The 16th annual conference Forum 2000 opens in Prague on Sunday evening, the first to be held without its founder, the late ex-president Václav Havel. In accordance with his wishes the tree-day event will examine the relationship between the media and democracy. The conference will also address key aspects of Václav Havel´s legacy and discuss ways to build upon it. More than a hundred policymakers, intellectuals and journalists will participate in open discussions dealing with these issues. Among the participants this year are the Czech-born former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the head of Tibet's exiled government Lobsang Sangay, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Suzana Grubješić and former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans.
TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg has said he is satisfied with the two seats his party won in the senate elections. The TOP 09 leader noted that in view of the fact that his party was established just over three years ago the four seats it now has in the Senate can be regarded as a success. The party’s two new senators are Jiří Šesták from the Ceske Budejovice constituency and Ludek Jěništa from the Benešov consitutency.
Analysts say the constitutional majority of left-wing parties in the Senate may slow down reforms but will not influence the country’s overall direction. Unicredit Bank analyst Pavel Sobíšek said the left-wing parties§ strengthened position in the upper chamber would start to be important if the same result were attained in the lower chamber after the next general elections. At present the Senate can only veto bills which the lower house has the power to override. Although the result of the Senate elections has further polarized the two chambers of Parliament there are no fears that this could influence investors who are far more sensitive to the political make-up of the lower house.
Government officials, former dissidents, family and friends on Sunday attended the unveiling of a plaque to Zdeněk Urbánek, novelist, translator, Charter 77 signatory and a close friend of the late Vaclav Havel. The plaque was unveiled on the 95th anniversary of Zdeněk Urbánek’s birth and placed on the Prague building where he lived and worked. His former home, a frequent meeting place of Czech dissidents, is linked to the birth of Charter 77. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Defence Minister Alexander Vondra, actor Pavel Landovský and other close friends of Zdeněk Urbánek from the dissident years.
Senators for the Social Democratic Party will file a complaint to the Constitutional Court against the introduction of electronic S-cards for pensions and welfare benefits. Speaking shortly after the party’s election victory in senate elections, party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said this would be one of the first of many government steps the party would try to get revised. The new S-card system has evoked enormous controversy, with critics pointing out that pensioners living in small villages may have problems getting to a money machine and would inevitably lose money on the transaction from their already meagre pensions. Senators moreover point out that people will be forced to have an account at Česká Sporitelna -selected by the government to run the operation - even if they already have an account elsewhere.
France’s Areva has appealed against ČEZ’s decision to exclude it from a 10 billion dollar tender for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. The state-owned French company addressed all the reasons given for its exclusion and said its offer was the most competitive. ČEZ has 10 days to review Areva’s appeal and publish its decision. In the event of a rejection, Areva would be entitled to file a complaint to the Czech anti-monopoly office, which would have 60 days to review the case. Areva was rejected from the tender for allegedly failing to meet legislative and commercial requirements. Westinghouse Electric Corp. and a Russian-Czech group led by Rosatom Corp.’s unit ZAO Atomstroyexport are still competing for the deal to build two more nuclear reactors at Temelin. ČEZ should choose the winner in mid- 2013 and sign a final contract with the respective company by the year’s end.
Czech left-wing parties have secured a constitutional majority in the
Senate, the upper house of Parliament. Elections took place in 27
constituencies in which the Social Democrats won 13 seats, the Communist
Party won in one constituency and a candidate for the centre-left party of
Citizens Rights of Milos Zeman also got one seat in the upper chamber.
brings the overall number of left-wing senators in the upper house to 49.
The second round of elections to the Senate was another crushing disappointment for the ruling Civic Democrats who entered the second round with 13 candidates but only won four seats, bringing the overall number of Civic Democrat senators to 15, the lowest ever. Prime Minister Petr Necas said the Civic Democrats should accept the defeat with humility and analyze its cause. He thanked voters for not strengthening the role of the Communists who went into the second round of elections with 12 candidates but only won 1 seat. The rest of the constituencies are divided among small parties and independents.
The daily Mlada Fronta Dnes has accused Labour and Social Minister Jaromir Drabek of lying to the public when he promised that the newly introduced electronic system for paying out welfare benefits would also be used for pensions. The paper says that an agreement on the so called S-cards between the ministry and the Česká Spořitelna bank clearly states that the cards will serve to pay out pensions as well. The new S-card system has evoked enormous controversy, with critics pointing out that pensioners living in small villages may have problems getting to a money machine and would inevitably lose money on the transaction from their already meagre pensions. In the wake of last week’s election defeat the prime minister said the system would have to be revised, but Mlada Fronta Dnes points out this will not be at all easy since it would not only require a change of legislation but moreover the bank would almost certainly take the matter to court.
Air pollution is reported to have worsened severely in parts of Moravia and Silesia overnight with the concentration of dust particles in the air far exceeding permitted norms at 13 of 15 monitoring stations. According to data from the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute the concentration of harmful substances in the air is more than double the permitted norm in Ostrava and Karvina where the authorities have advised elderly people and children to stay indoors as much as possible. The situation is being closely monitored by city hall which has the right to call a smog alert and ask industrial plants to scale-down production.
An article in Friday’s edition of the daily Právo which claimed that 60 percent of the Roman minority are unemployed by choice and are not looking for work has elicited a stormy debate and given rise to fresh anti-Roma sentiment. The paper published the figure citing the government’s agency for social inclusion as its source. The agency in turn cited the World Bank as its source and noted that the figure only reflected the situation in the worst affected areas around the country where Romanies live in utter social exclusion and have often given up on finding work. Despite the revision, the article has aroused deep public discontent with close to 800 readers taking part in an online debate that was in part vulgar and racist. One reader said he was considering taking the paper to court for inciting anti-Roma sentiment.
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