The Czech prime minister has sent his condolences to the people of Japan,
following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country.
In a letter to his Japanese counterpart Mr. Necas expressed his deepest
sympathies to those who had lost their loved ones, their homes and their
property. He said the thoughts of the Czech nation were with Japan at this
time of tragedy.
The Czech government has said it is ready to assist Japan in any possible way. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar said the government was monitoring the situation closely and was ready to respond to any request made by the Japanese authorities. NGOs have also offered assistance.
The Czech Foreign Ministry said it had no reports of Czechs injured or killed in the Japanese disaster. The ministry said that according to available information there were about 250 Czechs permanently residing in the country, but that it had no information regarding the number of Czech tourists or their whereabouts at the time of the tragedy. According to the spokesman of the Czech Association of Travel Agencies Tomio Okamura there were likely to be hundreds of Czech tourists in Japan, but at present communication was highly problematic. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra which was in the south of the country at the time of the tragedy is reported to be safe.
Czech Defense Minister Alexander Vondra has suspended from office the head of the Czech military police Vladimir Ložek and two commanders over the storming of offices at Czech public television’s news desk on Friday. The incident happened during the station’s prime time newscast which broadcast live shots of a heavily armed and masked military commando forcing its way into the building and storming the office of three editors. The search took over five hours and the police eventually left with sacks of confiscated property including computers, notes, tapes film footage and contacts. The commando had a court order and was reportedly searching for a military intelligence file that one of the editors had previously acquired. Czech Television says it is filing criminal charges against the military police and has sent a letter of complaint to the prime minister. The head of Czech TVs news desk said the commando had taken information relating to news stories about the defense ministry that he feared could be misused.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has described Friday’s military police raid at Czech television as “excessive and unacceptable”. The prime minister said he was greatly concerned by what had taken place and said he fully approved of the suspension from office of the officials responsible for the decision. Mr. Nečas said he had discussed the incident with the defence minister who shared the view that the investigation in question did not merit such a demonstration of force.
Over 500 demonstrators gathered in the town of Nový Bydžov, north-east of Prague, on Saturday to express their views on the town’s policy in dealing with problem inhabitants, mainly Romanies. A gathering of 300 ultra right supporters backed the mayor’s demand for greater powers, including the right to cancel welfare benefits, expel problem inhabitants who do not have permanent residence in the town and take a tougher line in collecting debts. Another 200 protesters, mainly Romanies demonstrated near-by. Police were out in force to keep the two groups apart. Minor skirmishes are reported, and one demonstrator is reported to have suffered light injuries when he clashed with mounted police. Some Romanies had left the town fearing for their safety and many shops were closed for the day.
More than half of the country’s police officers have signed a petition calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Radek John. The petition, signed by close to 22,000 officers, criticizes the interior minister for bad management, lack of experience and poor communication skills. Minister John, a former journalist whose Public Affairs party did well in the last elections on a strong anti-corruption agenda, said the discontent within the ranks of the police was largely due to cuts in salaries and operation costs for which he could not be blamed.
Pharmacists across the country are calling for flu medicine containing the substance pseudoephedrine to be sold on prescription only. The substance is widely used by drug addicts for the production of a home-made hard drug going under the name pervitin. Previous efforts by Parliament to curb the sale of flu medicine were only partly successful. An amendment to the law stipulating that they could only be sold on an ID came under fire from the Office for the Protection of Private Data and pharmacists were ordered to delete a central register containing the information. Now some pharmacies keep their own record, but drug addicts can acquire an unlimited amount of pseudoephedrine simply by making a round of several pharmacies in town. Parliament is to debate related legislation next week, opening the way for an amendment.
Czech President Václav Klaus expressed his opposition to the idea of a
no-fly zone being introduced over Libya, ahead of Friday’s emergency EU
summit about the troubled North African country. Fighting continues there
between rebels and supporters of the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the summit, Mr Klaus said a no-fly zone
was ‘regular war’, suggesting that a tough message by the EU on Friday
calling on Mr Gaddafi to step down immediately was needed instead –
including that there would be no dealings or compromise with the regime.
Later on Friday, all 27-member EU states agreed that Mr Gaddafi must
surrender power. The BBC quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying
that anyone who waged war against his own people was “no partner” for
talks with the European Union.
The idea of a no-fly zone may still gain traction but reportedly requires more planning. The idea has been heatedly discussed by officials in recent days as a possible option to help stop attacks by Mr Gaddafi’s forces. They have continued to bomb targets, including a refinery and residential area on Friday, sources said.
The Council for Research, Development and Innovation has said that the two last governments spent hundreds of millions of crowns on research projects (wrapping up in 2009) which ended without results or with results which were not officially recognised. According to a report by the government advisory body just released, some 514 million crowns (out of a total of 2.8 billion) were spent on projects which proved ineffective. The council, which is headed by the prime minister, pointed to the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs and the Environment Ministry as responsible for a large percentage of controversial projects and warned that the latest results needed to be taken into account when the government proposed state spending on R&D for 2012. The centre-right cabinet headed by Prime Minister Petr Nečas, is to discuss the report next week.
Former Czech president Václav Havel has told a Czech newspaper he does not believe Parliament will approve a law opening the way for direct presidential elections, despite a pledge by the current ruling coalition to push for changing the system. Mr Havel told Hospodářské noviny, in an interview conducted prior to his current hospitalisation, that he strongly favoured the head-of-state being elected by the people because it would give the president a different kind of legitimacy. However Mr Havel stressed he was sceptical about the possibility that a direct election would be introduced. In his view that would mean that Parliament would lose a significant privilege. Under the current system the Czech president is elected to a five-year term in a joint session by legislators from the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
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