Independent Senator Liana Janáčková could face criminal prosecution for a series of allegedly racist comments made in 2005. The comments, made while she served as mayor of the Czech region of Marianské Hory and Hulváky, allegedly included calling Roma gypsies “over-bred” and suggested their removal with dynamite. Czech police have formally requested that Ms Janáčková be stripped of her immunity from prosecution. The proceedings have come as a result of legal action taken by a number of NGOs and private citizens, which include Roma organisations. Ms Janáčková has declined to comment on the matter.
A newly released opinion poll by the Median polling agency indicates the opposition Social Democrats have the support of 33.3% Czechs, while the governing Civic Democrats enjoys 30.3% support. The figures suggest a slight loss of support for the Social Democrats on the previous month’s figures. According to Median, the Communists are in third place with 14.9%, the Greens have 8.8% and the Christian Democrats have 6.8% support. These figures are likely to worry the Christian Democrats most, as they are hovering close to the 5% threshold required for a political party to attain seats in parliament. The next scheduled parliamentary elections are in 2010, although any number of factors could result in early elections being called.
A twenty-eight year old man caught trespassing in the president’s summer residence Lány Chateau died of a heart attack as the police apprehended him. The man is said to have climbed over the walls of the estate after being turned away from the main gates. He broke into the servant’s quarters and was picked up the chateau’s security camera. When the police apprehended him in the building he reportedly collapsed and died minutes after, presumably of a heart attack. The police have revealed his name saying that he had a history of alcohol and drug abuse. President Klaus was in residence when the incident happened but it is not clear whether the man had asked to see him.
Two people were injured in a shooting incident in Prague’s Paříižská Street, just off Old Town Square, on Saturday. Unknown gunmen opened fire on two Russian-speaking men in the middle of the afternoon when the street was crowded with tourists. Both were hit but neither of the injuries was fatal. The police are questioning eye-witnesses.
Czech university students may in future be asked to pay tuition fees. According to a preliminary draft of the planned reform a year’s tuition could cost 30,000 crowns (close to 2,000 USD) i.e. the average monthly salary of a university graduate. Students who are unable to finance their studies could ask for a loan which they would be expected to repay only after they start working and their salary reaches a certain level. The Education Ministry which drafted the proposal says it is aware of the fact that it may not be easy to push through Parliament. The strongest governing party, the Civic Democrats, supports it but the coalition is divided over the proposal and the opposition is vehemently against it.
Prague's negotiations with Washington on sending a Czech elite-forces unit to Afghanistan are likely to be completed by NATO’s Bucharest summit in April, Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanová said in a televised debate on Sunday. The special forces unit is likely to be part of the US operation Enduring Freedom, although it could also join the NATO-led international forces ISAF. The Czechs already have a reconstruction team in the Afghan province of Logar and operate a military field hospital in Kabul.
Czech companies are still very conservative when it comes to raising money for investment and development, according to a survey carried out by the Prague School of Economics. Eighty percent of firms use their own resources for long-term financing or take out a loan for that purpose. Issuing new shares or bonds is rarely considered an option.
The Jeseníky Mountain rescue service has called a third-degree avalanche alert, warning skiers not to stray from marked ski-trails. The service said the thaw over the past couple of days had loosened a twenty-centimeter layer of snow in the mountain’s five avalanche areas and the weight of a single skier could set off an avalanche. Holiday-makers have been warned not to underestimate the danger.