Hundreds of gathered in the centre of Prague on Saturday in protest against the government’s planned pension reform. The overhaul of the Czech pension system is set to raise the VAT on majority of goods. The protesters also objected to plans to introduce tuition fees at Czech universities. The rally, organized by the opposition group ProAlt, was addressed by the head of the Czech unions’ federation before moving on to a march through city centre. Estimates of the number of participants vary between 200 and 1,000.
Two men, aged 63 and 71, died after a fire broke out in their apartment in a high-rise building in Lovosice, in northern Bohemia, on Saturday. The three-storey buildings had to be evacuated. Firefighters said the likely cause of the fire was that one of the men lit a cigarette in bed and fell asleep. It took about an hour to put out the fire, a spokesman for the firefighters said.
The annual Czech Lions film awards will be handed out in Prague on Saturday. The low-budget political thriller Walking Too Fast, set in the 1970s, landed 13 nominations, a record for the Lions. On Friday, the Czech TV and Film Academy announced that actor and writer Zdeněk Svěrák won the Czech Lion award for exceptional contribution to Czech cinema. Mr Svěrák wrote the screenplays for three films nominated for the US Academy Awards, including Kolya that won the Oscar in 1997.
Prague’s Dejvické Theatre received the annual Aflréd Radok Award for
best Czech ensemble of 2010 at a ceremony in Prague on Saturday, for the
fourth time in a row. The theatre’s staging of Man without a Past by the
Finnish author Aki Kaurismaki got the award for the performance of the
year, while the lead actor in the play, David Novotný, was given the
Alfréd Radok award for best actor. Petr Zelenka’s play Očistění, or
Vindication, which premiered at the South Bohemian Theatre in České
Budějovice, won the award for best Czech play.
Police arrest man over ammo theft
The police have arrested a civilian employee of the south Moravian police’ special response unit who allegedly stole and sold tens of thousands of ammunition rounds, a police spokeswoman said on Saturday. The man, who was arrested during a sale of part of the stole ammo, has been under investigation for several months. The spokeswoman said he was facing two years in prison.
After Saturday’s double, The Czech Republic’s men’s tennis team is leading 2:1 over Kazakhstan in the first round of the Davis Cup. Czechs Tomáš Berdych and Lukáš Dlouhý beat Kazakhstan’s Yuri Schukin and Evgeny Korolev 6:4, 6.4, 7:6 in Ostrava on Saturday, securing the second point for the Czechs. In Friday’s singles, Jan Hálek lost a five-set battle to Golubev but Czech number one Tomáš Berdych equalized when he beat Mikhail Kukushkin 7:6, 6.2, 6:3.
Czech athlete Denisa Roslová sensationally won the gold medal in 400
metres at the 2011 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Paris on
Saturday. Setting her new personal best, the 24-year-old Czech started off
poorly but had an amazing finish and took gold for 51.73. The gold medal
from Paris is the first medal in the 400 metres event for the athlete who
previously competed in long jump in which she took bronze at the European
indoor championships four years ago.
Denisa Rosolová’s gold is the third medal for the Czech Republic at the event; on Saturday, Jaroslav Bába took silver in high jump while on Friday, Petr Svoboda won the European indoor title in 60 metres hurdles.
Prime Minister Petr Necas has rejected criticism of planned pension reform by President Václav Klaus, who says the government approved the reform hastily and without broad debate. Mr Nečas said that work on the pension reform had been thoroughly worked out in the previous election term, and was not completed only because the government was toppled. The pension reform is the first key bill from the coalition government that President Klaus has challenged. He told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes on Friday that he thought it correct to react to the draft reform before considering whether or not to sign it. The government´s pension reform enables people under 35 to send 3% of their compulsory pension insurance to private pension funds on the condition that they add at least 2% on their own.
The Czech Retail Inspectorate has completed an inspection of city centre shops in Prague and banned the sale of tens of millions of crowns worth of luxury goods due to problems encountered in almost all of them. In a number of goods shops in the centre, where foreigners account for most customers, the inspectors uncovered problems with pricing of the goods as there was often no basic information, or the goods were weighed along with the package. Fake designer goods were also uncovered in three boutiques. Along with the measures that have already been taken, the inspected shops will be subjected to administrative actions and fines.
British cabinet ministers have conceded that immigrants from the Czech Republic and other new EU states will be able to claim large welfare benefits come May 1. The expiry of a seven-year ban on welfare restrictions, created when the eight former Soviet bloc countries joined the EU in 2004, mean that some 100,000 immigrants will be able to claim up to £250 (7,100 crowns) per week in jobseekers’ allowances, council tax benefits and housing benefits if they can prove they have worked, intend to work again and want to live in the UK. Some fear a new wave of economic migration. However, the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions says that strict rules are in place to protect the system from abuse.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda addressed ideas for re-conceiving the busy motorway that runs directly through central Prague, the north-south “magistrála”. Speaking at a city planning conference called Vision for Prague 2010 – 2014, Mr Svoboda dismissed the idea of running the motorway through a tunnel at Wenceslas Square, saying there was no point in discussing plans for the central motorway until the exterior bypass had been completed. He also said it would be a problem to charge tolls on the road until an interior bypass had been built, as it would merely penalise people for something they could not avoid.
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