The Dalai Lama is set to attend a Forum 2000 conference in Prague next September, the organisers have announced. The last time the Tibetan spiritual leader was in the Czech capital was in December 2011, when he held a meeting with the former president, Václav Havel, shortly before his death. The two had been friends and Mr. Havel frequently invited the Dalai Lama to Prague. Forum 2000, which was founded by Mr. Havel and others, brings together leading international thinkers for a series of debates. Next year’s edition will be the 17th.
The lower house of Parliament has passed a bill which will raise the salaries of judges and state attorneys. The bill, which sets a legal framework for the calculation of salaries in 2013, was passed under an accelerated mechanism known as legislative emergency, in view of the fact that the current system has been abolished by the Constitutional Court as of the end of the year. Under the draft proposal, which still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, judges will receive 2.7 times the average wage in the public sector.
Civic Democrat MP Roman Pekárek, who has been jailed for five years for corruption, says he will not give up his seat in the Czech lower house until he has exhausted all legal means of fighting his sentence, the news website ihned.cz reported. However, he cannot appeal a verdict handed down on Tuesday in connection with bribe-taking over a land deal. Mr. Pekárek only entered Parliament recently, when another member of his party resigned. He is set to receive an MP’s salary while in prison, though the Civic Democrats have proposed annulling the pay of convicted deputies.
A former general director of Czech Radio, Václav Kasík, has died at the age of 65. After first working at what was then Czechoslovak Radio as a freelancer in the 1980s, Mr. Kasík headed the station from 1999 to 2009, when he was dismissed, partly in connection with a renovation of its main building on Prague’s Vinohradská St that was over-budget. Originally a musician, he was named director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2010, a position he only held for three months.
The expropriation of property in connection with the mining of mineral resources such as coal will no longer be possible, after the Czech lower house overturned a veto by President Václav Klaus. This confirmed an amendment to the law on mining that did away with the use of eminent domain in such cases. This is good news for communities in North Bohemia that had faced the threat of being forced to move, and a spokesperson for Greenpeace said they could not have received a better Christmas present.
The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday approved changes to the Czech Republic’s VAT rates that will come into effect next year. The Senate had previously rejected the plan to raise the basic VAT rate to 15 percent and the higher rate to 21 percent. The legislation now goes before the president, Václav Klaus, who has criticised the change. If Mr. Klaus does veto it, a previously approved single VAT rate of 17.5 percent would come into effect in January, raising the prices of foodstuffs, medicines, health supplies and other items. At present the country has VAT rates of 14 and 20 percent.
Joan Baez sang at an outdoor memorial to Václav Havel at Prague Castle on Tuesday evening, in one of a series of events commemorating the first anniversary of the late president’s death. The US folk musician, who had appeared with Mr. Havel in the Czech capital on the 20th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution, led a sing-along of We Shall Overcome. Baez had previously been in Prague three months ago to take part in the ceremonial launch of Forum 2000; her programme this time around includes event linked to the launch of a Czech-language version of her memoirs.
Forty-one percent of babies born in the Czech Republic in 2011 were to unmarried couples, according to official figures released on Wednesday. The percentage of babies born outside marriage has been growing since the end of 1970s, but has accelerated in recent years. Parents have also been getting older, with the 30 to 34 age category the most common for mothers last year. Around 17 percent of babies were born to women of 35 or older.
Local authorities in the Czech Republic are set to receive the power to impose a three-month residency ban on individuals who repeatedly commit selected misdemeanors, such as prostitution, drinking alcohol or begging in spots where such activities are forbidden. At present, only courts can impose residency bans. The new powers will not relate to places where perpetrators have permanent residence. The lower house narrowly approved the Civic Democrat-submitted legislation on Wednesday, overturning a veto by President Václav Klaus; he described the measure as populist and possibly unconstitutional.
Coalition and opposition politicians have called on MP Roman Pekárek to vacate his seat in the lower house without delay. Under Czech law an MP cannot be forced to do so under any circumstances. The case has renewed debate on a proposal to amend the law so that an MP would automatically lose his mandate if found guilty of a crime. Deputy Pekárek’s continued presence in the lower house would not only be a public disgrace but the governing coalition could lose its fragile majority in the lower chamber. Roman Pekárek has refused to say what his intention is.
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