Czech European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra met with visiting Chinese State Councillor Hua Jianmin on Monday. At a news conference following the meeting, Mr Vondra said that the Czech Republic plans to engage China in a dialogue on human rights during the Czech presidency of the EU. Alexandr Vondra said that China was a country with “an improving human rights situation” but progress in this area is slow. According to the Czech European Affairs Minister, the Czech Republic has several concrete ideas how to foster human rights in China. The Czech Republic will assume the EU presidency in January 2009, a year which will mark 20 years since the fall of communism and the country’s return to democracy.
The director of Children at Risk fund Marie Vodičková says she believes sect activities and the sale of video of abused children may be behind a child abuse case linked to Barbora Škrlová, a woman who attempted to pass herself off as a young teenager. Speaking on a TV debate programme, Ms Vodičková said there were indications that Ms Škrlová had been abused herself as a child. The diminutive 33-year-old came to national attention when it was discovered that the woman at the centre of an apparent child abuse ring had attempted to adopt her in the guise of a 13-year-old girl. Ms Škrlová later enrolled in a school in Norway pretending to be a 13-year-old boy; the truth came to light after the “boy” reported having been sexually abused. She is now undergoing psychiatric tests while on remand in Brno. The strange case has attracted a great deal of attention in the Czech Republic and internationally.
There is disagreement in the governing coalition over the possible return
to cabinet of the Christian Democrats leader Jiří Čunek. Prime Minister
Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democrats said on Sunday that the matter
should be resolved by the Christian Democrats and the third member of the
coalition, the Greens. But Green Party leader Martin Bursík said that was
impossible, adding that the prime minister could not take a disengaged
position. Mr Čunek insists he be reinstated as deputy prime minister and
minister for regional development, after an investigation into allegations
he accepted bribes was dropped. However, while Mr Topolánek has signalled
a willingness to allow Mr Čunek back into cabinet, the Greens have
expressed opposition to his return. A meeting of the coalition’s leaders
on Thursday failed to reach agreement on the matter.
Jiří Čunek is no stranger to controversy. Most recently he made headlines for saying Romany culture was incompatible with modern society and calling for extended Roma family networks to be broken up.
A 19-year-old who put the film The Simpsons Movie on the internet illegally has reached an out-of-court settlement with its Czech distributor, the weekly Týden reported. The young man from Kaplice, south Bohemia is to pay CZK 150,000 (over USD 8,500) to Bontonfilm. He had previously been sentenced to nine months in jail and fined CZK 5.5 m but reached an agreement with the distributor after making a public apology. The head of the Czech Anti-Piracy Union, Markéta Prchalová, said the case should serve as a deterrent. The illegal appearance of The Simpsons Movie on the internet received a lot of media attention in the Czech Republic because the film came out here even before it was released in the United States.
The Communists want to prevent the re-election of Václav Klaus as president, though they have not yet decided whether to back his opponent Jan Švejnar, the party’s deputy leader Jiří Dolejš said on Sunday. The Communist Party is the third biggest force in the Czech Parliament and their votes, alongside those of the Christian Democrats, will play a key role in the election due on February 8. Communist leaders have previously suggested they may vote for Mr Švejnar in the first round before putting forward a candidate of their own in the next round. Mr Klaus is a former prime minister and the founder of the Civic Democrats, while Mr Švejnar has spent most of his life in the US, where he is a professor of economics.
Analysts believe the Czech currency is overvalued and will likely weaken slightly in the next few months, the Czech News Agency reported. The Czech crown has recently been setting new records against both the euro and the US dollar. In the immediate future the crown could make further gains, primarily because of purchases by speculators. But Komerční banka analyst Jan Vejmělek said the current strengthening was not sustainable in the long term.
Sobering-up stations are upping their charges because the vast majority of their clients leave without paying, the Czech News Agency reported. The amount drunk tanks charge varies widely. In Kroměříž, for instance, the inebriated have to pay almost CZK 13,000 (close to USD 750) a night. By contrast in Kolín the fee is only CZK 600. Operators say many of those who avail of the service are homeless or foreigners. The world’s first sobering-up station opened at Prague’s U Apolináře hospital in 1951.
A 32-year-old man shot himself dead during a police pursuit in the centre of Prague on Saturday morning, a police spokesperson said. The man fled when he was stopped by officers during routine checks at Masarykovo nádraží train station. He ran as far as the garages of the nearby Palladium shopping centre, where he threatened the police with a gun. After a police officer shot him in the leg the man turned the gun on himself, despite police efforts to talk him out of suicide, the spokesperson said. The incident is being investigated.
The human rights group Amnesty International held a protest against the Guantanamo Bay prison outside Prague’s American Embassy on Friday evening. Protesters dressed as prison guards brought colleagues in orange suits and handcuffs to the US Embassy in order to draw attention to the sixth anniversary of the first imprisonment at the US jail in Cuba, which has been used by Washington as part of what it calls its war on terror. The Amnesty activists called for detainees at Guantanamo to be either tried or released.
Roma rights activists have criticised statements by the chairman of the
Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek, who said Romany family groups should be
broken up in order to weaken family ties which he said prevented them from
integrating. Speaking ahead of a party conference in Prague, he also said
that traditional Romany culture was not compatible with modern society.
Zdeněk Ryšavý of the group Romea said Mr Čunek had made the comments in
an effort to increase his fading popularity.
Jiří Čunek won a seat in the Senate after moving Romany rent defaulters out of the centre of the town of Vsetín, where he was mayor. The controversial politician is demanding to be reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, after an investigation into allegations he accepted bribes at that time was dropped. A poll this week suggested Mr Čunek’s popularity was at a record low.
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