Social Democrats party chairman Jan Hamáček told journalists on Monday
that his party could withdraw from the coalition government if its senior
partner ANO votes to elect far-right journalist Michal Semin to the council
of state news agency ČTK.
Semin, who has blamed American elites for the 9/11 terror attacks, heads the ultra-conservative movement Akce DOST. Last week, the Federation of Jewish Communities protested against his candidacy, citing his alleged anti-Semitic statements
His candidacy for the ČTK council was proposed by the far-right opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy party. It was also backed by ANO deputies in a first-round vote earlier in June.
Hamáček said that Semin was an “unacceptable” candidate. If ANO voted to support him in the second round on 20 June, there would be no point for the Social Democrats to continue in the coalition government, he said.
Later on Monday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who founded ANO, said his party had not supported Semin’s candidacy and would not back him in future. He said he did not understand why Hamáček said otherwise, calling it “a nonsense”.
Opposition MPs will jointly file a complaint with the Constitutional Court
against a law pushed through by ANO, the Social Democrats and the
Communists to tax church restitutions.
The law which would tax money being paid out to churches for property seized by the Communists, which the state can no longer return, is to come into force at the beginning of 2020. The complaint was signed by 62 right-wing deputies.
The tax bill was vetoed by the Senate as “unconstitutional” but the veto was later overturned by the lower house and the bill was signed into law by President Zeman. Its supporters argue that the sum being returned to churches is “overinflated”, critics argue it is wrong, in principle, to tax stolen property on its return.
Aside from returning land and property, the restitution law approved in 2013, counts on paying church organisations 59 billion crowns divided into annual payments over a period of 30 years. If taxed, the pay-outs would be reduced to 48 billion.
The eleventh edition of the Night of Open Churches gets underway across the Czech Republic on Friday. This year, more than 1,600 churches and other religious sites will remain open to the public until the late night hours. Visitors will be also able to attend concerts, exhibitions, workshop and other programmes:
A plaque was recently unveiled in Prague honouring one of the modest heroes who were instrumental in organising the evacuations of hundreds of Jewish women and children out of Czechoslovakia before the onset of World War II, where they would otherwise have been wiped out in German concentration camps. The name of the heroine is Doreen Warriner and her story is one of extraordinary resourcefulness and moral virtue.
President Miloš Zeman has signed into law a controversial proposal to tax
money paid to religious groups in compensation for property seized under
The tax is due to take effect on January 1, 2020. But the Constitutional Court may well strike it down before the first tax payment come due the following year.
In late April, MPs overrode a veto by the Senate to tax the restitution income of 16 Czech churches and a Jewish federation which had their property seized by the former Communist regime.
Critics say the law, proposed by the Communists, is unconstitutional and unethical. The religious institutions had been awarded money in cases where the confiscated property could not be returned to its rightful owners.
President Miloš Zeman has signed legislation enabling the state to tax
church restitutions, according to an official press release from Prague
Castle. Communist deputies say the highly controversial law, which had to
go through a second vote in the Chamber of Deputies in late April after it
was vetoed in the upper-house, could retain CZK 380 million from the annual
CZK 2 billion pay-outs the state has pledged to undertake until 2030.
Opposition parties including the Mayors and Independents and the Christian Democrats are planning to issue a complaint to the Constitutional Court, which they hope will invalidate the legislation.
Jewish and Roma holocaust victims will be commemorated through a series of
public readings in over 20 Czech cities, which are set to start at 2pm on
Thursday. Participation is open to all. Those who do choose to take part
will receive a list of names with some personal data on each individual and
can then read out the names publicly.
The event is part of the 14th annual Yom HaShoah, known as Holocaust Remembrance Day in English. It is organised by the Terezín Initiative Institute and both Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, as well as the Israeli Ambassador Daniel Meron have pledged to take part.
A plaque to the previously little-known Doreen Warriner has just been unveiled in Prague. The Englishwoman saved the lives of hundreds of people by helping them escape to the UK just before WWII. Czech and British officials – as well as people rescued by a number of courageous souls like Warriner 80 years ago – were in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.
The Spanish Synagogue in Prague is set to close the public at the end of
May due to renovations, the Jewish Museum informed on Thursday. The
monument, built in the late 1860s in the Moorish style, is expected to
re-open at the end of next year. The aim of the renovation works is to
modernize the exhibitions and improve the visitor facilities.
The Spanish Synagogue is one of the most visited historic sights in Prague. Last year it attracted over 460,000 people. It currently houses an exposition on the history of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia in the 19th – 20th century and also serves as a concert venue.
A controversial proposal to tax money paid to religious groups in compensation for property seized under Communism is a step closer to becoming law. In their first session since the Easter holiday, MPs on Tuesday overrode a veto by the Senate to tax the restitution income of 16 Czech churches and a Jewish federation.
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