The Czech Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday the country’s phone and internet data retention law unconstitutional, accepting a complaint filed last year by 51 Czech MPs. Mobile phone operators and internet providers in the Czech Republic were required to keep the data over a period of six months, and make them available to the police and intelligence service upon request. The court sided with the critics of the law who pointed out that it violated people’s rights to privacy; judges said the law allowed for a massive interference with fundamental rights, and failed to provide adequate guarantees against the misuse of the data.
The Czech foreign debt rose by 56.8 billion to 1.79 trillion crowns, or over 103 billion US dollars, in the third quarter of last year, amounting to more than 48 percent of the country’s GDP, the Czech central bank said on Thursday. The debt increased by nearly 150 billion crowns year-on-year. The bank said the debt was fuelled primarily by the banking and government sectors. However, the largest share of the country’s foreign debt – more than 48 percent – is ascribed to the private sector.
Czech banks’ last year’s net profit dropped by 7 percent to 56 billion crowns, or over 3.2 billion US dollars, the Czech National Bank said in a statement on Thursday. The central bank’s deputy head, Vladimír Tomšík, said the Czech banking sector had enough resources, liquidity and capital, and was resistant to shocks; as such, it presented no risks for the country’s economy. The biggest earner in 2010 was the ČSOB bank, with a net profit of over 13.5 billion crowns, 22 percent less than the previous year. Česká spořitelna made 12 billion, a drop of 4.5 percent, while Komerční banka posted a profit of 13.3 billion crowns which was 21 percent more than in 2009.
A court in Prague has lifted a ban imposed by the Czech Interior Ministry on a Sudeten Germans’ association in the Czech Republic, the news website lidovky.cz reported on Thursday. The ministry refused in 2009 to register the association; officials argued that the group would try to breach the so-called Beneš decrees which stripped around three million ethnic Germans of the citizenship and property after WWII. However, the court said this alone was not sufficient ground to refuse registration.
Some 44 percent of Czechs consider themselves poor, according to a new poll by the STEM agency released on Thursday. Their share is the same as in 2000, and the highest since 1993, the agency said. People with lower education generally tend to consider themselves poorer that those with university degrees; families with more children are also less likely to feel poor than people living alone.
The number of foreign students at Czech universities has quadrupled in the last four years, an official from the Education Ministry said on Thursday. There are now 38,000 foreign students at public and private universities in the Czech Republic; around a third of them are enrolled in economic studies programmes while some 17 percent study sciences. About 15 percent of foreigners study medicine and around the same number humanities. There are around 400,000 students currently attending 28 public and 45 private universities in the Czech Republic.
Members of the Prague city council for the opposition TOP 09 party called on Thursday on deputy mayor Karel Březina, from the Social Democrats, to step down. Mr Březina faces unspecified charges in connection with his membership on the boards of several firms that went bankrupt. Mr Březina, who denies any wrongdoing and has filed a complaint against the police actions, can rely on support from his party and well as the Civic Democrats who control the City Hall.
Police evacuated on Thursday the entire city hall in Ostrava, in the north east of the country, after an anonymous caller said a bomb had been planted inside. Hundreds of city clerks had to leave their offices in three buildings in the centre of the city as the caller did not say where exactly the bomb was supposed to be; the premises was searched by a bomb squad but no explosives were found.
The Czech National Bank has withdrawn the 50-crown banknote from circulation. Thursday was the last day when people could pay with the bill. The banknote has been replaced with a 50-crown bi-metallic coin. The central bank made the decision last year in view of lowering direct expenditures associated with issuing money. After Thursday, people will be able to exchange the bills at all commercial banks for a period of 12 months or the Czech National Bank for a period of seven years.
Třinec beat Slavia Prague 5:3 on Wednesday night, tying the hockey playoffs’ best-of-seven semifinal series at 3:3. Slavia took an early lead when Pavel Kolařík hit the top corner of the goal in the second minute. Třinec soon came back and equalized but Slavia added another goal, winning the opening period 2:1. The visitors however scored three goals in the second which proved too much for the hosts. Regular season winners Třinec will face Slavia at home on Friday in the series’ seventh game. The winner will play Vítkovice in the league finals.
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