The first ever euthanasia bill reached the Czech parliament Tuesday and is likely to lead to wider debate on this issue. The bill, drafted by Senator Václava Domšová of the Union of Independent-European Democrats would legalize assisted suicide, and give comatose patients the right to die. However, the bill faces a number of obstacles. The ruling Civic Democrats are opposed, citing concerns over the potential misuse of euthanasia, while a majority of senators, who will discuss the legislation in the autumn, are also unlikely to vote in favour of it. Legalising euthanasia is supported by two-thirds of Czechs according to recent opinion polls. At present, euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Switzerland and the American state of Oregon.
Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Christian Democratic Party Jiří Čunek stated Tuesday that he considers the entire matter of his alleged corruption as being closed. The statement came after a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and follows an audit of Mr Čunek’s accounts paid for by Foreign Minister Karel Shwarzenberg. The audit came as allegations of alleged bribe taking by Mr Čunek led to increasing calls for his resignation – the matter was also investigated by police but was subsequently dropped for lack of evidence. Mr Shwarzenberg had threatened to resign if a privately funded audit revealed improprieties in Mr Čunek’s business affairs. The audit has not shown any proof of bribe-taking, although it did open up several new questions over Mr Čunek’s apparently lucrative history of lobbying.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has warned that his party will respond firmly to any mistruths spread by the media. Mr Paroubek along with campaign manager Jaroslav Tvrdík made the statement at a press conference on Tuesday. The statement came as a response to a number of articles that have appeared in the Czech media which suggest that the party has its own “intelligence apparatus” used to track members who may potentially vote against the party in favour of the government. Speaking at the press conference, Mr Paroubek stated that such articles are presented without any evidence and lack credibility. The Social Democrat leader also warned that his party had hired a legal firm to firmly respond to any purportedly false allegations. The move comes as the party gears up for local and senate elections 17 and 18 October.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has announced that the controversial privatization of the Budvar beer company will be delayed. Specifically, Mr Topolánek noted that the privatization of the company, which is currently in state ownership cannot be completed before the current government’s mandate expires in 2010. The government’s plan is for a two-phased sell off – firstly the company would be transformed into a limited company with the majority of shares owned by the government. After that, the company would be sold off. It remains unclear whether the delay is connected to the recent proposed merger of Anheuser-Busch and InBev, which would create the world’s largest beer company. Czech politicians remain keenly aware of public demands of keeping Czech Budweiser independent of its American – now Belgian-owned rival.
New figures from the Regional Development Ministry suggest that rent prices across the Czech Republic have remained largely stable, despite concerns about impending rent deregulation. In fact, price decreases have become evident in several areas of the country including the cities of Plzeň and Brno and the towns of Liberec and Pardubice, particularly for larger flats. Meanwhile, rent prices in Prague have also stabilised, although demand for small flats in the centre remains extremely high, with current prices around 255 crowns per square metre. Meanwhile, the Regional Development Ministry has been insisting that rent deregulation will lead to a decrease rather than increase in rents, although some dispute this. Rent deregulation has been phased in by both the current and previous government.
The Czech Post Office has announced pre-tax profits of 794,5 million crowns for 2007, a 140 percent increase on the previous year’s figures. The increase is partially attributed to a drop in investments, which fell from two million crowns in 2006 to around half a million in 2007. The Czech Post Office has spent a number of years modernising and updating its services. The increase in profits is contrasted by a modest 0.6% increase in turnover to 17,646 billion crowns.
The strong crown is costing the Czech Republic millions in lost monies from the EU, says the government. The cause is simple – the converted monies are simply not worth as much as they used to be. Now, the Czech Prime Minister has come up with a potential solution. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Topolánek stated that one way to save money might be to source it in a different currency other than Euros, although further details were not forthcoming. The Czech Republic is poised to receive 26.7 billion Euros from the EU between 2007 and 2013. However, when the agreement was signed, 1 Euro was worth 26 crowns. Today, one Euro brings only around 23 crowns.
A Czech man has been arrested in the Irish city of Galway on suspicion of murdering a twenty-year-old Czech woman in the country. The woman’s body was discovered on Monday by a stone wall in the village of Inverin; Irish police believe that she was strangled after an argument with the accused. Known only as Nikola, the woman is believed to have worker as a carer in Ireland. Her full name is being withheld until after her relatives are informed of her death.
A first-generation copy of the original Munich agreement has arrived in the Czech Republic for the first time. The agreement, signed in 1938 ceded parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany on condition that Germany stops its expansionism. The agreement was later derided as a form of appeasement of Hitler’s Germany. The copy of the original document represents the first time that the original text has been visible to Czechs. The four page document will be permanently displayed in the Kolovrat Place in the grounds of the Czech senate.
Scientific studies quoted in the Czech newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes suggest that Czechs are increasingly eating more healthy foods, but are nonetheless still eating too much. Specifically, studies by the Health Nutrition Forum suggest that Czechs are increasingly turning away traditional foods such as fatty sausages in favor of more fruit and vegetables. Yet, the study also finds that around seventy percent of adult Czechs and one in five Czech children are overweight. The main causes for this obesity are reportedly low activity and excessive food and also beer consumption.