The Czech Republic and the Principality of Liechtenstein have agreed to normalise diplomatic relations for the first time in 17 years. The announcement was made Monday by Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Kohout. Mr Kohout said that the agreement would be accompanied by a memorandum proposing the creation of a commission of historians tasked with reviewing points of contention between the two countries. Until now, Liechtenstein has been the only country in the world not to recognise the Czech Republic, a situation caused by the confiscation of the Liechtenstein family’s numerous possessions in Czechoslovakia following WWII. Much of the dispute has centred on whether the famous noble family was or was not “German”, as per the post-war decrees under which their holdings in the country were seized. According to Prime Minister Fischer, the normalisation of diplomatic relations is not based upon any conditions or property concessions.
Mr Fischer and Mr Kohout also addressed the current issue of Canadian visas for Czech citizens, saying that any introduction of visas would be met with a “proportionate and duly self-confident response”. Canadian officials have said the decision on whether to reinstate visas would be announced on Monday evening. Canada eliminated visa restrictions on Czech citizens in 1997, however recent surges in asylum requests made by emigrating Romany families has caused the country to consider reimplementing the restriction.
The Czech interim government has approved a proposed Green Party bill to curtail legislators’ immunity to prosecution; the proposal is to get its first reading at parliament’s September meeting. The proposed law would allow the police to arrest members of parliament upon a breach of the law or immediately thereafter. Currently, Czech MPs who are not given up by the parliament for prosecution cannot be investigated for any criminal act committed during their tenure, even after they have left office. Two MPs have been given up by parliament during its present session: a Communist Party MP for suspicion of crimes committed during the previous regime and a Civic Democrat politician for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Over 4,000 cases of bankruptcy were filed in the first half of 2009, nearly 58% more than during the same period of last year. According to the credit management company Creditreform, which released the information, a total of 891 cases of bankruptcy were filed in June alone, which is a record number for one month. The growth in bankruptcy cases is primarily among entrepreneurs, where the frequency of insolvency is up by 87%. Moreover, more than half of the entities filing for bankruptcy in the first half of the year had their cases dismissed for lack of property. Creditreform expects that by August of this year the number of bankruptcies filed will have reached the same number as for the whole of 2008.
The Czech Pirate party has rejected overtures from the Green Party to join forces ahead of early elections in autumn. The Green Party’s temporary chairman, Ondřej Liška, said at the weekend that he wished to meet with the Pirate Party to discuss common aspects of the parties’ programmes and tie in to the cooperation between the parties in the European Parliament, where the Swedish Pirate Party holds a seat and has entered the Green Party faction there. The Czech Pirate Party however stated Monday that their main priority was to bring a new issue into Czech politics – that of internet freedom – and that they wanted their result in parliamentary elections to be based on that topic alone.
A study by the agency truconneXion states that Czech employees spend one-fifth of the average 8.5 working hours on social networks or computer games. According to the study, the most popular application among office workers, used during working hours, is the Facebook social network, on which one million Czechs are reportedly registered. Other applications to which work-time is devoted are online strategy games and communications tools, such as Skype and ICQ. As companies in the Czech Republic aim to reduce costs due to the global economic crisis, several companies in the country have recently fired scores of employees for internet surfing and gaming, such as the vehicle manufacturer Tatra and the Ostrava Municipal Council.
The ministers of agriculture of the EU member states have approved an extension for the support currently being provided to milk producers. The European Commission will continue to purchase butter and dried milk that EU dairy farmers are unable to sell until the end of February 2010. The original program allowed the programme to run from March to August of 2009. The current low price of milk has caused a major problem for dairy farmers across the EU, and Czech farmers, among others, have held protests and blockaded traffic in recent months to protest a lack of aid. The Czech Agrarian Chamber has warned that 2,000 face unemployment and 20.000 cows could be slaughtered if the price of milk is not increased in the coming months.
The Bohemia Jazz Fest began its fourth year on Prague’s Old Town Square on Sunday with a concert by American saxophonist Chris Potter and several thousand spectators in attendance. The event is to continue in Old Town through Monday and will then head to other town squares around the Czech Republic, winding up in České Budějovice on July 19th. The festival’s organisers estimate that last year’s programme was attended by 20,000 spectators in Prague alone.
A 33-year-old Hradec Králové man was sentenced to 13.5 years Monday for the murder of his girlfriend. Martin Keleman confessed to having stabbed his 23-year-old partner in January of this year after an argument. Keleman faced up to 15 years for the murder, however the court reduced the sentence, taking into consideration his cooperation and regret.
The Belgian-Canadian film “Angel at Sea” won the prize for the best film at the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Saturday night. The film – which recounts the life of a 12-year-old boy with a manic depressive father – is the first feature length film of Belgian director Frédéric Dumont. The best actor award was shared by Olivier Gourmet, who played the father in the film, and American Paul Giamatti for his role in the film “Cold Souls.” Germany’s Andreas Dresen won the best director award for the film “Whisky and Vodka.” The best actress was Denmark’s Paprika Steen for her role in “Applause.” American actor, producer and director, John Malkovich, accepted a special prize for his lifetime contribution to cinema.