The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has said that Czech politicians should take part of the blame for the Romany exodus that has led Canada to re-impose visa requirements on Czech nationals. He said that local politicians had played the Romany card for their own political gain and had worsened already strained relations between the majority population and the Romany minority. He cited, among others, Jiří Čunek, former mayor of Vsetin in north Moravia, and Ivana Řapkova mayor of Chomutov, north Bohemia, as cases in point. Both took a hard line with Romany rent defaulters, moving them to inadequate housing facilities on the town suburbs or confiscating their welfare allowances.
The Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia said on Wednesday its second unit had been reconnected to the grid after nearly a three-month planned shutdown during which experts reconstructed the low pressure turbines and upgraded the fuel charging machine. They also took a series of technical measures to enhance the reliability of the equipment. The power plant was to raise the unit's output to 80 percent in the course of the day. The first unit is running at planned output.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has called on the Civic Democratic Party to publicly distance itself from the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom party and the Polish Law and Justice party with which it has allied itself within the new right-wing faction in the European Parliament. Paroubek said the Latvian nationalist party supported the annual marches of veterans of Latvian SS divisions and the Polish party held the view that homosexuality was an illness. The Social Democrat leader said that at a time of growing extremism an alliance with such parties was scandalous. Civic Democrat MEP Jan Zahradil rejected the accusations, saying they were an attempt to discredit the new right-wing faction in the EP which was a thorn in the flesh of many politicians.
Czech President Václav Klaus on Wednesday criticized the EU for curbing the Czech Republic’s option of retaliation after Canada imposed visas on Czech nationals. He said the difference between the Czech Republic and Canada in this dispute was that Ottawa was free to make its own decisions while Prague’s hands were tied. It is Brussels that will decide for us, the president said. Mr. Klaus is a fierce opponent of the Lisbon treaty which he has so far refused to sign, saying it threatens Czech sovereignty.
Nearly a fifth of Czech firms are considering moving their headquarters or production abroad and most of them are looking to the East mainly due to the cheaper labour costs, according to a poll conducted by the Czech Business Chamber among some 800 firms. Others are considering a move to countries such as Great Britain or the Netherlands in search of more advantageous tax legislation and a generally more friendly business environment. Companies that are feeling the pinch of the crisis have registered a drop in demand and are trying to find other ways of cutting costs. The textile, clothing and glass industries are particularly hard hit by the strong crown and cheap competition from Asia. For example, matches producer Solo Sirkárna has already relocated its production abroad and Koh-i-noor Sušice, a leading Czech pencils producer, has moved to Asia.
Czech Social Democrat MEP Libor Rouček was elected one of the 14 deputy presidents of the European Parliament on Tuesday, at the assembly’s constituent session. Mr. Rouček, who joined the European Parliament in 2004, has been active on the EP’s foreign committee. The ctk news agency says Czech representatives are unlikely to win any other influential posts in the EP. The fall of the Mirek Topolánek centre-right government in March has moreover complicated the country’s chances of getting an influential post in the European Commission. The bid for a portfolio and talks on a suitable candidate have been put on ice until after the early general elections in October.
The ombudsman Otakar Motejl has said overcrowding in Czech prisons could lead to an increase in tension and violence. In a report posted on his official website, he warned against a reduction in the number of employees in the Czech prison services. Mr Motejl said overcrowding could threaten the rehabilitation aspect of incarceration. The ombudsman’s office monitored the situation in Czech prisons at the request of the head of the country’s prison services.
The head of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, has reacted angrily to criticism he has faced over a trip he made to Moscow last month. He was reported to have held talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin without informing Czech diplomats in Moscow or the foreign ministry in Prague. In a statement, however, Mr Paroubek said that the Czech embassy in the Russian capital had not offered him any help. He said that they could at least have seen Mr Putin at close quarters, which the Czech ambassador Miroslav Kostelka had not often done during three years in Moscow.
Czech MEP Edvard Kožušník arrived in Strasbourg on Tuesday for a plenary session of the new European Parliament on a bicycle, before entering the chamber in cycling gear. It had taken the Civic Democrat politician 13 days to make the 850 km-plus journey. Mr Kožušník said he had undertaken the long ride to raise interest in the new anti-federalist group in the European Parliament that the Civic Democrats helped found with the British Conservatives and Poland’s Law and Justice.
The Christian Democrats have signed a pre-election pact with the European Democrats under which the two parties will contest early elections in October together, their leaders Cyril Svoboda and Jana Hybášková said in Prague on Tuesday. Candidates from the relatively small European Democrats are set to appear on the lists of the Christian Democrats, who are currently the fourth biggest party in the lower house. Some senior figures from the Christian Democrats recently left to form a new party, TOP 09.
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Czechs observe day of mourning for pop idol Karel Gott
Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott