Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country has already
ratified the EU draft constitution, agrees with his Czech counterpart Karel
Schwarzenberg that a new European agreement supported by all EU member
states needs to be drawn up. On an official visit to Prague, Mr Moratinos
said dialogue and debate played a crucial role in finding a joint position
on the EU's future role. The two state representatives also discussed
Washington's plans to station part of its missile defence system in Poland
and the Czech Republic and their countries' positions on Cuba.
With regards to the US missile shield, Mr Schwarzenberg said it was no surprise that US lawmakers moved to cut the budget for the extension of the shield to Central Europe. Regarding Cuba, both men agreed that their countries' goals are the same but methods of achieving them differ. Spain prefers to take up the issue of human rights violations through dialogue with the Cuban government, while the Czech Republic has been pushing for Brussels to exert more political pressure on the island's totalitarian regime.
The Czech Republic's Horicke trubicky, or Horice rolled wafers, have been added to the EU's list of protected food products. Six other Czech products are already on the list. They include the Pohorelice carp, Budvar beer, Czech hops and the "Stramberk ears" cone-shaped gingerbread cookies. Horicke trubicky are crunchy and made from wheat pastry flour, powdered milk, vegetable oil, powdered egg yolks, sugar and water. Their producers now hope that the wafers will also be granted EU protection of geographical indications and designations of origin.
Two Roma women, attending a Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg on
Monday, described in emotional detail how they had been sterilised against
their will in Czech hospitals, AFP news agency reports. Helena Baloghova
and Elena Gorolova gave moving testimony as they presented a photographic
exhibition created by an association of women victims of forced
sterilisation. The group, based in the Moravian town of Ostrava, is
calling for compensation and a public apology for illegal sterilisations
of Roma patients. A Czech expert at the Strasbourg meeting said the
problem of the sterilised women remained unresolved since the Czech
government had yet to review ombudsman Otakar Motejl's conclusions on the
In November 2005, a Czech court ordered a hospital to apologise to 22-year-old Roma woman Helena Ferencikova for sterilizing her without her consent, but it ruled she did not qualify for compensation.
A Health Ministry directive that orders all ambulances to reach patients within 15 minutes of their call has come into effect on Monday. The ministry is hoping to include the directive in a new law but has yet to find ways of getting around heavy traffic and making remote areas, especially in the mountain areas, easily accessible.
The Czech law is failing to protect the rights of children, who have been victims of crimes, a government committee on children's rights concluded. At a special meeting on Monday, the committee asked the cabinet minister responsible for minorities and human rights, Dzamila Stehlikova, to look into the possibility of amending the law to make it illegal to publish the names, photographs, and addresses of such children. The meeting was called in reaction to a recently uncovered child abuse case in which a single mother forced her eight-year old boy to stay in a broom cupboard. The boy's name, photograph, and even a video of him tied-up and naked have been all over the media.
The number of police officers leaving the force is outweighing the number of newcomers, Interior Minister Ivan Langer said in a TV discussion programme on Sunday. There are currently 46,000 police officers in the Czech Republic and some 3,000 positions that need to be filled. Despite various campaigns, it has been difficult to attract people to join the force. Under a new service law which came into effect in January, officers are not paid for the first 150 hours of overtime that they work and salaries for most positions have also decreased compared to last year.
The opposition Social Democrats have published a booklet in which they
call the current government scandalous, full of errors, vulgar, and
obscure. The assessment of the first one hundred days of the ruling
coalition of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens was
presented to the public on Monday. As examples, it names several
controversial remarks and gestures made by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek
and points to the current allegations of corruption against Regional
Development Minister Jiri Cunek. The Social Democrats also criticise plans
to privatise hospitals and shares in the energy giant CEZ and assess
whether all pre-election promises to the general public have been kept.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said he challenges Prime Minister Topolanek to a televised debate on the government's reform plan.
A new opinion poll suggests that the number of people in the Czech Republic who are satisfied with the political situation is on the rise. Although the study indicates that only 24 percent of the population was happy last month, it is three percent higher than the month before and eight percent higher than in January. In the poll conducted by the STEM agency, 68 percent of respondents were pleased with the performance of President Vaclav Klaus. The support for the government was much lower, 34 percent, and only 32 percent for Parliament.
Special commissions will be set up in every region of the country to oversee the care of state-owned national heritage, culture minister Vaclav Jehlicka said on Monday. Speaking at a conference on cultural heritage, he said the commissions' main tasks would be to use local budgets efficiently and make the best use of EU grants. Mr Jehlicka also proposes that every castle and chateau owned by the state should have a supervisory board where the local authority, regional authority, National Heritage Institute, and entrepreneurs involved in tourism would be represented.