Over 100 Romanies from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Canada since it lifted a visa requirement for Czech visitors at the start of November, the Toronto Star reported. While in the first ten months of 2007 no Czech Romanies lodged asylum requests, 83 did so in November and December, while 45 applied in January. The fresh applications have raised apprehensions that there could be a repeat of a situation in 1996, when the North American state lifted travel restrictions for Czechs and around 4,000 Romanies from the Czech Republic arrived in Canada; most of them gained refugee status.
The Interior Ministry is proposing higher car insurance fees for those who
receive penalty points for bad driving. Interior Minister Ivan Langer said
currently insurers could only penalise drivers for causing accidents –
under the new system they would also impose higher fees for other risky
behaviour. Minister Langer said the change – part of a planned reform of
the law on the police – would serve as a preventative measure forcing
drivers to abide by the rules of the road.
The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of road deaths in Europe. A points system for driving offences introduced in July 2006 had some immediate impact, before fatality levels rose again.
Former politician Miroslav Macek has been ordered to apologise to MP David Rath after slapping him on the back of the head on stage at a conference in 2006. However, a Prague court rejected a claim by Mr Rath for compensation of CZK 1 million. Mr Macek slapped Mr Rath, who was health minister at the time, after the latter publicly accused him of marrying for money. Video footage of the incident was seen by tens of thousands of people on the internet.
The Chamber of Deputies has passed an anti-discrimination bill guaranteeing equal access to education, labour, health care and social benefits regardless of age, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion. The bill must now go before the Senate and the president. The Czech Republic pledged to introduce the legislation when it joined the European Union, though it is the last of the bloc’s 27 states to bring in such a law. Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil said much of what was contained in the anti-discrimination bill was already part of Czech law.
The former Czech president Václav Havel has expressed strong criticism of the current regime in Russia in an interview for the newspaper Lidové noviny. Mr Havel said the era of President Vladimir Putin represented a new kind of dictatorship. He said Moscow was not opposed to a radar base the US wants to build in the Czech Republic in its own right, but disliked the fact the radar would be in a sphere where it believes it should make decisions. Regarding the positive position towards Russia adopted by the current Czech president, Václav Klaus, Mr Havel said there was no reason to have lunch with Mr Putin; on the contrary, difficult questions should be put to the Russian leader, he said.
The vast majority of the nearly 40,000 letters found dumped in Břeclav, south Moravia last week are in such a poor state that they cannot be delivered to their intended recipients, a spokesperson for Czech Post said on Wednesday. The few thousand letters whose addresses are still legible should be delivered in the next week. Over 70 bags of undelivered mail posted between 2001 and 2006 were discovered dumped in a lift shaft in Břeclav at the end of last week; the contents were originally believed to amount to 63,000 letters. Police are investigating what Czech Post admitted was its biggest disaster ever.
Posters reproducing a controversial caricature of the prophet Muhammad which featured in a Danish newspaper in 2005 have appeared around the centre of the Czech Republic’s second city, Brno. Over 100 people died in protests around the world following the publication of the caricatures in the daily Jyllands-Posten. However, Muslim representatives in Brno have reacted coolly to the posters, which depict Muhammad with a bomb in his turban; Hani Baloush, whose foundation is based at Brno’s mosque, said those who hoped to annoy local Muslims would fail.
The outlawed Union of Communist Youth have lost an appeal against their banning by the Ministry of the Interior. The group were banned in October 2006 because of calls in their manifesto for the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and the nationalisation of all property. The Interior Ministry argued that such demands contravened the Czech Republic’s charter of fundamental rights and freedoms. The Prague City Court upheld that reasoning in a verdict delivered on Wednesday.
The manager of Arsenal football club has expressed frustration over the injury which has kept Tomáš Rosický out of action since the end of January. Arsene Wenger described Rosický’s ongoing hamstring injury as very strange, saying Arsenal were missing the Czech midfielder’s talents. Meanwhile, the player himself said there was nothing he could do but hope it gets better. Czech fans will be hoping Rosický, the national team captain, is back to his best in time for this summer’s European Championships.
Russia and the United States on Tuesday failed to agree on Washington's plans to deploy parts of a US missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. Moscow opposes the missile defense shield, saying its deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic would threaten Russia's security. Further negotiations are to be held on the matter. Meanwhile talks with Prague on the conditions under which a US radar could be employed in the country have made sound progress, with an agreement expected to be reached by the end of the year. However the deal would still need to be approved by the Czech Parliament before it could be implemented. Public opinion surveys suggest that the majority of Czechs are firmly opposed to the country hosting a US radar base and the opposition parties are doing their best to prevent it happening.