implement this directive by April 2006. The Czech Republic has been given a two-month time frame to respond to the European Commission. Should it find the response unsatisfactory, the commission may take the case to the EU’s court, which could result in sanctions being posed on the Czech Republic.
Prague fails to secure billion-crown EU subsidy for water treatment plant
Prague will not be able to secure a billion-crown EU subsidy for the reconstruction of a water treatment plant, a city councilor announced Thursday. Prague was hoping to finance the 11 billion crown reconstruction of the plant with about 5.9 billion crowns from the EU’s Operational Program “Environment”. Officials from the European Commission discussed the Czech effort to win the subsidy with officials from the country’s Environment Ministry and Prague’s city council on Thursday. According to the European Commission, the Czech capital cannot be considered for the subsidy since the validity period of a contract Prague previously signed with a water management company is too long. The Czech capital has been trying to win the subsidy for ten years. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda commented on the failure to secure the subsidy, stating it confirmed the city council’s fears and that a new solution needed to be devised.
Court: Women entitled to have costs for homebirths covered by health insurance
Women living in the Czech Republic who would like to give birth at home rather than in a hospital are entitled to a midwife covered by medical insurance, according to a landmark ruling by a Prague city court. The ruling was spoken in the case of a pregnant woman who asked the court to intervene after Prague’s Motol hospital had failed to provide her with assistance for her homebirth. While the plaintiff gave birth before the verdict was spoken, the ruling judge decided in favor of the woman, stating that giving birth at home was a right that had to be protected by the state. The ruling calls on the Ministry of Health to introduce a new set of regulations that will facilitate homebirths, which have been labeled dangerous by the ministry as well as gynecologists’ associations. However, ministry officials have said they are not planning to change the legislation.
In January, a group of expectant mothers and midwives announced they would sue the Czech Republic at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over home births on grounds that they are not covered by medical insurance and midwives face administrative obstacles which effectively prevent them from doing their jobs.
Brno judge hangs himself inside court building
A judge of the Brno regional court on Thursday committed suicide in his office. According to a police spokeswoman, the man’s body was found in his office inside the court building and did not show any signs of third-party violence. Police have declined to further comment and are investigating the case. According to information from the news agency ČTK, the judge had worked in the area of criminal law.
State attorney’s office presents corruption charges against former transport minister
The state attorney’s office has filed charges against former transport minister and de-facto leader of the junior coalition partner Public Affairs Vít Bárta. According to the public prosecutor, Mr. Bárta is accused of attempted bribery of former Public Affairs senior MP Kristýna Kočí. In connection with the case, independent MP Jaroslav Škárka, formerly of the Public Affairs party, is also facing charges for allegedly having used part of the bribe money. If found guilty, Mr. Bárta and Mr. Škárka could face up to six and three years in prison, respectively.
While both Mr. Bárta and Mr. Škárka as MPs had immunity from criminal prosecution, the lower house of Parliament voted to strip them of their immunity in August of last year. The corruption scandal within the junior coalition party brought the government to the brink of collapse and led to the resignation of Mr. Bárta following allegations of bribery and vested financial interests in April of last year.
Šluknov region mayors slam government agency for social inclusion
Officials from the Šluknov region in northern Bohemia, where racial tensions have been building for years, have slammed the government’s agency for social inclusion. The mayors of the region’s biggest towns met with MPs on Thursday to discuss the escalating situation, stating the agency had done little to improve social problems in Varnsdorf, Rumburk and other muncipalities across the region. Public Affairs’ leader Radek John told the press that at the very least, the way the agency is organized will have to be reconsidered. Currently, it has an annual budget of 25 million Czech crowns. Šluknov’s mayor Eva Džumannová also criticized the agency’s 100-point strategy aimed at fighting social discrimination, which was approved by the government in September. The document, drafted in a reaction to the demonstrations and violent incidents in the region, proposed measures that were downright absurd, she said.
Demonstrations, escalating violence and high unemployment in the Šluknov region made headlines last summer. Due to a series of demonstrations and growing tensions between Romanies and locals, police maintained a heightened presence in the region for weeks.
Prague city court deals ten-year prison sentence to man charged with brutal rape
A Prague city court has dealt a ten-year prison sentence to a man charged with brutally raping a woman in the center of town. The incident happened last September after the victim had asked the man for directions. He is charged with raping her repeatedly over the course of three hours in a house entrance not far from Wenceslas Square. Although the girl had shouted for help, no one called the police. The victim is currently in psychological care. Court psychiatrists have stated that the defendant is most likely a repeat offender. The verdict is not final and can still be appealed.
Police arrest two men accused of running meth lab
Police in the town of Šumperk, in the Olomouc region, have arrested two men suspected of producing methamphetamine, a police spokesperson reported Thursday. The two suspects, aged 36 and 40, were producing methamphetamine out of an apartment and distributed it across the region. One of the men had been convicted to 18 months in prison for drug charges last year but had not yet started serving his sentence. He now faces up to ten years in prison; the other suspect faces a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
Kvitová knocked out of Australian Open
World’s number two Petra Kvitová lost to Russia‘s Maria Sharapova 2:6, 6:3, 4:6 in the semi-finals of the Australian Open on Thursday, and was knocked out of the first Grand Slam event of the season. The Czech player, seeded second in the tournament, was tied with the Russian after two sets; in the third, Kvitová was 40:15 ahead in the seventh game but lost. Her double fault in the tenth game then gave Sharapova two match points the first of which she converted. Kvitová’s loss also for the time ends her hopes of becoming world’s number one; the spot will be contested by Maria Sharapova and Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open final.
The coming days should be overcast with some sunny periods. Daytime highs will range between -4 and 0 degrees Celsius.