The Czech Republic intends to close down some of its embassies and consulates abroad due to planned cuts in public spending. The decision was also made in view of the fact that after the country's entry to the European Union in May of last year, Czech interests are protected as part of the EU common policy. According to an unnamed source from the foreign ministry this cost-cutting measure should affect eight embassies in Africa and South America. The Czech consulate in neighbouring Slovakia will also be closed down.
The Austrian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Klas Daublebsky, who is nearing the end of his term in Prague was received at Prague Castle by President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday. Ambassador Daublesky leaves Prague in mid-February and will be replaced by Margot Klestil-Loeffler, the widow of the former Austrian president Thomas Klestil.
An asteroid has been named after a Czech Jewish boy who became famous almost 60 years after his death in Auschwitz when a picture he drew while incarcerated was taken on the ill fated 2003 Columbia space shuttle flight. Peter Ginz was gassed at Auschwitz at age 16. He left behind a collection of drawings, his diary, some short stories and an unfinished novel. His diary is to be published next month. According to Czech astronomer Milos Tichy, the International Astronomy Union has approved Ginz's name for asteroid number 50413.
The Cabinet has approved a bill limiting the number of benefits enjoyed by deputies and senators. If approved by both houses of Parliament, the bill would strip deputies and senators of certain advantages such as free plane tickets for trips around the Czech Republic, free petrol cards and generous travel allowances on trips abroad. By cutting these perks Parliament would save about 4 million crowns a year. The head of the governing Christian Democratic Party who presented the proposal, said that maintaining these benefits in the face of cuts in public spending would be immoral and inexcusable.
The government has moved to prevent abuse of the country's asylum system. In a draft amendment to the asylum law it proposes ways of facilitating the work of the courts and speeding up the asylum process. The bill would also shorten the time period during which the courts must deal with appeals and complaints. At present many asylum seekers are intentionally procrastinating, filing complaints and repeatedly appealing the court's decision in order to buy more time, or even a chance to make an illegal crossing to a neighbouring state. In the course of that time the state has to cover the cost of accommodation, food, health care and pocket money for each applicant.
A plaque dedicated to people who helped save Czechoslovak Jews from the Holocaust will be unveiled at Prague's Pinkas synagogue on Thursday. The plaque will be unveiled by the Prague Jewish Community and the Hidden Child Foundation and will bear the names of 160 people who saved around 200 Jewish children during the war. Some 80,000 Czechoslovak Jews perished in the Holocaust.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Senate elections in the Prague 11 constituency are valid and confirmed the victory of Jan Nadvornik of the Civic Democratic Party. The Constitutional Court thus overturned the ruling of the Supreme Court which earlier invalidated the outcome of the elections in Prague 11 on the grounds that the election campaign had been conducted in a dishonest manner, in violation of the election law. This was in reference to a number of slanderous articles against the unsuccessful candidate which appeared in the local papers. Political observers say the Constitutional Court's ruling has set an important precedent.
The Czech police say they have broken up an organised gang that was illegally transferring large amounts of money out of the Czech Republic. Property and money worth 36 million Czech crowns (1.5 million US dollars) was confiscated in the police action. Fifteen of the gang members have been charged with unauthorised entrepreneurship. All of them, with the exception of one, are from Asia.
A group of senators are preparing an amendment to the penal code, which would make the name of the Czech Communist Party illegal. The senators from the Club for Open Democracy hope naming a political party "Communist" would be considered a propagation of communism, which is prohibited by law. The Czech Communist Party has been criticized for refusing to follow party colleagues in neighbouring countries, who are reformed and changed their name since the fall of Communism.
The Czech government's fleet of planes is old and needs to be modernised, Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda announced on Tuesday. The fleet of seven aircraft used by the Army to transport senior government officials and material such as medicine also exceed permitted noise or emission levels. A complete modernisation of the fleet would cost some 4.2 billion Czech crowns. Next week, the State Security Council is to decide whether to go ahead with the modernisation or find a different solution. One such solution would be that state officials fly with commercial airlines.