Daily news summary News

08-07-2009

Czech Republic recognizes ICC

The Czech Republic has fully recognized the International Criminal Court after President Václav Klaus signed on Wednesday into law the treaty on which the court is based. The Czech Republic was the only EU state not to have recognised the international court, which was established in 2003 and handles serious crimes against humanity and war crimes. Both chambers of the Czech Parliament voted to approve the treaty, known as the Rome Statutes, last year. In January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe criticized the Czech Republic for its failure to ratify the treaty.

State debt up to 1.14 trillion crowns

The Czech Republic’s state debt rose to around 1.14 trillion crowns, or more than 60 billion US dollars, by the end of June, according to official figures released on Wednesday. The debt rose by some 138 billion crowns since the beginning of the year. Broken down per head, each Czech citizen now owes 108,000 crowns. The Czech Finance Ministry said that the projected benchmarks of the financial programme were exceeded due to the world economic crisis that made the Czech government borrow more money. The average maturity of the debt dropped to 6.6 years by the end of June.

Justice minister: Czech prison system could collapse

The Czech Republic’s prison system is on the verge of collapse, Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová told reporters on Wednesday. Czech prisons currently hold some 22,000 inmates, the highest number in nearly ten years. Meanwhile, another 7,500 convicts have not yet started serving their sentences. If part of them commenced serving them now, a crisis scenario would have to be to put in place. Inmates would have to be accommodated in areas that are not designed to that purpose, such as prison gyms, the head of the Czech Prison Service, Luděk Kula, said. The justice minister noted that Czech prisons were overcrowded, and inaction could lead to the collapse of the whole system.

Illegal aliens to be able to join voluntary return programme

Illegal aliens living in the Czech Republic will be able to join a voluntary return programme as of September 2009, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday. Until now, only foreigners with work permits could apply for such programmes, which provide them with a free plane ticket home and financial assistance. Illegal aliens will however receive no subsidies from the state.

In July and August, the Czech Interior Ministry will launch a campaign to inform people about the possibility. Those who apply will face no sanctions for illegally staying in the country. The People in Need NGO estimates that around 300,000 illegal aliens are currently living in the country.

Czech Republic wins international arbitration

The Czech Republic won a two billion international arbitration case against a Luxembourg media company, a Czech Finance Ministry spokesman told journalists on Wednesday.

The Luxembourg-based firm European Media Ventures demanded some two billion crowns, or more than 107 million US dollars, in compensation for their lost investment in a TV station in the Czech Republic.

The case is the second international arbitration the country has won in recent weeks. The Czech Republic still faces around ten such cases involving some 20 billion crowns, or more than 1.7 billion US dollars. Most of them deal with the alleged failure of Czech authorities to protect foreign investments.

Foreign minister: Barroso to talk visas with Canada at G8 summit

The head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso will discuss Canada’s intention to reinstate visas for Czechs at the G8 summit in Italy, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout told a Czech radio station on Wednesday. Canada is considering the move due to an increase number of Czech citizens who apply for asylum in that country.

In 2008 and the first four months of 2009, Canada granted asylum to 132 Czech nationals, the ČTK news agency reported on Wednesday citing sources from the Canadian embassy in Prague. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board dealt with 334 applications of Czech citizens over that period of time, which was only a fraction of the overall number of asylum seekers - nearly 3,000 applicants, mostly members of the Czech Republic’s Romany community.

Press: Social Democrats to gain millions from ex-Green MP on their ballot

The Social Democrats will gain millions of crowns from including former Green MP Olga Zubová on their party’s Prague ticket for October’s early general elections, the Czech daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Wednesday. Ms Zubová comes with a wealthy sponsor, the adverting tycoon Jaromír Soukup whose company is the Democratic Green Party’s biggest publicity agency.

Ms Zubová, who was expelled from the Green party after internal infighting, voted along with the then opposition Social Democrats in March to bring down the government. On Friday, the Social Democrats decided to put her on their Prague ballot for the early general elections.

President Klaus hands out pardons

President Václav Klaus handed out 15 pardons on Wednesday, four of them to foreign nationals. Mr Klaus cancelled the repatriation of two Vietnamese citizens who were going to be sent back to their country because of customs offences they committed more than 20 years ago. The Czech president has handed out around 270 pardons since assuming office in 2003.

Poll: new government has higher approval ratings than Topolánek’s cabinet

Some 55 percent of Czechs approved in June of the caretaker government of Jan Fischer, which was nearly three times the number of people who trusted the previous cabinet of PM Mirek Topolánek, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency published on Wednesday. Only 28 percent of people trust the Senate and a mere 25 percent of Czechs trust the Chamber of Deputies. Approval ratings for both houses of the Czech Parliament are up four and six percent, respectively, compared to polls conducted in May.

Liberec Region drops out of Ještěd bid

The Liberec Region, in northern Bohemia, has ended negotiations with the firm České Radiokomunikace about the planned purchase of Ještěd hotel and TV tower, the deputy regional governor told the press on Wednesday. The region had earmarked some 100 million crowns, or more than 5.3 million US dollars, in its budget to this end, but regional council members decided to use the money to fund road repairs instead. The award-winning hotel and TV tower was built in 1973 at the top of Ještěd Mountain overlooking the city of Liberec. The region would like to have it included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites but the building is in urgent need of renovation.

Hockey: Hudler leaves NHL for Russia

Czech hockey player Jiří Hudler has left the NHL and will play for Dynamo Moscow in the Continental League. The 25-year-old forward, who joined the Detroit Red Wings in 2003 and won the Stanley Cup with them five years later, signed a two-year contract with the Moscow club on Wednesday.

Weather

The end of the week of will be clouded with rain showers across most of the country. Highest day temperatures should range between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.

08-07-2009