The lower house has approved the government’s pension reform, overriding the Senate’s veto of the bill. The legislation, which should take effect next year, introduces a so-called “second pillar” of the pension system which will open the way for transfers of money from the state pension system to individual accounts in private insurance companies. People will also be able to transfer three percent of their social security insurance to private pension companies on the condition that they add two percent on their own. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized the second pillar for serving only a select group of rich clients. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka has said his party would scrap the second pillar when it came to power.
The Pirate party, right-of-centre TOP 09 and the extremist Workers´ Party of Social Justice would win the Czech regional elections if it were up to secondary school students. Nearly 22,000 students from 170 secondary schools across the country took part in the mock elections, organised by the NGO People in Need. In the student vote, the Pirate party won 20 percent, TOP 09 received 15 percent, and the extremist Workers´ Party of Social Justice received 10 percent. Analysts say the vote reflects a strong anti-establishment sentiment.
The Prague High Court on Friday upheld a three-year prison sentence for businessman Tomas Pitr for tax evasion and an illegal transfer of shares. Pitr appealed the length of the sentence despite the fact that he will only have to serve 12 months, having already spent two years in custody. Pitr was found guilty in 2010 of having damaged the Agrocredit company, robbing them of shares worth 700 million crowns.
The lower house of Parliament has voted to give up MP David Rath for criminal prosecution in another case of suspected corruption. This case relates to manipulated tenders and dubious purchases at a number of central Bohemian hospitals. The motion was supported by 174 out of 185 deputies present. The former central Bohemian governor who is in custody facing corruption charges in connection with an alleged seven million crown bribe asked to be given up saying he wanted to clear his name in court. He has accused the centre-right government of organizing a well-orchestrated smear campaign ahead of the autumn elections.
A Czech soldier serving in Afghanistan is reported to have been seriously injured in Friday’s missile attack on the Shank operating base in Logar province. The soldier, who is on the provincial reconstruction team, was airlifted to a military hospital in Kabul where he is in the care of Czech physicians. There are currently some 300 Czech soldiers and civilian experts working at the base.
The London Booster, a 1957 red double-decker bus fitted with giant hydraulic arms, which attracted crowds doing push-ups in front of the Czech Olympic House in Islington has arrived on Prague’s Old Town Square. The work of Czech artist David Cerny is to be part of a weekend happening celebrating the country’s Olympic achievements. After that it will be dismantled and reassembled on the premises of Agrofert Holding the firm which bought the Olympic artefact. The public will be able to view it again on the firm’s premises in late October.
The mayor of Ostrava, one of the most polluted cities in the country, has called on the EU’s environment commissioner for help in resolving the situation. Mayor Petr Kaynar says the town is prepared to invest in a long-term strategy to improve the environment, particularly the quality of air, but would like the problem to be addressed on a broader scale. The mayor says that according to several independent studies most of the air pollution plaguing the town originates in neighbouring Poland. Health statistics show that the air pollution in the eastern part of the country, particularly Ostrava, has resulted in a growing incidence of asthma and allergy problems.
Culture Minister Alena Hanáková has dismissed the head of Prague’s National Theatre Ondřej Černý. A spokesman for the ministry said Mr. Černý had received a terse notice of dismissal on Friday morning saying there had been no mention of why he was being sacked. Minister Hanakova’s deputy Martin Sankot will run the theatre until a new head is appointed. Černý’s mandate would have expired in March of 2013.
Two people have died of alcohol poisoning and three others remain in serious condition after consuming cheap brandy bought from a street stall in the Moravian town of Havirov. Police have confiscated several barrels of the suspect drink which was sold on tap and are questioning the salesman. Warnings are being issued to the public not to buy cheap liquor in the street until the incident has been investigated.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is expected to undertake a working visit to the United States later this month, a Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday. Mr. Schwarzenberg is expected to travel to the United States on September 20th and a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been scheduled for the next day. The Czech foreign minister will later travel to New York to attend a session of the UN General Assembly.
New foreigners’ law to change conditions for non-EU nationals
Czech foreign ministry reports record number of visa applications
Restaurant tells visitors to “clear their plates” or pay a 50 crown fine for wasting food
New index shows locations with best quality of life in Czech Republic
Archaeologists unearth rare Renaissance-Baroque brew house in ‘Czech Paradise’