Czech European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra met with visiting Chinese State Councillor Hua Jianmin on Monday. At a news conference following the meeting, Mr Vondra said that the Czech Republic plans to engage China in a dialogue on human rights during the Czech presidency of the EU. Alexandr Vondra said that China was a country with “an improving human rights situation” but progress in this area is slow. According to the Czech European Affairs Minister, the Czech Republic has several concrete ideas how to foster human rights in China. The Czech Republic will assume the EU presidency in January 2009, a year which will mark 20 years since the fall of communism and the country’s return to democracy.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has denied reports in the Austrian press that following the Schengen expansion a heightened number of illegal immigrants have been crossing the Czech-Austrian border. In an interview for the Austrian weekly Profil, published on Monday, the Czech PM said that problems with a large group of Chechen asylum seekers in Austria were caused by the fact that Austrian authorities had not reacted to a warning issued by their Czech colleagues. In other parts of the interview regarding free movement of the workforce, Mr Topolánek said that the Czech Republic has not been a problematic country in this respect. The Czech PM urged Austria to lift the moratorium which he considers to be a discriminatory measure against the Czech Republic.
The National Committee of the coalition Christian Democrats recommended to the party’s MPs and senators on Monday to vote for the incumbent Václav Klaus in the presidential election to be held in February 2008. Meanwhile, some Christian Democratic MPs and senators had already expressed support for Jan Švejnar, the other presidential hopeful who was nominated by the opposition Social Democrats and the coalition Greens. The successful candidate will need a majority of 141 votes in the Parliament.
The Supreme State Attorney Renáta Vesecká has asked Justice Minister Jiří Pospišíl to review the case of Jiří Čunek, the head of the coalition Christian Democrats who stepped down as Regional Development Minister last year over alleged corruption charges. Ms Vesecká has been criticized for mishandling the investigation of the case. Most recently it was discovered that Ms Vesecka attended several private meetings with officials directly involved in the investigation.
German neo-Nazis are calling on their supporters to join in a march through Plzeň, western Bohemia, on January 19. The march is organized by a Czech far-right, nationalist group Narodní Odpor, or National Resistance, in protest against alleged restrictions on freedom of speech. The protesters are planning to march past Plzeň’s Great Synagogue only a day before the 66th anniversary of the first transports of local Jews to Nazi extermination camps. The police are expecting that several hundred radicals might arrive from Germany for the occasion. Meanwhile, Plzeň’s Jewish community and other Czech Jewish organisations are summoning a protest rally in front of the local Jewish house of prayer.
The Czech corporate tax regime is one of the least attractive in Europe, according to a survey conducted in 28 European countries by the KPGM agency. In the poll, more that 400 tax professionals across the continent compared their country’s taxation system to the rest of Europe. The Czech Republic, Greece and Romania ranked bottom of the ladder due to extensive and complicated legislation as well as frequent changes to the tax system. Czech respondents in the poll also complained that the Czech authorities lack clarity and comprehensibility when interpreting Czech tax legislation.
Czech communist leaders say they might support Jan Švejnar, the only other candidate running against incumbent Václav Klaus in the coming presidential election. In return, they expect to be invited for negotiations on the formation of a new government following next parliamentary elections, the deputy leader of the Communist Party Jiří Dolejš said. Since the fall of communism in 1989 the Communist Party has not been directly involved in government.
Ticket inspectors on the Prague public transit system checked about six million passengers in 2007. About 230,000 of them were fined for failing to produce valid tickets. Altogether, the Prague transport company collected more than 100 million crowns, or more than 5.7 million US dollars, in fines. Public transport in Prague and most other Czech cities and towns is based on an honour system which means passengers are required to purchase their tickets beforehand and validate them once they get on. But the Prague transport company is considering introducing turnstiles in the Prague metro to bring down the number of illegal passengers.
Pavel Minařík, a spy under former Communist Czechoslovakia, will go to court next week for an insurance fraud. His company allegedly exported scrap optic fibres to Ukraine. Once across the border, his associates burnt the cargo and reported a traffic accident instead. Between 1969 and 1976, Pavel Minařík was an elite spy working for Czechoslovak intelligence. He spent eight years undercover in Germany and worked at the Czech section of the Munich-based Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty.
The Czech crown has broken another record against the US dollar when it sold at 17.32 crowns to the dollar on Monday. Analysts say the dollar weakened due to speculations over possible higher losses of the American Citigroup company. The Czech Exporters’ Association has urged the Czech National Bank not to raise interest rates. They believe this could keep the Czech crown from strengthening and diminish the losses by Czech exporters.