A multi-partisan group of MPs has issued an open letter warning against the recognition of Palestine as a UN member state. More than 80 Czech parliamentarians from all three coalition parties put their names to the letter, as did certain Social Democrats, many of whose other members have supported the Palestinian bid. The letter urges the Czech UN delegation to come out against the motion, arguing that the premature declaration of Palestinian statehood would hurt the peace process and upset the integrity of the UN, and calls for the speedy resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The government has approved an Environment Ministry request to allocate free emissions vouchers that will save energy companies and other polluters tens of billions of crowns. Companies will have to invest the 138 billion crowns they save in decreasing their ecological footprint. Vouchers for the years 2013 to 2020, 39% of the 640 million vouchers received will be assigned free of charge to Czech industries, the rest must be purchased. A large part of the vouchers will go to the power company ČEZ, as one of the main producers of emissions in the country.
The Council of Higher Education Institutions has rejected the introduction of tuition fees planned by the coalition government. The council stated that tuition fees had skyrocketed shortly after their introduction in other countries causing young people serious debts. Meanwhile, they said, the quality of the schools in such countries had not improved accordingly. The academics at Thursday’s special meeting of the council also criticised a legislative proposal under which schools would be subordinate to the Ministry of Finance in their economic activities. The introduction of tuition fees is one of the plans in the government’s coalition agreement and is planned for 2013. The planned fee is currently 10,000 crowns per semester.
Social Democratic Party Chairman Bohuslav Sobotka has accused the coalition of carrying on the corrupt practices of the previous elected government. Regarding an extra-ordinary session of Parliament that the Social Democrats wanted to call in order to discuss various government scandals, Mr Sobotka said that the current coalition reeked of the remains of former prime minister Mirek Topolánek’s government, which he said had seen the greatest ever increase in corruption. The words came in response to the coalition’s unwillingness to table the affairs at the session on the grounds that they should be investigated by the authorities and not by politicians.
Mr Sobotka also took the opportunity on Thursday to demand the resignation of Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek for slapping a young man who had insulted him. Sobotka said that government ministers who smack citizens on the street do not belong in politics. The finance minister for his part admitted to repeatedly striking the 20-year-old, who had called him a thief and said he would hang. Prime Minister Nečas said that he would discuss the incident with Mr Kalousek when he returns from the United States. The incident marked the second time an MP has been involved in a physical altercation with a member of the public in the last month. At the end of August, Public Affairs MP Michal Babák lost two teeth in a bar fight that he reportedly started.
The Czech Republic has joined the group Friends of Libya, says Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The group associates countries interested in contributing to Libya's post-war reconstruction and transition to democracy. Speaking to reporters at the UN, Mr Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic had many opportunities in the country thanks to strong former ties between the two countries, when many Libyans studied in the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. He also said that Libya would be a very interesting partner economically and that Czechs would have to be fast in setting up business relations.
Prime Minister Nečas on Thursday defended the decision to award the late Ctirad Mašín with a distinction. Mr Nečas was responding to a Communist Party MP who wondered why the resistance fighter, who killed several people in escaping from communist Czechoslovakia would be awarded a distinction intended for “developing the defence and security of the Czech Republic”. The prime minister cited the act on the illegality of the communist regime and said that acts against it were morally justified and deserving of respect. Mr Nečas said the Mašíns’ attacks on a police station and vehicle were logical steps, as an effective fight requires guns and money.
The Czech government has approved a national strategy to combat poverty and social exclusion. The three-year plan calls for dozens of measures aimed at improving the security, housing, education and employment of low-income housing residents at a cost of billions of crowns. A number of the measures are to ensure that children from such communities are integrated into society and have the same conditions as others. Others envision programmes against hate crime and flexible work programmes on public projects for the long-term unemployed. According to available statistics there are some 400 slums around the country with an estimated 80.000 inhabitants, predominantly from the Roma minority.
The town of Rumburk has rejected a proposal from local Roma to form their own civil patrols. Rumburk Town Hall said it was not against conscientious Roma providing neighbourly assistance for one another, but that patrols as such would have no authority. The town also rejected a request for non-residential spaces for youth centres on the grounds that other locals would not be given such benefits, and that it would be better in any case for Roma to integrate more with others.
The District Court of Olomouc is hearing the case of a shop owner accused of selling synthetic drugs packaged as collectors’ items. The chemicals contained in the goods were not listed as banned substances at the time of sale, however the state prosecutor believes the 25-year-old defendant was knowingly trading in addictive drugs purchased in Poland and sold through his Amsterdam store chain and had advertised accordingly. The defendant asserts that the items were marked as non-consumables and claims he is being singled out, as similar shops around Europe sell the same products without being prosecuted.
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