Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek will meet U.S. ambassador to Prague Richard Graber next Friday to discuss some controversial passages of the annual report on human rights that was published by the U.S. Department of State earlier this month. The report mentioned that Mr Čunek was forced to step down as a minister over alleged bribe-taking during his term as the mayor of Vestín, a town in North Moravia; it also highlighted Mr Čunek’s forced resettling of several Roma families out of the town. After the Christian Democratic leader criticized the report for lack of accuracy, the U.S. ambassador offered to meet Mr Čunek to discuss the issue. The U.S. Department of State report on human rights was also criticized by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek; he said that a country which allows the torture of prisoners could hardly preach about human rights breaches in the Czech Republic.
Prague City Hall officials disbanded a nationalist demonstration in the centre of the Czech capital on Saturday. The demonstration of around 20 people was held by the extremist National Party to protest alleged discrimination of the country’s white majority. City officials disbanded the demonstration on the grounds that the organizers had not complied with the agreed terms. Representatives of several ethnic groups in the Czech Republic said they considered the event to be a provocation aimed at inciting hatred towards members of the country’s ethnic minorities.
Several Czech chain stores, including a Tesco supermarket in Prague, offered fake chocolate Easter bunnies, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. Instead of chocolate, the popular Easter bunnies were often made of cheaper ingredients, including camel and sheep food. Information on the ingredients, which is required by the Czech law to appear on each product, is often illegible or appears in very small print to deceive customers. Some confectioners claim that chain stores are pushing the prices of goods so low it is impossible to use real chocolate.
The Czech Communist Party will propose a referendum on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. The party’s deputy chair Jiří Dolejš said on Friday that the Communists would submit a proposal to this end to Parliament’ lower house next week because they believed citizens themselves should decide on the Treaty, rather than the Czech Parliament. The communist proposal is not expected to succeed as other parties had already announced they wanted Parliament to ratify the new EU treaty. The ruling Civic Democrats, however, are considering approaching the Constitutional Court to find out whether the Lisbon Treaty does not contradict the Czech constitution.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will ask the government to recognize independent Kosovo at the cabinet’s next session on April 2, the daily Právo reported on Saturday. Mr Schwarzenberg had already said the government would recognize Kosovo sooner or later; he is now planning to recognize the former Serbian province before the NATO summit in Bucharest, held at the beginning of April. President Václav Klaus however remains reserved towards the issue. During his recent visit to Slovakia, Mr Klaus warned of international recognition of Kosovo for fears that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence might set an example for separatist groups elsewhere in the world.
A Prague-based museum of pop music, the Popmuseum, will open an exhibition on Wednesday which will focus on the communist persecution of rock music during the 1980s. The exhibition, entitled “New Wave with Old Contents”, marks 25 years since the publication of a party-line article, under the same heading, denouncing rock musicians in communist Czechoslovakia as primitives managed by “western diversion agencies”. During a campaign that followed, many Czech and Slovak rock and alternative bands were banned; others had to change their names to be able to continue performing in public.
Several NGOs called on Czech officials on Saturday to reconsider attending
the Olympic Games in Beijing in case China refuses to start peace talks
over Tibet. People in Need, M.O.S.T., Lungta, Potala and other Czech
non-governmental organisations also asked the Czech Olympic Committee to
publicly guarantee that during the summer Olympic Games, Czech athletes
will be able to freely express their opinions on human rights breaches in
China and Tibet. Several Czech politicians, including the Green leader
Martin Bursík, Education Minister Ondřej Liška, and Prague Mayor Pavel
Bém, had already said that they would not attend the Olympic Games 2008 in
In related news, former president Václav Havel and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, together with four international personalities, signed a statement calling on the international community to increase pressure on China in connection with the protests in Tibet. The statement calls on the Chinese government to enter into a dialogue with the Tibetan people and release all those who were arrested.
Czech Social Democrats propose to lower criminal liability in case of a murder, brutal attack and other violent crime from 15 to 14 years. The current age level for less serious offence should remain the same. According to Social Democratic deputy Jeroným Tejc the number of young people committing heavy crimes has been on the rise and the new penal code should reflect this change. The party has also proposed to give children over 14 the right to decide with which of their parents they want to stay with in case they divorce.
The Czech Republic and Vietnam are likely to set up an expert group dealing with problems related to issuing work visas to the Czech Republic. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has announced the plan after meeting his counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung during his three-day visit to Vietnam. The expert group should deal with petty crime such as forging documents in order to prevent unregulated and unchecked immigration. The number of Vietnamese applicants for long-term visas in the Czech Republic keeps increasing. In 2006 the Foreign Ministry registered over 7,000; last year the figure rose to over 14, 000.