- The Czech Republic will try to secure its participation in future euro zone summits.
- An agreement was signed in Prague on Friday sealing the transfer of the Galileo Supervisory Authority to the Czech capital.
- The Czech Foreign Ministry has dismissed criticism from the EC that it is making excessive demands on foreign applicants requesting a residence permit in the country.
- Hackers attacked the website of the Czech government as well as that of a Czech copyrights holders association on Thursday night.
- A court in Ostrava has sentenced a former Social Democrat deputy to five years in prison for fraud.
Czech Republic will seek to participate in euro zone summits
The Czech Republic will try to secure its participation in future euro zone summits. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Friday it would be good for the country to be involved and for its voice to be heard even if it was not yet a euro zone member. The centre-right Czech government on Wednesday approved a 1.5 billion euro loan to the IMF to help contain the debt crisis in the euro zone and gave conditional approval for the Czech Republic to join the emerging fiscal compact, a process that would either have to be ratified by Parliament or in a national referendum.
Agreement on Prague hosting GSA signed in Prague
GSA head Carlos des Dorides and Czech Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš on Friday signed an agreement on moving the headquarters of the Galileo Supervisory Authority to Prague. The European Union’s planned Galileo satellite navigation system is meant to give the EU its own worldwide navigation system, similar to the US GPS and Russia’s GLONASS. Galileo is due to begin basic operations in 2014, and ultimately to offer 32 satellites covering the globe.
The Czechs lobbied hard for the opportunity to host the headquarters of the new navigation system, and Czech firms are expected to benefit for instance by taking part in the development of signal receivers or applications for Galileo. The transfer of GSA staff to Prague is expected to begin in May.
Foreign Ministry: country not violating EU directive
The Czech Foreign Ministry has dismissed criticism from the EC that the country’s approach to foreign applicants requesting a residence permit violates the EU's directive regarding the free movement of people. Among others, the EC has expressed objections to the policy of asking residence permit applicants to prove that they have secured accommodation in the country.
The EC says this is not in harmony with the free movement directive that all EU states were supposed to transpose in their legislation by April 2006 and has threatened to file action against the Czech Republic over its alleged failure to observe the said directive. The Czech Republic has two months to react to the criticism. If Brussels finds Prague's response insufficient, it may hand the issue over to the European Court of Justice, which may impose sanctions on the country.
Hackers attack Czech government and copyrights holders association website
Hackers attacked the website of the Czech government as well as the online presence of OSA, a Czech copyrights holders association, on Thursday night. Both websites were up and running again by Friday morning. Behind the attack are hackers associated with the activist group Anonymous, which has been targeting websites of such organizations as the FBI, the White House and various record labels and copyrights holders in a reaction to a recent blocking of the online content sharing service Megaupload.com. The loosely organized group Anonymous has been linked to attacks around the world aimed at punishing governments for policies they disagree with. The attacks on Czech websites are believed to be connected to the Czech Republic signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Tokio on Thursday. The agreement aims to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcements.
Brno students to protest against planned reforms
University students from Brno’s six leading universities have called a street march for February 1 st to protest against planned reforms to the university education system. The planned changes which have come under fire from the academic community include the introduction of tuition fees and state-guaranteed loans and far-reaching changes to how Czech universities are run. Critics say that the reform will choke academic freedom in favour of business and politics. Similar protests have taken place in Prague.
EC suspends EU subsidies to Czech Education Ministry
The European Commission has suspended the payment of EU subsidies worth an equivalent of 1.2 billion crowns to the Czech Education Ministry, according to the news site Česká pozice. A recent EC audit revealed mistakes in the placing of public orders in the Education for Competitiveness Operational Programme with a budget of 53 billion crowns. However Czech Radio said on Friday that the recipients of the subsidies would not lose the money since they had already got it from the state budget. Education Minister Josef Dobeš claims that the problems revealed by the audit are purely technical and would be resolved within three months.
Former MP gets five year sentence for fraud
A court in Ostrava has sentenced a former Social Democrat deputy to five years in prison for fraud. The court found that while serving as an MP Petr Wolf embezzled 11 million crowns in grant money which he obtained by providing false information regarding the respective firms and projects. His wife was served a two-year suspended sentence as an accomplice. This is the first time in the country’s modern history that someone has been sentenced for engaging in corrupt practices while serving as a member of Parliament.
Czechs consider local elections of utmost importance
Czechs view local polls, from which town councils and assemblies emerge, as the most important type of elections, and they consider elections to the European Parliament the least important of all, according to the results of a poll conducted by the STEM agency and released on Friday. Second and third most important are elections to the chamber of deputies and presidential elections. The perceived importance of elections to the Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, has been rising. STEM says people’s views on the importance of various elections have not markedly changed in the past decade.
Repeat offender given life sentence
The Supreme Court has served a repeat offender found guilty of murder and attempted murder on two counts a life sentence. A life sentence is the maximum punishment an offender can get under Czech law. The man, who has already spent twenty years of his life in jail, has a record of theft and violent crime. Most recently he was found guilty of murdering a taxi driver for money and putting fire to his car to cover his tracks, and attempting to murder two women–in both cases for financial gain. The verdict cannot be appealed.
Šediváčkův Long dog sled race underway
The 16th annual dog sled race called Šediváčkův Long is underway in the north- eastern Czech Republic. Almost 100 mushers from eight countries with some 500 dogs are competing in the race which is considered one of the toughest on the European continent. They have to overcome 240 kilometres in deep snow and freezing condition in the Orlické hory mountains in just four days. Competitors also have to spend one night sleeping in the snow.
The coming weekend is expected to bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with more snow and day temperatures dropping to minus 3 degrees. Night time lows can reach minus 15, though in some places as much as ten degrees lower. Thursday night’s lows in the Sumava mountains –in the south of the country –reached a record minus 29 degrees Celsius.