The secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is on a two-day visit to Prague. He is meeting with the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, as well as the ministers of foreign affairs and defence, Jan Kohout and Martin Barták. One of the main items on Mr Rasmussen’s agenda is the Czech government’s plans to send 55 more troops to Afghanistan, where over 500 Czech soldiers are now serving. The troop increase is expected to face a major hurdle in the Czech Parliament, where the plan does not have majority support. Defence Minister Barták told Czech Television he hoped the NATO leader’s visit could help increase support for sending more soldiers to the country.
The UN commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, on Thursday criticized the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Italy for doing little to prevent continuing discrimination of their Romany minorities. Ms. Pillay said that while other European governments had taken action to improve the life of their Roma minorities, their living conditions in the three mentioned states actually appeared to have deteriorated. She said Romanies were exposed to open racism and negative stereotyping in all areas of life. The human rights commissioner said she wanted to talk to government officials about taking effective measures to combat the problem, starting in Italy next week.
The Austrian president, Heinz Fischer, has lashed out against the Beneš
decrees, legislation that sanctioned the expulsion and confiscation of
property of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans from post-war Czechoslovakia.
In an open letter to the Sudeten German Landsmanschaft in Austria,
President Fischer said the decrees had been a gross injustice imposed on
the Sudeten German community in post-war Czechoslovakia, and should not be
sanctioned by the European Union. He said he would fight for human rights
to be respected within and outside Austria’s borders and firmly believed
that the chance of justice being done in the present day EU was far greater
than it had been in 20th century Europe.
After the fall of communism politicians in Austria and Germany called for the decrees to be revoked, opening the way for compensation claims. President Vaclav Klaus tried to block this possibility when he demanded an opt-out from the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights before signing the Lisbon Treaty late last year. In reaction to the letter, President Klaus said it was essential that the opt-out should be approved as soon as possible.
On a working visit to the Czech Republic German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Thursday promised to look into the matter of alleged harassment of Czech drivers on German roads, particularly in Bavaria. Czech politicians recently demanded an apology from Germany after receiving more than 100 complaints from Czech drivers saying they had been searched and questioned in a humiliating manner by German traffic police. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said on Thursday that if this behaviour did not actually violate the Schengen agreement it certainly went against its spirit.
A lawyer representing Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, a communist-era prosecutor who is serving a six year jail sentence for judicial murder, has asked for her case to be reopened. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, now 88, was instrumental in sending democratic politician Milada-Horáková to the gallows in a 1950 show trial. Although her appeals for clemency on the grounds of ailing health were rejected, it has now emerged that the former prosecutor could be freed on the grounds of three amnesties that apply to her case. Her lawyer, Vladimír Kovář, has asked for the prisoner to be released on health grounds while her case is reviewed.
Ornithologists who are trying to reintroduce the Golden Eagle to the Beskydy Mountains report the first success in four years. Two of 14 golden eagles to have been released into the wild since 2006 have finally started building a nest, the first on Czech territory in more than a century. The head of the team that has brought them back, Petr Orel, says this is a huge success since eagles tend to return to the same nest to breed for several years. Females lay from one to four eggs, and typically, one or two young survive to fledge in about three months. Ornithologists have refused to reveal the location of the nest for security reasons.
Czech police have arrested an Argentinean national wanted for fraud in several EU countries. The man, who moved around the Schengen zone with false identity papers, was arrested on an Interpol warrant at Prague’s Florenc bus station shortly after arriving in the Czech Republic from Spain. According to a police spokeswoman the suspect posed as a car dealer and walked off with people’s down-payments. It is not yet clear where he will be tried.
A survey conducted by the Food Inspection Authority at the beginning of this year indicates that more than half of Czech consumers don’t bother to read the small print on consumer labels. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they never looked at the small print. The reasons cited were that they did not believe what was written on the packaging, it was hard to read or that they selected goods on the basis of price. The vast majority of respondents said they would prefer to buy fresh products daily, but for the sake of convenience they shopped at hypermarkets once a week and went for bigger packaging in order to save money.
The police are investigating an accident in which a 5-year old fell from a second floor window while unattended. The child, who was alone in the flat at the time, escaped with relatively minor injuries, a broken leg and bruises. Police are questioning the parents in view of filling negligence charges. There have been several incidents in recent months of children falling from open windows. An eleven-year-old boy who miraculously survived a fall from a sixth floor window a fortnight ago remains in intensive care.
The Czech Republic’s footballers were beaten 1:0 by Scotland in a friendly in Glasgow on Wednesday night. The Czechs dominated play for much of the match but were unable to convert possession into goals. In three games under manager Michal Bílek the Czechs have been beaten three times and failed to score a single goal. Bílek said after Wednesday’s defeat that in the absence of the injured Milan Baroš his team lacked a player who could find the net in such games. The Czech Republic will face Scotland again in qualifiers for Euro 2012; their group also contains European champions Spain, Lithuania and Liechtenstein.