- Prime Minister Petr Nečas has defended the Czech refusal to join the EU’s fiscal compact in the lower house of Parliament.
- The Social Democrats have called on the prime minister to apologize for stating that the party would block a Senate vote for direct presidential elections.
- The Czech Education Minister is set to present 35 new projects aimed at improving the Czech school system.
- Sparta Prague’s deputy manager Lukáš Přibyl was found dead in his office on Thursday.
- The Czech soccer player David Bystroň has tested positive for doping.
Prime Minister defends Czech refusal to join EU fiscal compact in lower house of Parliament
Prime Minister Petr Nečas presented his reasons for not signing the EU’s planned fiscal compact in the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. He said that the government had given him limited authority to sign the compact. For this reason, he was not able to give a clear “yes” or “no” at the EU summit in Brussels, where 25 out of 27 EU member states signed the new treaty, which aims to establish greater fiscal responsibility across Europe. The prime minister added that since the final draft of the treaty had been negotiated at the summit, it would not have been possible to analyze its consequences prior to signing it. However, he noted that nothing stood in the way of the Czech Republic being able to sign the fiscal compact at a later stage. Aside from the Czech Republic, the only EU member to not sign the treaty was the UK.
The Czech refusal to join the EU’s fiscal compact sparked a verbal crossfire in the government. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg slammed Mr. Nečas’s decision, stating that he had damaged the country’s interests.
Social Democrats call on prime minister to apologize for statement regarding direct elections
The Social Democrats have called on Prime Minister Petr Nečas to give them an official apology for his claim that the party, which has a majority in the Czech Senate, would be trying to block a legislative change that paves the way for direct presidential elections. The head of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, announced at a news conference on Thursday that what the prime minister had said was not fair towards the party and the country’s citizens. The Social Democrats were long-time supporters of direct presidential elections, he added.
On Wednesday, the Czech Senate had approved an amendment to the country's constitution introducing direct presidential elections. A total of 49 out of 81 Senators voted in favor of the new legislation. Once signed into law by President Václav Klaus, the bill will allow Czechs to elect their president directly for the first time next year when Mr Klaus's second term expires. Among those who said that they would consider running for president are Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, former prime minister Jan Fischer and economist Jan Švejnar.
Education Minister to present 35 new projects to improve school system in Brussels
Education Minister Josef Dobeš will be presenting 35 new projects aimed at improving the Czech education system in Brussels on Friday. Through these projects, the ministry could receive up to six billion Czech crowns, or 240 millon Euros, in EU funds. By presenting new ways of modernizing the Czech school system, Mr. Dobeš is reacting to attacks from the opposition, which had accused him of badly administering EU-funded projects and not doing enough to win EU funds for the country’s education system.
The EU had slammed two of the ministry’s projects for lacking a clear budget plan and allocating excessive funds to promotion. Mr. Dobeš came under fire after the European Commission had frozen funding of the two projects. Both projects and the problems connected to them will be a topic of discussion in Brussels on Friday.
Czech Republic reclaims Mendel paper from Germany
The Czech Republic has reclaimed a precious document hand-written by the famed founder of new genetics, Gregor Mendel. Mendel wrote the document, titled “Experiments on Plant Hybridization” and considered a seminal work of genetics, at the Augustinian monastery in Brno in 1865. Thanks to prolonged diplomatic efforts, the Czech Republic was able to gain the seminal paper back from Germany. Among the parties claiming rights to the document were Austrian, Czech and German authorities, as well as the descendants of the Austrian scientist and the monastery in Brno, where he had worked on the seminal paper. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is set to present Mendel’s paper to the public on Thursday afternoon.
The European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of Czech property restitution plaintiff
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favor of the late František Oldřich Kinský, who had filed a complaint regarding disputes with the Czech state over the restitution of family property. According to the verdict, Mr. Kinský had not been given a fair trial in the matter. The European Court ruled that the Czech Republic is to pay the man, who was a member of one of the oldest Bohemian aristocratic families, a sum of 10,000 Euro in damages and an additional 3380 Euro to cover his expenses connected to the case. The Czech Republic has three months to appeal the decision.
Mr. Kinský, who died in April 2009, had filed at least 157 restitution claims with an alleged value of 40 billion Czech crowns with Czech courts. The property had been taken from Mr. Kinský’s family in the wake of World War II on the basis of the Beneš decrees due to the family’s alleged collaboration with the Nazis.
Police: Technical school in Most breeding ground for right-wing extremists
According to the head of the Most police, the town’s secondary technical school has become a breeding ground for right-wing extremists. The police chief from the town in the Ustí nad Labem region expressed concern over the fact that between ten and fifteen of the school’s students regularly participated in events organized by right-wing groups. The school’s management has admitted that there are problems with some students. Last year, a mass fight between ethnic Czechs and Romanies had occurred near the school, where some 1200 students are enrolled.
Poll: President Václav Klaus’s public approval declines
A fresh survey by the Public Opinion Research Center finds that current President Václav Klaus has been loosing public approval. According to the poll, only 58 percent believe that the Czech president does a good job representing the country abroad, a drop of nearly 20 percentage points as compared to last year’s result. In addition, 70 percent of respondents believe that he lends dignity and seriousness to the post, a drop of ten percent as compared to 2011’s survey. Only 45 of those polled said that they appreciate Mr. Klaus’s influence on national policy.
Deputy Sparta manager Lukáš Přibyl found dead in his office
Sparta Prague’s deputy manager Lukáš Přibyl was found dead in the football club’s stadium on Thursday, the daily Právo writes on its website. According to the daily, police found the body of the 33-year-old man in his office on Thursday afternoon. He had a scalp laceration and bruises on his neck. Third-party violence cannot be ruled out, police said. Criminal investigators are currently at the scene of the incident. An autopsy will most likely reveal further details regarding the cause of his death, investigators said.
Czech soccer player David Bystroň, tests positive for doping
Soccer player David Bystroň, who currently plays defense for FC Viktoria Plzeň, has tested positive for doping and has been banned from playing for two years. The disciplinary committee of UEFA, the European football association, announced its decision to disqualify him from playing on Thursday. The 30-year-old soccer player had been tested at a November Champion’s League match; the blood sample was analyzed in January. Allegedly, traces of methamphetamine were found in his blood.
Moravia plagued by smog
The north-eastern parts of the Czech Republic on Thursday morning reported worsening air pollution problems. The most affected areas include the regions of Ostrava, Olomouc and Brno, where pollution limits have been exceeded. Meteorologists have declared smog alerts in the areas of Třinec, Ostrava and Karviná, calling on the largest industrial polluters to scale-down production. Elderly and sick people as well as children are advised to limit their time outdoors.
Record temperature low forecast for Saturday night
Night temperatures in the Czech Republic’s mountainous areas are expected to drop below -40 degrees Celsius in the night from Saturday to Sunday. Meteorologists said that temperatures could even drop below the country’s lowest recorded temperature of -42.2 degrees. Frosts are also expected to hit in lower altitudes, with temperatures of up to -25 degrees forecast for Prague on the weekend. Harsh weather conditions hit the country last week; next Monday, temperatures are expected to rise above zero again.
Harsh weather conditions with frost and arctic temperatures are set to continue, with daytime highs ranging between -8 and -4 degrees Celsius.