During talks in Brussels on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg expressed support for the idea that Eurozone members should have the chance to leave the monetary union at their own volition. He added however that he did not think the present economic crisis could be resolved by re-opening the Lisbon Treaty. In recent weeks there have been calls from some EU members for a change of the ground rules which would allow member states to leave the eurozone or even be expelled if they do not meet the universally adopted criteria. At the meeting the Czech Republic expressed support for the EU’s long-term budgetary plans, describing them as reasonable. Minister Schwarzenberg said that while he could understand calls for more drastic cuts he did not think such a concept was realistic.
Five people have been charged in connection with street violence in Varnsdorf over the weekend where locals joined an extremist march against the Romany minority. Three people were charged with assaulting a police officer, two for wearing Nazi symbols. Ethnic tension has escalated in the region following a number of racially motivated crimes, with demands from the majority population that Romanies be evicted from the area. Extremist groupings are using the opportunity to organize anti-Roma marches and gatherings. The government has sent police reinforcements to the region to maintain law and order and the government’s human rights commissioner is trying to diffuse the crisis.
Some Czech towns reportedly sponge on EU subsidies intended to improve the quality of life and assist the integration of the Romany minority. According to Tyden magazine cities such as Kladno and Ostrava, but also many others, have used such EU subsidies to upgrade town centers, create pedestrian zones, build car parks and finance other projects not directly linked to the Romany minority. The weekly notes that many local administrations are adept at finding a project that appears to meet the criteria, making sure that Romany interests are partially or marginally involved.
Czechs will be asked to pay extra for above-standard health care as of 2013, a year later that the government originally planned. According to the business daily Hospodarské noviny the commission of experts which is to specify what will constitute standard and above standard care will need more time to draw the line. According to inside sources the list should be ready by mid-2012 and should come into effect the following year. Health insurers are also preparing to offer insurance for above-standard care as of January 2013. The lower house definitively approved the introduction of above-standard care into the Czech health system last week, overriding a veto by the Senate.
Forty eight percent of the Czech Republic’s inhabitants, or about five million people, breathe polluted air, according to data released by the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute. The amount of dust particles and other dangerous substances exceed permissible levels for long intervals at a time in Prague, central Bohemia, Usti nad Labem and almost the entire Moravia and Silesia, according to the report. The degree of pollution has significantly worsened in the smaller towns as well which is being attributed to the fact that due to the higher cost of living many people have gone back to using brown coal as a form of heating. The sale of brown coal went up by 15 percent in 2010. In the worst affected areas doctors say there is a confirmed link between air-pollution and the low birth weight of children as well as a higher incidence of asthma and allergies. The lower house is now to debate a legislation which should give both municipalities and the government greater powers in fighting air pollution.
Police have closed the case on email monitoring at the Education Ministry. Investigators said the monitoring of employees emails did not constitute a crime since employees were warned about the practice in their work contracts. A leak of information regarding bonuses at the ministry alerted the authorities to the fact that the privacy of emails was not respected. Education Minister Josef Dobeš distanced himself from the practice and filed a criminal complaint against an unknown culprit. The minister said on Monday that the decision to close the case was a disappointment to him.
Senator Jaromír Štětina claims he is receiving threats from members of the country’s intelligence service BIS over secret documents in his ownership which allegedly prove illegal undercover deals between agents and state attorneys. In a statement for the CTK news agency the senator says he has received a number of threatening messages and that the driver of a black Octavia recently tried to force him off the road. The senator had previously accused the country’s intelligence services of seeking to destroy his good reputation by claiming that he cooperated with the communist secret service. The intelligence service has sharply rejected the accusations.
Czech President Václav Klaus on Monday set off on a four-day tour of the Karlovy Vary region in the western part of the country. The president is set to visit town halls and meet with local politicians and entrepreneurs. He will also attend the European Volleyball Championship, this year jointly held by the Czech Republic and Austria. He is accompanied by his wife Livia, who will be visiting a children’s home in the town of Ostrov.
A bomb scare that resulted in the evacuation of an entire street in the town of Znojmo on Monday morning turned out to be a false alarm. A salesman reported a strange looking object in his post-pox and on finding a suspicious device the police evacuated the area and calling in explosives experts. They confirmed that the home-made contraption was not dangerous and had clearly been intended as a hoax. Police are searching for the culprit.
A court has sent a man who robbed at least 46 banks and post offices to ten years in jail. The 36-year old man went undetected for years as he radically changed his appearance, his speech and even the hand in which he held his weapon. Between 2007 and 2011 he committed robberies to the tune of 7 million crowns. The robberies were committed in broad daylight when all the outlets were open to the public. In one case the robber jumped over a two-and-a-half meter high glass counter to get the money and was gone before the police arrived. He admitted to all 46 robberies but was confused when questioned about individual cases.
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