News Politicians slam Okamura for populist statement
Politicians across the board have denounced last week’s statement by Dawn party leader Tomio Okamura that the hundreds of Romanies who died in the Lety concentration camp were not Holocaust victims as shameful and populist. Mr. Okamura said in an interview for Parlamentnilisty.cz that the term concentration camp was highly misleading since Lety was a camp for people who avoided work and the Romanies who died in it died of old age or illnesses they developed as a result of their migratory lifestyle. The minister for human rights, Jiri Dienstbier, said Mr. Okamura should apologize and retire from politics, while TOP 09 deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek described his words as “disgraceful, bordering on the criminal”. Mr. Okamura’s statement has evoked outrage across the political spectrum, and has also elicited criticism from the head of state. It is being linked to the autumn Senate and local elections with Mr. Okamura attempting to attract votes at any cost.
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Nature lovers descended on the Botanical Garden in Liberec on Monday night to admire the famous Victoria Regia, also known as the queen of the water lilies in bloom. There are only three of its kind on the continent and the Liberec Botanical Garden acquired this specimen thanks to the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh. The Victoria Regia lily is a rare sight and blooms for just two consecutive nights: white the first night, pink the second. After the second night, the flower closes and disappears under the water surface where the seeds ripen. Each plant can produce a number of flowers, but only one at a time. This is the first time that visitors have been allowed into the Liberec Botanical Garden at night in the garden’s 120-year-history.
The Czech military will pay about one billion crowns for the maintenance of its ten W-3A Sokol rescue helicopters between 2015-2021, Defence Ministry spokesman Petr Medek told the CTK news agency. The government is to debate the respective contract on Wednesday. The Sokol helicopters are mainly used in rescue operations, but also for humanitarian evacuations or for the transport of foreign nationals flown to the Czech Republic for treatment within the MEDEVAC programme.
Czech Republic and Austria to re-enforce border patrols in view of growing number of illegal migrants
Security and migration issues dominated the agenda of a meeting between Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec and his Austrian counterpart Johanna Leitner in Mikulov on Monday. In view of the growing number of illegal migrants in Europe the two sides agreed to strengthen security along their common border by re-enforcing joint border patrols and improving communication between local governments. The number of illegal migrants in the Czech Republic is now counted in the thousands, while neighbouring Austria is dealing with tens of thousands of illegal migrants.Since the majority of illegal migrants are crossing the Hungarian-Serb border, the Czech Republic has likewise offered Hungary police officers, technology and finances to help stem the flow.
Representatives of the government, trade unions and employers met on Monday over the government proposed draft budget for 2016. Trade union representatives spoke out in favour of higher investments which would stimulate economic growth arguing that the proposed 70 billion crown deficit could have been higher, but employers expressed approval of the proposed deficit saying that at a time of economic growth there was no reason to increase the gap in spending further. Finance Minister Andrej Babis argues that the proposed 2016 budget is not restrictive and will stimulate the economy while helping to bring the deficit under control. The minister would like to achieve a 60 billion crown deficit in 2017 and a 50 billion crown deficit in 2018.
The Czech Transport Ministry wants to improve conditions for bikers by increasing the number of bike lanes and giving bikers superior rights on some streets. According to a proposed amendment to the road law bikers would have right of way on these streets and cars would have to respect a maximum speed limit of 20 km per hour. This would concern for instance the cobbled winding streets in the city center and in the Old Town where traffic is already slow. The bill is to be debated in Parliament in September.
The internationally acclaimed Czech concert pianist Ivan Moravec has died at the age of 84. Moravec who studied at the Prague Academy of Music and later with Italian masters captivated audiences in New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Prague and Milan. In October 2000 President Vaclav Havel awarded the pianist the Medal of Merit for Outstanding Artistic Achievement. In January 2002 he was honored with a Cannes Classical Award for Lifetime Achievement, an award given by several international music magazines, and appears on a CD of the piano greats of the 20th century.
Nine companies have announced mass lay-offs in the coming months which will put over 500 people out of work, the Czech Labour Office reported on Monday. The lay-offs will affect mainly workers in steel production and engineering. The reasons cited are organizational changes and restriction of production due to loss of assignments.
Sixty people remain hospitalized in connection with the salmonella epidemic in Western Bohemia that broke out over the weekend. 130 people were treated for severe stomach pains, diarrhoea and fever. Hygiene officers traced the infection to a Plzen food company that delivered 140 portions of spaghetti a la carbonara to several companies in the region. The authorities managed to obtain one of the portions and warn that a limited number could still be in storage since their use-by date has not expired. The firm’s employees have all undergone tests, the results should be available on Wednesday.
Around 100 miners from north Bohemia, mainly from the CSA mine run by the company Severni Energeticka, staged a protest outside the Czech government building on Monday calling for the lifting of coal mining limits in the region. Mining limits in north Bohemia were introduced in 1991 as a guarantee for municipalities situated on coal deposits that they would not be pulled down to enable further mining. The question is now being revised by the government in view of its long-term energy strategy. There are four alternatives on the table including a partial lifting of the limits. Industry Minister Jan Mladek said earlier he would be in favour of lifting the limits at the north Bohemian mine Bilan and postponing a decision on the CSA mine until 2020. Miners unions oppose this, saying people in the municipalities have a right to know what their future holds and that hundreds of miners would lose their jobs before a decision was made.
The regional court in Ustí nad Labem has sent a man to 22 years in jail for the rape and murder of a young woman. As a repeat offender he was also ordered to undergo therapy and should remain under observation. The man was detained and convicted thanks to the biggest blanket DNA screening ever undertaken in the Czech Republic. It involved 1,500 men aged between 25 and 35.