Representatives of European history institutes on Friday signed an agreement on the establishment of a Platform of European Memory and Conscience, in the presence of the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The platform should coordinate the study of totalitarian regimes in Europe and help the respective countries come to terms with the past. The new platform will have its main seat in the building of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague and should also be represented in Brussels.
Romany rights activist Stanislav Daniel said at the conference that the government had neglected the minority’s problems for years closing its eyes to discrimination of Romanies on the job market and in the sphere of education. He also said it was a mistake to give people welfare benefits without asking them to devote time to community service in return.
Ladislav Bátora a high-placed controversial civil servant at the Education Ministry has announced his resignation from the post of deputy chancellor. Mr. Bátora who has come under heavy criticism for his ultra-right, nationalist views said he could no longer respect his promise not to comment on political affairs and indicated he wanted to be actively engaged in public life. Mr. Bátora who precipitated a government crisis with some of his remarks earlier this year and was forced to leave his post as head of the ministry’s human resources department has been accused by the ruling TOP 09 party of “spreading fascist views”. In 2006 he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the lower house running on the ticket of the extremist National Party.
A Czech science and social studies textbook for second graders has been selected as Best European Textbook of the Year at the Frankfurt Book Trade Fair. The international jury also awarded a special prize to an interactive geography textbook for 9th graders. Twenty international publishers with 40 textbooks took part in the competition.
The Višegrad group states also warned the Ukrainian leadership that its EU hopes could suffer as a result of the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Prime Minister Nečas said that while the Višegrad group supported Ukraine’s pro-western orientation, it was hard to imagine the EU ratifying an association agreement with Ukraine while the country’s opposition leader was imprisoned. On Tuesday, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for having transgressed her powers as prime minister.
Romany representatives from around the Czech Republic held a national conference in Brno on Friday. They agreed on the establishment of an organization which would represent the minority in talks with government officials, parliament deputies and local authorities. The grouping is expected to form the basis of a future party. Calls for a Romany party have strengthened in the wake of growing racial tension in the north where a high unemployment rate and rising crime have triggered a wave of anti-Romany sentiment. Some municipalities have moreover created a system of residential and social policies that essentially displace Romanies to the community’s outskirts. According to available statistics there are around 400 slums in the Czech Republic with an estimated 80,000 inhabitants, predominantly from the Roma minority.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Friday presented 13 people with the Gratias Agit award for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Among this year’s laureates were contemporary British playwright Sir Tom Stoppard who helped Czech dissidents and writers in the communist era, British composer and pianist Karel Janovicky, promoter of Czech classical music and Ivor McElveen from Ireland, the founding director of the Czech-Irish Trade Association.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said the Czech government will not set a target for euro adoption. Speaking after Friday’s meeting of the Višegrad group in Prague, Mr. Nečas said the latest developments in the eurozone indicated a shift from a monetary alliance to a debt union, which did not invite further expansion. The eurozone’s debt crisis was one of the main issues on the agenda of a meeting of heads of government of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in Prague. Slovakia alone was represented by its ambassador after the collapse of the country’s government earlier this week over its failure to approve the expansion of the Eurozone rescue fund.
Czech Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil has formally confirmed his decision to dismiss Prague High State Attorney Vlastimil Rampula. Prague's top prosecutor was fired in July of this year for foot-dragging on key corruption cases and shelving others without good reason, but appealed the minister’s decision in court. The court ruling went against him and the minister’s decision is now final.
Politicians have welcomed the news of Mr. Bátora’s resignation stating that it was long overdue, although they did not approve of the manner of his departure. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek from TOP 09 noted that it was absurd for a civil servant to call a press conference in order to announce his resignation. The head of the Green Party Ondřej Liška said that Mr. Bátora had abused his position at the ministry for his own political ends, while Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka noted that Mr. Bátora should have been sacked weeks ago and both the prime minister and education minister had lost credit for failing to deal with the situation adequately.
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