A court in Prague ruled on Wednesday that members of both chambers of the Czech parliament have to pay fares for privately-owned transport services. Until now, all MPs and senators were entitled to free rides on public transport by the law. The court ruling was passed in a case of a private transport service suing the Czech Republic for having to transport two parliamentarians – Josef Zieleniec and Igor Petrov - from Prague to Brno. The show-case ride was set up last year by the two politicians and the transport company owner so that the regulation on free MP rides could be contested before court. According to Josef Zieleniec, the current rule of free rides is absurd and interferes with property rights.
The incumbent President Vaclav Klaus was officially nominated on Wednesday by the Civic Democrats as their candidate in the presidential election to be held in February next year. All 122 Civic Democrat MPs and senators signed the nomination decree that was delivered to the parliament’s election committee. While Vaclav Klaus, who is also the honorary chairman of the Civic Democrats, remains a strong favourite in the coming vote, other political parties have not arrived at a general agreement on a single candidate. The Green Party together with the opposition Social Democrats are considering nominating economist Jan Svejnar who will announce whether or not he will accept the nomination by the end of next week.
Catarrhal fever has been registered for the first time ever in the Czech Republic. An animal infected with this contagious disease that affects sheep, goats and cattle, was detected on Wednesday on a farm near Cheb, western Bohemia, close to the border with Germany. Veterinarians say that measures have been taken to prevent the disease from spreading further on. Catarrhal fever does not kill the infected animals, and they do not have to be slaughtered either.
A court in Prague has cleared former IT minister Vladimir Mlynar of charges of misusing information and abuse of office. Vladimir Mlynar was the Czech IT minister between 2003 and 2005. In October 2003, the IT Ministry spent 3.5 million crowns (or almost 200,000 US dollars) on founding a company that would run a website with information on the Czech Republic. After the Finance Ministry warned Mr Mlynar in February 2004 that such a procedure is not legal, he withdrew the contract but was still charged with mishandling the ministry’s funds. Mr Mlynar was then prosecuted and sentenced to 5.5 years in jail by a first-instance court earlier this year.
The lower house of the Czech parliament passed an amendment to the current education law on Tuesday that should make it easier for foreigners to study in the Czech Republic. According to the new regulation, EU citizens as well as foreigners with visas for more than 90 days will be able to attend Czech schools. Children of illegal immigrants should also be able to go to primary school. The Chamber of Deputies passed the new regulation for a second time, after it was rejected by the Senate. It will now be reviewed by the President.
Czech regions are to receive 150 billion crowns, or 8.3 billion US dollars, from the EU, the CTK news agency reported on Wednesday. The European Commission approved seven operational programmes for the Czech Republic through which the funds will be distributed among the regions within next six years. The contracts between the EU and the individual regions should be concluded on December 13. The regional operation programmes were approved after several months of reviews, and although the deadline for objections formally expires on Friday, no changes are expected.
Vienna International Airport confirmed on Wednesday its interest in the privatisation of Prague’s Ruzyne airport. Prague airport has more passengers than any other airport in the 10 new EU member countries and one of its long-term objectives is reach a similar number of travellers as Vienna. Last year, Prague’s Ruzyne airport dispatched 11.5 passengers while 17 million people travelled through the Austrian capital.
The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech parliament is debating the draft of the state budget for 2008. The coalition parties suggested on Wednesday an increase of one billion crowns, or more than 55 million US dollars, to the budget of the Education Ministry. Opposition MPs as well as teachers’ labour unions claim the increase is not sufficient, and will not prevent a pending strike by primary and secondary school teacher planned for December 4. The final vote on the state budged, with a deficit of 71 billion crowns, or almost 4 billion US dollars, is expected to take place next week.
Slavia Prague drew 1:1 with Steaua Bucharest in the group stage of the football Champions League on Tuesday. Despite steady pressure by the Romanian club in the first half, Slavia only conceded one goal and managed to score an equalizer 15 minutes before the end of the game. With one more match to go, Slavia Prague secured third position in Champions League’s Group H and will play in the UEFA Cup next year.
In the first ten months of 2007, 100 new cases of HIV-positive persons were registered in the Czech Republic. The total number of HIV-positive Czech nationals is now 1,020 while 230 Czechs have full-blown AIDS and 130 of them have died of it, according to Miroslav Hlavaty, the director of a Prague-based NGO helping HIV victims. It is estimated, however, that the real number of HIV-positive persons in the country may be up to ten times higher. The NGO Dum Svetla, or the House of Light, which provides accommodation for HIV- positive people, was visited on Tuesday by the American ambassador Richard Graber ahead of the upcoming World AIDS Day.