People who were thrown out of work for political reasons under the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia could receive compensation, under a new bill put forward by Social and Civic Democrat deputies. The bill passed in a first reading on Friday in the lower house. If the bill comes into law, those eligible could receive compensation of up to 2,500 crowns per month; it is estimated that the overall programme would annually cost the state 100 million crowns. Legislators would like to see a final reading before the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on November 17.
The Czech Republic’s European commissioner Vladimír Špidla has said that Czech President Václav Klaus has ignored his constitutional duty regarding the signing of the Lisbon treaty. In an interview for the ČTK news agency on Friday, Mr Špidla suggested that the document should already have been signed, given it has been approved by both houses of Parliament. Mr Klaus, a well-known eurosceptic, has made no secret of his opposition to the treaty; he is now waiting now for a Constitutional court ruling - as well as for the outcome of the Irish referendum - before taking any next steps. In his interview for ČTK, the EU commissioner Vladimír Špidla called the country’s delay “incomprehensible”. He also said that a group of senators who came forward with a recent constitutional complaint appeared to be purposely postponing the ratification process. The Lisbon treaty has to be approved by all 27 EU states to come into effect.
The Czech internet news site iDnes has reported that the Czech military is planning on buying two sets of Ravens - remote-controlled miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (MUAV) - from the US firm Aero Vironment for 20 million crowns. The sale is to take place by the end of November, the site reported. The sale covers six planes, including logistics. The planes are to be deployed with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) now operating in the province Logar, a military spokesman said. The Ravens are compatible within NATO, can be launched easily, and at full speed can fly up to 95 kilometres per hour. They are used largely for reconnaissance missions.
The new Canadian ambassador to Prague, Valerie Raymond, has said that although Canada remains committed to re-establishing visa-free relations with the Czech Republic, it will not be lifting its visa requirement for Czechs for the time being. The ambassador confirmed Canada’s position in an interview for the Czech news agency ČTK. She stressed that what was important for visa-free relations, was to avoid situations in the future where the country was again hit by large numbers of asylum claims. Such a wave from the Czech Republic led to the current visa reinstatement in July. The ambassador also indicated that Canada was looking into the efficiency of its own asylum system. Czech politicians wanted Canada to conclude a treaty on safe countries of origin which would all but preclude the granting of asylum to Czech citizens. But the ambassador said that Canadian legislation did not allow for such an agreement, pointing out that under its own laws Canada had a legal obligation to hear every refugee claim on its individual merits.
Part of an apartment building under reconstruction in the centre of Prague collapsed on Friday, with three floors caving in on an inner courtyard. Rescue crews – with the help of sniffer dogs – are trying to find four construction workers thought to be buried in the rubble. All four were working on the highest floor of the building. It was otherwise empty. So far, the only evidence of those trapped within are two construction helmets fire fighters uncovered in one area. Rescuers are operating under difficult conditions, carefully digging their way through the rubble to try and find the trapped workers.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said that the government should select its candidate as new EU Commissioner by October 20. Mr Fischer was speaking after meeting with the Christian Democrats’ nominee, Pavel Svoboda. Czech political parties are currently advancing different names to fill the plum position. The Social Democrats want current commissioner and former prime minister Vladimír Špidla to stay on in the post. The Civic Democrats have voiced support for former European Affairs minister Alexandr Vondra. But Fischer insisted that it was the government’s job to make the selection.
Czech industrial production fell by 8.1 percent in August compared with the same month a year earlier according to preliminary figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Thursday. In July, the fall was 18.2 percent. New orders were down by 13.8 percent in August compared with August 2008, the office added. Most analysts have greeted the figures as surprising good, indicating that industry is stabilising after its dramatic falls due to the economic crisis.
Minister of Education Miroslava Kopicová has called for schools to give greater priority to teaching modern history. She says lessons tackling the history of totalitarian regimes would make pupils more sensitive to attacks on democracy and human rights and help counter extremism. The recommendations are directed at primary and secondary schools. The call for more attention and more imaginative teaching of recent history in Czech schools has been made in the past by some history teachers themselves as well as leading Czech historians.
The Freedom Train commemorating the 20th anniversary of the departure of thousands of East Germans to West Germany from the then Czechoslovakia left Prague’s main railway station on Thursday morning. The train will retrace the historic journey with a group of former East German refugees on board. This time around it will stop at stations in what was the former communist German Democratic Republic before arriving in the Bavarian border town of Hof. Thousands of East Germans camped out in the grounds of the West German embassy in Prague in the autumn of 1989 before being given permission to leave for the West on September 30, 1989.
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