The Czech presidency of the European Union has condemned planned Israeli
settlement activities in the vicinity of the Adam settlement in the West
Bank. In a statement issued on Friday, the presidency urged Israel to
reconsider the planned construction which would violate international law.
Continued settlement activities represent a major obstacle to peace in the
Middle East, and severely damage the prospect of the creation of a viable
Palestinian state, the Czech EU presidency said.
Israel plans to build another 1,400 housing units near the existing settlement of Adam in the West Bank. According to the EU presidency statement, Israel built more than 1,200 settlement structures last year, nearly 750 of them permanent.
Czech NGOs say the Czech Republic has the highest number of children placed in institutional care of all European countries. Around 23,000 children are growing up in various types of institutions. The NGOs’ representatives told reporters on Saturday that more than half of all children in institutional care were taken away from their families because of poor living and social conditions. This could have been prevented by better social work with such families. The experts also said that Czech children’s care homes should be transformed into family-type facilities with the maximum of ten children, instead of the current 45.
Around 40 supporters of the small far-right Workers’ Party gathered in
the town of Postoloprty, northern Bohemia, on Saturday in order to deal
with alleged Romany crime. The party leadership said a number of local
citizens asked them to help stop petty crime and breaches of public order
attributed to the town’s Romany minority. The far-right activists spent
some two hours in the town, talking to locals and distributing leaflets. No
disturbances were reported. The Workers’ Party originally planned to
stage a march through the town but it was banned by local authorities.
The government is seeking the banning of the Worker’s Party following attacks on a Romany community last November. The request is now being reviewed by the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Czech culture ministry has slashed funds for a planned research library building in Ostrava, northern Moravia. The decision was made after the Czech government agreed last month that all ministries must maintain a reserve to cover unexpected expenditures caused by the economic crisis. The ministry was planning to spend 215 million crowns, or nearly 10 million US dollars, on the new library building.
Czech Communists have come up with proposal of how to save collapsing companies: their employees should be allowed to take them over, and try to keep them afloat themselves. Communist MEP Miloslav Randsdorf told journalists on Saturday that if this scheme, known as Employee Stock Ownership Programmes, was introduced, workers could pay for their employer’s shares with funds collecting the firm’s future benefits. The Communists wanted to introduce the programme in the past but never found enough support from other political parties.
Prague's biggest funfair Matějská pouť opened its gates at the city’s exhibition grounds in Holešovice on Saturday, despite bad weather. Originally a pilgrimage to the nearby church of St Matthew, the fair now offers more than 130 attractions including a giant water slide, a roller coaster and many carousels.
An express train killed a horse that got stuck on rail tracks during a carnival in a Bohemian village on Saturday. The horse was led across the tracks in Zadní Třebáň, some 30 km southwest of Prague, during the community’s carnival when one of its hooves got stuck in the tracks. People ran to warn the driver of an approaching train; however it did not manage to stop in time and hit the horse. No people were injured in the accident which caused several hours of delays on the busy Prague – Beroun railway line.
Czech President Václav Klaus, a firm opponent of greater European integration, has strongly criticised the European Union in the European Parliament. Speaking before lawmakers on Thursday, Mr Klaus criticised the EU for attempting to shift the brunt of decision-making to Brussels to the detriment of individual states and also criticised the EU’s approach on the economy. His speech was greeted at points by applause but also by boos and opposition: some MEPs demonstratively left the room. Mr Klaus’s appearance follows that of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in January, who spoke in the European Parliament shortly after the Czech Republic took up the rotating EU presidency.
In related news, President Václav Klaus would not tell journalists in Brussels on Thursday whether he was ready to sign the Lisbon treaty designed to reform the running of the EU. He was asked the question at a press conference following his speech in the European Parliament, saying that “chess players did not announce their move in advance”. He did say he expected a serious debate on the Lisbon treaty in the Czech Senate, which has now to discuss the issue, after the Czech lower house passed the treaty this week. Mr Klaus is a fierce opponent of the document which needs to be approved by all 27 EU members to come into effect.