The Czech government has decided to allow foreigners to buy farmland in the country when a current exemption on EU free market rules expires in May next year. The government could have sought a further three year transition period banning such sales but was warned by the Finance Ministry of legal problems that could arise if that route was taken. Farmers’ main lobby in the country had asked for the ban to be extended saying local land is still a fraction of the price in Western Europe. Foreigners have already got around the existing ban by creating Czech companies to buy land or find local partners to do it on their behalf. Some estimates say around a third of farmland in the western Karlovy Vary region bordering Germany is foreign owned.
In tennis, Czech doubles specialist Lukáš Dlouhý and partner Leander Paes have bowed out of the season ending ATP World Tour Finals in London. The couple were defeated 6:3, 6:4 by US pairing Mike and Bob Bryan. Dlouhý and Paes were playing in their third world tour finals in succession but it is likely to be their last together as they are switching partners. In the singles, Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has kept alive his hopes of progressing from the group stage at the ATP World Tour Finals in London after beating Andy Roddick 7-5 6-3 on Wednesday. He now must win at least a set against world number one Rafael Nadal on Friday to keep alive some chance of staying in the tournament.
Police have shelved an investigation into a post- war massacre in Ostrava at the end of WWII in which over 200 ethnic German civilians were killed, a report in the daily Pravo said on Thursday. The paper said that police could not continue with the case because there was no one still alive who could be charged with the crime. According to archive material which surfaced in 1997, Germans were tortured and killed at an internment camp in the eastern Moravian city. In some cases camp members were forced to kill each other. Initial investigations into the crimes were dropped after the communist takeover in February 1948.
A woman whose ovaries were removed during an operation at a Prague hospital has been cleared by the Constitutional Court to continue with her claim for damages of up to 100,000 crowns. The court found that her rights were not respected during hearings at three previous courts and said the case should go back to the original Prague court. The woman went into hospital for treatment for a growth and did not give consent to her ovaries being removed. But instructions were given that could happen if infection was found. The woman says doctors failed to set out under what conditions such surgical intervention was necessary.
One of the last members of the Czech 311 bomber squadron which formed part of the Royal Air Force during WWII has died at the age of 90. Group Captain Jan Wiener died at a Prague hospital on Wednesday. Mr. Wiener joined the squadron formed from Czechs who escaped to Britain after the fall of France in 1940. He returned to Czechoslovakia after the war but was imprisoned by the communist authorities after they gained power in 1948. Mr. Wiener emigrated to the US in the 1960’s. He returned home in 1989 and was active in Civic Forum. He later lectured in Czech and Czechoslovak history at New York University in Prague and authored several history books. He was honoured for service to his country by president Václav Havel in 2001.
Around 70 activists for immigrants’ rights groups and immigrants themselves demonstrated in front of a foreigners’ police office in Prague on Thursday morning. The demonstrators were protesting against the current conditions where foreigners often have to wait for a whole day to process some of the papers needed to legalise their stay in the country. They also want to draw attention to the abolishment of the foreigners’ police by the end of the year and its partial incorporation within the Ministry of Interior. The protesters say the change and accompanying loss of staff will make their situation even worse. The ministry says conditions will improve.
The Czech Basketball Federation has confirmed Lubor Blažek as coach of the women’s team for a further two years. The federation’s executive board confirmed the offer to Blažek, the only contender for the post, on Thursday. Mr. Blažek led the women’s squad to an unexpected place in the world championship finals hosted by the Czech Republic in September. The team lost to favourites, the United States. He said he considered stepping down after that success. Upcoming challenges are the European Championships in Poland in 2011 and the Olympic games in London in 2012.
A regional court in the northern city of Ústí nad Labem on Thursday gave a maximum 10 year jail sentence to a Roma youth who brutally assaulted a 12-year-old boy last year. The court upheld nearly all the charges against the 16-year-old accused, including sexual abuse, robbery, blackmail and attempted murder together with his partner in the attack. He was not charged because he was 15 years old at the time. The judge also described the attack as racist. The court heard that during the attack the youth said he would inflict the same treatment as Hitler had done to the Roma population. The court was told that the victim of the attack was given intensive care in hospital and still suffers psychological scars and has to take anti-depressants.
The Czech government has merged CSA Czech Airlines and Prague Airport into one entity, Český Aeroholding. Announcing the decision, the Finance Ministry said the move would create a stable subject with a strong capital position from the two state-run companies. CSA has been in financial difficulties for some time and has been managed since last year by the profit-making Prague Airport. Other airlines have said they are concerned that the airport could give unfair advantages to CSA under the deal.
Czech health minister Leoš Heger announced on Thursday that cuts in payments by insurance companies to hospital doctors for health care would not be as deep as first announced. The minister said 2.159 billion crowns would be cut from the budget next year compared with this. This replaces the earlier sum of 6.0 billion. Mr. Heger said that this should allow hospitals to broadly offer the same level of care next year. The cut in spending to doctors for healthcare is nonetheless the first in the last 20 years. The head of the Association of Bohemian and Moravian Hospitals said there was no reason for budgets being cut. If payments were cut and the same level of service expected, many hospitals would have no option but to cut wages, he warned. This in turn could force more doctors to seek work abroad. Around 4,000 hospital doctors have said they will quit if conditions are not improved in the new year.