Some 150 people gathered at Prague’s Klárov on Saturday to express support for President Miloš Zeman and call for the demise of the Sobotka government. Many of those present also signed a petition calling for the break-up of Czechoslovakia to be annulled. At one point the demonstrators got into a conflict with a Czech television crew reporting on the event. The police stepped in to prevent an incident.
Police have charged two employees of Prague Waterworks with endangering public health through negligence. The charges are linked to contamination of tap water in Prague’s Dejvice and Bubeneč districts last May. Over 4,000 people suffered health problems as a result, 33 of them had to be hospitalized. Hygiene officers ordered a blanket vaccination of children under 15 against Hepatitis A. The men reportedly caused the contamination by failing to adhere to regulations when reconnecting water pipes to the system following maintenance.
The Greek authorities have repeatedly refused the Czech liaison officer for migrants access to the hotspots where they are being registered, the news site Novinky.cz reported on Saturday. The news was confirmed by Interior Minister Milan Chovanec who said other countries’ officers had been granted access to the sites. He said this presented a serious problem since the Czech Republic was due to take in the first 20 migrants from Greece in the coming weeks. The country has agreed take in over 2,600 migrants from Greece and Italy in the course of this and next year. Novinky says the Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over this development as well and Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek is to discuss the matter with his Greek counterpart at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels next week.
There is growing criticism of the fact that some Czech hospitals still charge fathers for being present at their child’s birth, Czech Radio reported on Saturday. Some twenty hospitals around the country still charge a fee for a family member being present at the birth, in some cases as high as 1,000 crowns. Others have desisted from the practice and encourage fathers to be present. Those who still charge a fee have come under fire from the public and a complaint has been filed about the matter with the Constitutional Court which is expected to rule on the case in several weeks’ time.
Half of the children who end up in institutional care in the Czech Republic are there because their parents cannot afford to pay rent or live in inadequate conditions, the news site Novinky.cz reported. According to the site 1.5 million people, of that 250,000 children live in inadequate conditions. Many of the children, who never return home, have the same problem when they are released from the facility at the age of 18 and end up homeless. Novinky says this is linked to the fact that the Czech Republic does not have social housing. A proposed bill on social housing is now being prepared by the government and will need to pass through both houses of parliament before coming into force. Optimistic forecasts say this could happen in mid 2017 at the earliest.
Some 400 people have signed a petition protesting against the controversial band Ortel making an appearance at the traditional Říp Fair in April. The controversial band known for its anti-Roma and anti-Islamic lyrics, was invited by the mayor of Krabčice, Jiří Šimáček, who has defended his decision on the grounds that it is financially advantageous. The fair is a highly popular event attended by thousands of people.
One person died and six others were injured in an accident on the D46 highway early on Saturday, the ctk news agency reported. According to police sources a truck crashed into a bus carrying 50 passengers. The cause of the accident is being investigated. A stretch of the highway between Prostějov and Olomouc has been temporarily closed and police are diverting traffic. Icy conditions have resulted in a heightened number of road accidents this week.
Social Democrat MPs in the lower house will give Finance Minister Andrej
Babiš until Wednesday to provide a satisfactory explanation regarding
developments at his Stork’s Nest farm and conference centre, the vice
chair of the Social Democrats deputies’ group Jan Chvojka told Czech
Television. If he fails to produce a satisfactory explanation the Social
Democrats will support an opposition call for an extraordinary session of
Parliament to be held on the matter, MP Chvojka said.
The opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats have called for a special session to debate the ongoing EU investigation into the drawing of funds for the Stork’s Nest farm and conference centre. According to the news site Neovlivni.cz fines of 6.0 million crowns were imposed on the farm in the past. The circumstances of EU funds awarded to the project are now being investigated by EU anti-fraud authorities. The company has denied it was asked to pay any penalty. The opposition has criticized the prime minister and Mr. Babiš’ coalition partners for acting as if the problem did not concern them.
The Czech Academy of Sciences and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian regimes have cooperated on a book just out tracing the fate of the close to 300 people who were killed trying to flee from communist Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989. The book published under the heading The Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia is a collection of human interest stories portraying the victims, what motivated them to risk their lives crossing the Iron Curtain and who is responsible for their deaths.
Twenty Czech police officers on Friday left for Slovenia where they will be helping to protect the Slovenian border with Croatia. In line with the closing of the so-called west-Balkans route agreed on at an EU summit this week, Slovenia has closed its border and is only letting through people with valid visas and documents. The Czechs will be patrolling a twenty-kilometer stretch of the border for seven weeks.
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