- Prime Minister Petr Nečas has expressed support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
- Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe has arrived back in the Czech Republic to defend himself on charges of manslaughter.
- An internal audit at the Energy Regulatory Office suggests former employees may have illegally upped the prices of electricity from solar plants.
- The government will review its strategy in combating social exclusion.
- Labour offices report an influx of clients in the wake of the presidential amnesty.
Turkish prime minister in Prague
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has expressed support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Following talks with the visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr. Nečas said Prague fully supported Ankara’s ambition to become a fully-fledged member of the alliance on condition that Turkey fulfills the respective admission criteria. The Turkish prime minister welcomed the stand saying Turkey had been standing outside EU gates for more than 50 years and that the delaying of its admission further was unforgivable. This was in reference to the view of some EU members that as a Muslim country Turkey should be offered a close partnership rather that fully-fledged membership.
Talks between the two heads of government also covered business and security matters, among others the role of the Czech armed forces in helping to guard the Turkish border against possible attacks from Syria.
Randy Blythe in court
Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe has arrived back in the Czech Republic to defend himself on charges of manslaughter. The singer who was arrested in the summer of last year and later released on bail is suspected of having pushed a fan off the stage during a 2010 concert in Prague, inflicting grievous head injuries resulting in death. The frontman told the court on Monday that he recalled pushing a fan in a skirmish but claimed the man got up and walked away after the incident. If convicted of manslaughter Blythe could face up to 10 years in prison. The victim’s family has also asked for ten million crowns in compensation.
Solar energy prices may have been illegally upped for years
An internal audit at the Energy Regulatory Office (ERU) suggests former employees may have illegally upped the prices of electricity from solar plants. ERU chairwoman Alena Vitaskova said the audit’s findings indicate that in the years between 2005 and 2011 solar energy prices were not set within the bounds of the law, incurring damages worth tens of billions of crowns. The public prosecutor’s office is looking into the matter. A number of employees who reportedly tried to withhold information and boycott the audit have been sacked.
President-elect to meet with leading politicians
President-elect Miloš Zeman is to hold talks this week with the country’s leading politicians. On Tuesday he will be meeting with the outgoing president, Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Meetings are also being scheduled with the heads of all parliamentary parties. According to the CTK news agency Mr. Zeman has refused to meet with the newly-established junior governing party LIDEM on the grounds that it did not gain legitimacy in parliamentary elections.
Government to revise strategy in combating social exclusion
The government will review its strategy in combating social exclusion, according to the government’s human rights commissioner Monika Šimunková. Plans to gradually close down the existing network of practical schools (previously known as special schools) attended by a large number of Romany pupils is to be revised after a wave of protests from parents and teachers. Over 76 thousand parents and teachers have signed a petition opposing the plan on the grounds that practical schools are important for children with learning disabilities and called on the government to seek other ways of combating discrimination against Romany children. The government will now focus largely on the work of advisory boards which are instrumental in sending children to practical schools on the basis of tests and interviews in order to make sure that only children with serious learning problems, not socially disadvantaged children, are placed in such institutions.
Court sets price on judicial error
A Prague court has ordered the justice ministry to pay Jan Šafránek 4.8 million crowns in compensation for a judiciary error that sent him to prison for a crime he never committed. Šafránek was found guilty of rape in 1992 and spent a year in jail before the police uncovered the true culprit. He is suing the state for 32 million crowns. The verdict is not yet legally binding and both sides may appeal.
Labour offices under siege in wake of amnesty
Labour offices report an influx of clients in the wake of the presidential amnesty. According to data released by the labour ministry 4,500 amnestied prisoners have filed for immediate and long-term social support at labour offices around the country. Prisoners released from jail are eligible for immediate financial support to the tune of 1,000 crowns and regular unemployment benefits thereafter, if they fulfill the respective conditions.
IKEM numbers revealed
The head of the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in the Czech Republic (IKEM) Aleš Herman on Monday revealed the number of transplants the clinic conducted in 2012: a total of 396 organs for 373 recipients. The institute’s aim, Mr Herman told journalists, was to become the national transplant centre, but he warned that finances were a problem. According to the institute’s director, not all procedures last year were covered by the insurance companies and the institute had to cover 160 million crowns in losses from other programmes. Mr Herman is in talks with the health ministry as well as insurers to try and find a solution. Last year the institute conducted the highest number of liver transplants, among both children and adults, and kidney transplants, in its history, as well as transplants of the heart and pancreas.
Lack of qualified foreign language teachers
An inspection at Czech primary schools has revealed a serious lack of qualified foreign language teachers. According to the Czech School Inspectorate over a quarter of the language teachers teaching at primary schools around the country lack proper qualification and fail to give students a good grounding in the second language of their choice. The inspectorate says this is a serious problem especially since in line with the new curriculum a second foreign language will be an obligatory subject in the new school year. Students generally pick English or German as a second language, followed by French and Russian.
Čech to miss friendly against Turkey
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech will miss the Czech Republic's friendly against Turkey on Wednesday due to a broken little finger. The goalie sustained the injury during Chelsea's 3-2 loss to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday. Czech coach Michal Bilek said Jan Lastuvka of Dnipropetrovsk will replace him for the friendly, while Hamburg goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny has been called up to the squad.
The coming days should bring overcast skies and sleet or rain showers with day temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius.