Prime Minister Petr Nečas has called a meeting with leaders of the Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic to discuss growing racial tensions in North Bohemia. The government has so far responded to the situation by reinforcing the police presence in the region. Together with Labour Minister Jaromír Drábek, Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa and Culture Minister Jiří Besser, the prime minister plans to discuss the financing of affected municipalities on Friday, ahead of scheduled party gatherings of the far-right Workers Party for Social Justice in three locations in the region on Saturday.
Around three hundred people met on the town square in the Northern Bohemian town of Varnsdorf on Friday and planned to march on a Roma residential building. The organiser of the gathering, Lukáš Kohout, was taken to a police vehicle for questioning; attendees called for his release and whistled at the officers. Kohout is a fraudster, well-known for having passed himself off as a government official on numerous occasions and for provoking police and demonstrators at protests. Friday was the fourth day that police have maintained a state of readiness in the area due to angry assemblies and demonstrations provoked by recent tensions between Czechs and Roma.
Prime Minister Nečas and several cabinet members will be visiting Israel next week for high-level meetings. The government announced the aim of the two day visit as strengthening partnership and collaboration between the two countries, particularly with regards to science and technology, research and development, and innovation. The delegation is scheduled to meet with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanjahu and members of the business community. The upcoming UN vote on Palestinian membership in the organisation will likely also be on the table, with the Czech Republic having been reported in the Israeli media as being one of five Western European states that plans to vote against the motion. The Czech government has thus far refused to state publically its position on the matter.
Czech and American officials have organised a commemorative event to mark the tenth anniversary of 9-11 on Sunday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Černínský Palác) at 6 p.m. Headlining the programme will be the classic Czech underground band Plastic People of the Universe. An exhibition of photographs by Jan Šibík showing the aftermath of the attacks in New York will be on display, as will a new exhibit on Czech contributions to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The event is being organised by the Czech Foreign and Defence Ministries in cooperation with the American Center and is open to the public.
The public will pay their respects to the three Czech victims of this week’s tragic air accident on Sunday afternoon at Old Town Square in Prague. The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. The bodies of hockey stars Karel Rachůnek, Jan Marek and Josef Vašíček were returned to the Czech Republic by a special government flight from Moscow, where they were identified. A passenger plane carrying almost all of the Russian hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl went down near the city’s airport on Wednesday and caught fire. The crash caused 43 deaths; one person is reported to have survived, though he is in critical condition with severe burns.
The Chamber of Deputies has passed all three of the government’s pension reform bills, which plan the introduction of a so-called “second pillar” of the pension system. The first of the bills regards pension savings and will allow people under the age of 35 to transfer three percentage points from the pay-as-you-go system to pension funds on the condition that they add two percentage points from their own pockets. Some experts have criticised the clarity of the bill and expressed concern over how many people will participate in it and whether developments in share markets may not devalue their savings.
The lower house also passed a bill to create a general inspectorate for state security services. The inspectorate is to begin work from 2012 and will deal with investigating crimes potentially committed by members of the police, customs authority, prison service and its own ranks. The director of the new inspectorate will be named by the prime minister after consultation with the security committee of the lower house.
The Municipal Court in Prague has ruled that the state must pay damages to the illegitimate granddaughter of artist Alphons Mucha due to the fact that she was excluded from inheritance proceedings for 12 years after the death of her father. The court ruled definitively that the Justice Ministry must pay Jarmila Plocková more than 300,000 crowns in damages as she was unable to profit from her grandfather’s work during that period. She was seeking 2.4 million in damages and four million in compensation for property and moral damages. Plocková spent sixteen years after the 1991 death of her father, Jiří Mucha, trying to get herself recognised as an heir, in spite of an affidavit he had signed and notarised. Her claim was only validated by the court in 2002.
Police in the region of Central Bohemia report they have broken up a gang that traded in stolen luxury automobiles. Six people were charged and 35 vehicles, mostly BMW X5 and X6s, Mercedes Benzes, Porsches and Audis were recovered; their total value was put at 40 million crowns. The suspects, which were active primarily in Central and Western Bohemia, face up to eight years in prison if convicted.
The general director of the network of Czech Centres, Michael Pospíšil, says the may expand in coming years and fill focus more on presenting Czech export brands with the aim of earning more money to spend on promoting the Czech Republic abroad. A new Czech Centre branch may open in Seoul, South Korea, in the coming years, he said. The network of Czech Centres currently number 21 and can be found in metropolises on three continents. The aim of the centres is to promote Czech film, design, music, art, fashion and literature. Events held by the centres were visited by 1.7 million people last year.
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