The Czech European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Vladimír Špidla has said the current recession is increasing the social exclusion of Romanies throughout the European Union. He made the statement at an EU Presidency meeting focussing on Romany integration on Friday. According to the commissioner, constructive measures to allow new opportunities were needed, stressing the new measures on education, housing, and employment needed to be tailored specifically to the Roma community. The newly-established platform is to focus on the issue of integration; this year, the EU set aside five million euros for the pilot project.
The outgoing Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has announced he will push for the founding of a council of specialists to help tackle extremism in the country. Speaking to journalists on Friday, the minister said that the public was underestimating rising extremism and anti-Romany sentiments. According to Mr Kocáb, the council would include politicians, representatives from the Roma community, sociologists, historians, lawyers and others. The aim - he made clear on Friday - was to generate vocal and positive discussion on the issues. Since last year the country has seen a higher number of far-right demonstrations, the latest in Ustí nad Labem last weekend. Saturday also saw an attack against a Romany family which shocked many in the country. Police are investigating whether it was racially-motivated.
A controversial art show at a Prague gallery – depicting Nazis wearing the Star of David instead of swastikas – was shut down on Thursday within half an hour of opening, following protests by Jewish leaders. The exhibition, by a Polish artist, featured a giant poster and eight large-format photos. Frantíšek Banyai, the head of the Jewish community in Prague, charged the images were strongly anti-Semitic in character. The artist, operating under an assumed name, reportedly wanted to protest Israel’s role in the Palestinian conflict. The controversy has come at a time the Czech Republic has seen renewed debate over right-wing extremism.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said that the European Union’s position on the radical Islamist party Hamas will not change. He made the statement at a joint-press conference in Ramallah, in the West Bank on Thursday after meeting with the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad. The Czech Republic currently holds the EU presidency and has tried to play a role in diffusing tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Thursday, Prime Minister Topolánek made clear the EU was now waiting for a new Israeli strategy – one that could emerge during an upcoming visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu.
The Czech police arrested former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in Prague after he arrived in the Czech Republic on Friday. The former Klan leader had been invited by far-right extremists and was meant to lecture at an undisclosed location during his visit. Police said they made the arrest on the suspicion the American supported and promoted movements aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. Originally, the former KKK head was to lecture to students taking a course on extremism at Prague’s Charles University but the university banned the move earlier this week. A number of Czech politicians, including the country’s interior minister and the minister for human rights and minorities, had expressed concern over Mr Duke’s visit.
Ludmila Brožová-Polednová - the former Czechoslovak communist prosecutor who was recently sentenced to six years behind bars for judicial murder - has lodged a constitutional complaint asserting that procedural mistakes accompanied her trial, the news website aktualne.cz reported. Mrs Brožová-Polednová, who is 87, is serving her sentence in the Světlá nad Sazavou prison, east Bohemia. Her defence lawyer said that the panel of Supreme Court judges that turned down her appellate review request were biased, the website said. The defendant was sentenced to prison by the High Court in Prague last September. In late February the courts rejected her request for her stay in prison to be postponed over poor health.
The Czech prime minister-designate, Jan Fischer, has wrapped up a series of meetings with candidates for ministerial posts in the country’s planned caretaker government. The technocratic government, agreed upon by the two main parties in Parliament - the Civic Democrats and Social Democrats, together with the Greens – will lead the country until October, when the country will see early elections. After meeting with the candidates, the prime minister-designate met on Friday with President Václav Klaus, to inform him of developments. The president has confirmed he will name the new government to office on May 8.
The manager of the London football club Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, has admitted that a return date for injured Czech midfielder Tomáš Rosický remains unclear. That has led to broad speculation the 28-year-old, who has been out of action since January 2008, might never return to the team. Rosický, who has captained the Czech national side and remains one of the Czech Republic’s most respected players, suffered a injury last year that has continued to baffle doctors. The player has undergone two knee operations but been unable to return to the pitch. Some sources have suggested Rosický’s future with Arsenal could be further threatened following an explosive start by fellow player Andrey Arshavin.
Police have confirmed that a blaze last Saturday, which left a two-year old girl fighting for her life, was arson. The attack took place on a family home in the town of Vítkov in the north-east of the country. So far, the police say they have evidence that three Molotov cocktails were used. They are searching for the perpetrators. Targeted in the attack were eight members of a Romany family; of the three hurt, the little girl was the most seriously injured, suffering severe burns to 80 percent of her body. She remains in critical condition. Her parents also suffered burns but their injuries were not life-threatening. On Thursday, Michael Kocáb, the outgoing Minister for Human Rights and Minorities visited the mother in hospital. He described what had happened to the family as a horror and terrorist attack.
Three firms have made it into the next round of a huge tender to deal with extensive environmental damage resulting from the communist era. At around CZK 115 billion (over 5.5 billion dollars), the contract is one of the biggest ever offered by the Czech state. The companies in the running are Geosan Group, Marius Pedersen Engineering and Environmental Services, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday.