The Czech government has hit back at a European survey which described Czech Roma or gypsies as the most discriminated against in the European Union. Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, Michael Kocáb, said on Monday that the Czech Republic had many Roma intellectuals who knew how to identify discrimination and spread news about it. A study for the European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights said 64 percent of Czech Roma were subject to discrimination during the preceding year and 42 percent subject to criminal attacks. The head of the government’s office for Roma affairs suggested that the situation was worse in Slovakia and Romania where the segregation of the Roma community was more marked.
An investigation into an horrendous arson attack last year in which a baby girl suffered 80 percent burns has been completed. The attack on the house of a Roma family in the eastern town of Vítkov in April last year sparked denunciations of what was perceived as mounting racism. The attack left two old Nátalka in hospital fighting for her life. She was only allowed to leave hospital in December. Four men linked with a far-right extremist group have been investigated for the crime. They have been able to consult the investigation dossiers since the end of last week. Charges could be finalised is February, according to the state prosecutor.
The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb is to present the cabinet with a proposed amendment to the labour code aimed at curbing unauthorized breach of privacy at the workplace. The proposal, to be discussed at Monday’s cabinet meeting, would make it possible for the Labour Ministry to send out inspectors to companies and fine employers for unwarranted breach of privacy. While unwarranted spying on employees is already banned by current laws, there are no effective law-enforcement mechanisms in place.
Czech meteorologists have acquired new software which should allow them to predict the weather with far greater accuracy in future, Saturday’s Mladá fronta Dnes daily wrote. The advanced software is expected to prove particularly useful in predicting flash floods such as those that devastated parts of Moravia in June of last year. According to experts the new software is able to predict rainfall and storms with great accuracy enabling the authorities to issue advance warnings to the respective communities.
Czech NGOs have raised just over 47 million crowns (over 2.5 million dollars) in aid to earthquake survivors in Haiti. The money is being used for medicine, shelter and deliveries of food and clean water supplies to survivors. The NGO People in Need has sent a team of Czech doctors and nurses to Port-au-Prince to help in the humanitarian effort. In addition to that, the Czech government has earmarked 20 million crowns in aid, most of which will be used in the reconstruction process.
President Vaclav Klaus is scheduled to meet with his one-time rival and former prime minister Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle on Tuesday. Mr. Zeman, who left the Social Democrats in 2007, established a new political party late last year and announced his decision to run in the spring general elections. Mr. Zeman’s Party of Citizen’s Rights is being presented as a viable alternative to the Social Democrats, which its former leader has increasingly criticized. Commentators note that it is most unusual for President Klaus to receive heads of small, non-parliamentary parties and view the meeting as a mark of respect for his one-time rival.
The Environment Ministry is planning to declare the Krivoklát region, south-east of Prague, a protected nature reserve. The process will involve a ninety-day period in the course of which towns and municipalities in the region may voice their objections. After that the proposal will be officially presented to Parliament for approval. The Krivoklát region is one of 38 areas that are included in the NATURA 2,000 network which affords biodiversity-rich areas special protection. The ministry expects to meet with some degree of public opposition since the status of a protected nature reserve would bring a number of disadvantages for regional development, business and construction.
Four Czechs escaped unscathed from a fire that ravaged a mountain chalet in the Austrian ski resort of Gerlosberg. The fire is reported to have spread from a stove on the ground floor and the chalet was completely destroyed despite the fact that sixty firefighters fought the blaze. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
The Czech Republic is experiencing a bout of severe cold with nighttime lows dropping to minus 25 degrees Celsius, and day temperatures hovering around minus 10 degrees. The cold snap is due to a cold front moving across Europe from Siberia, which is expected to influence the weather in central Europe for at least another week. The sub-zero temperatures have claimed three more victims -two homeless people froze to death overnight in Prague and a sixty-three year old man is reported to have died of cold in his unheated home in Ostrava.
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