President Václav Klaus will offer an official invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Czech Republic on the occasion of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in 2013. Many in the Catholic Church have hoped for an official invitation since the pontiff’s last visit to the Czech Republic in September of 2009. On that occasion he was accompanied throughout his weekend visit by President Klaus. The president had what he called a warm meeting with members of the Czech Bishop’s Conference on Tuesday, after which he also said that he saw no problems with the property settlement proposal being ironed out between the government and the church.
The Czech Republic has launched a new visa information system to enable speedier exchange of information within the Schengen area. The new system will require visa applicants to produce their biometric data, such as photographs and fingerprints, at Czech consulates abroad. In the first phase the new system will be applied in Northern African countries and later elsewhere. Data on short-term Schengen visas for up to 90 days and transit visas will be processed via the VIS, which will be linked to other member states with the aim of improving safety in the EU.
Citizens in the restive North Bohemian town of Varnsdorf are asking the government for stricter crime measures. A committee petitioning for the resignation of municipal leaders sent a letter to the government on Tuesday asking for the age of criminal responsibility to be lowered from 15 to 14, that parents bear criminal liability for their children and that a central registry of misdemeanours be introduced. They also want the financial threshold for felonies to be lowered from 5,000 to 2,000 crowns. The citizens are responding to what they say is a sharp increase in crime related to a recent influx of Roma.
The European Union has approved the ratification of a Czech exemption to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The exemption was demanded by President Václav Klaus in 2009 as he postponed his signing of the EU Lisbon treaty, his argument being that Sudeten Germans could otherwise make legal claims on Czech land. The exemption is to be ratified together with the accession of Croatia to the EU. However, it could still be blocked by the opposition Social Democrats, who currently control the Senate.
Czech hockey goalie Tomáš Vokoun, playing in his first match for his new team the Washington Capitals, described the game against Tampa Bay as his “worst in five years”, Mladá fronta Dnes has reported. The seasoned goaltender – who won the World Championship with the Czech team in 2010 – allowed two goals on the first three shots and altogether Tampa led four times in the game before Washington tied it, forcing overtime. Vokoun then kept his cool during the scoreless extra period and during the penalty shots (saving one) to see Washington win 6:5. Afterwards he was praised by the coach for “mental toughness”. Washington also won its first game of the season two days earlier: 4:3 against the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime. Fellow Czech Michal Neuwirth had netminding duties during that match.
The number and volume of acts of insurance fraud is estimated to have reached record levels this year. A survey conducted by the Czech Press Agency among the major insurance companies in the Czech Republic suggests that insurance investigators in the three largest companies have uncovered hoaxes worth roughly 450 million crowns in the first three quarters of 2011 alone. That result is only slightly short of the volume of fraudulent claims for the year 2010 altogether. As in recent years, most of the cases involve automobiles, property insurance and liabilities.
More money went into science and development last year than at any time since 1993, the Czech Statistical Office reports. Nearly 60 billion crowns, or 1.6% of GDP went into the sectors in 2010, mainly due to private companies, which invested nearly 30 billion. An entire quarter of expenses from the entrepreneurial sector went towards development in the automobile industry; other important industries were machine engineering and pharmaceuticals. Most of the money, 25 billion, went into experimental development followed by applied research at 18 billion. Compared with other states the Czech Republic put more money into science than Italy or Spain and three times less than Austria.
The Czech Republic will not recognise the conviction of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and is deeply disappointed with the verdict, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told journalists after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg that the conviction of Tymoshenko will harm relations between the European Union and Ukraine. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday for having transgressed her powers as prime minister. The court ruled that she must also cover damages of roughly 200 million dollars incurred by the state energy company Naftogaz through Russian gas import contracts she signed in 2009. The Foreign Ministry said the trial did not respect international standards for a fair, transparent and independent legal process.
Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš has rejected an offer from the new private rail company RegioJet to take over express transport on the Prague-Brno line, according to RegioJet owner Radim Jančura. The company, which is the first to rival the state-run monopoly Czech Railways, announced its interested last month, saying that unlike Czech Railways it would run the service without state funding. RegioJet began operating three trains daily on the Prague – Ostrava line in late September. In the future the company intends to increase the connections to 18 a day.
Former Public Affairs MP Jaroslav Škárka is considering joining a new party led by former prime minister Jiří Paroubek. Mr Škárka, who has accused top Public Affairs member Vít Bárta of corruption and was expelled from the party, told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes that he has been meeting with Mr Paroubek and that his decision would rest on the party’s programme. He is currently an unaffiliated MP. Last week, Jiří Paroubek left the Social Democratic Party, which he headed from 2006 to 2010. He is currently in negotiations to lead a revamped Czech National Socialist Party, which has struggled for voter attention since the revolution.
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
Gunman kills six patients in Ostrava hospital, two more fighting for their lives
Czech teenager builds second-largest ever Millennium Falcon LEGO model
Press: Era of 100-crown lunch special is over, as food prices rocket
Misha Glenny: Organised crime is an important part of Czech economy – and corruption is its twin sibling