The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Friday extended the term of a
British military training mission in the Czech Republic until 2015. The
motion was supported by MPs from all parties in the house but the
communists. Communist deputy Václav Exner told reporters his party
the presence of any foreign troops on Czech territory.
The British military training and advisory mission, consisting of around 30 experts, has organized courses for military staff from various NATO countries and members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme at a Czech army base in Vyškov, in southern Moravia, since 2000. The British mission also assists in the training of Czech army officers.
A Czech humanitarian aid worker in Haiti and her Belgian colleague have been released after being kidnapped last week. The aid organisation Doctors without Borders for which both women work has declined to provide further details on the situation, including whether any ransom was paid, but has said that both are in good condition. The women, one of whom is a nurse, were apparently abducted last Friday in a suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince in the first kidnapping of aid workers since the earthquake of January 12. Doctors without Borders currently has six Czech and Slovak workers in Haiti dealing with health, water and sanitation issues. Czech aid organisations operating in the country have repeatedly emphasised that the situation there is secure and that they are for the most part provided military protection only when distributing aid.
The Czech Education Ministry is pushing for compulsory pre-school education, Deputy Education Minister Jindřich Kitzberger told Czech Radio on Friday. Some 7 percent of Czech children miss out on the last year of pre-school education, many of them Romanies who come from a socially-challenged environment. The ministry believes an extra year of compulsory pre-school education could remove barriers Romany children often face when entering elementary schools. The ministry had earlier carried out a survey among teachers and parents, and says they welcomed the idea.
The quality of air in northern Moravia has again worsened, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said on Friday. Most measuring stations in the region registered values twice exceeding emission standards of dust. The regional authorities have asked the biggest polluters in the area, including the steel producer Arcelor Mittal, to say how they are going to limit emissions. The lower house of Parliament also called on the Czech government on Friday to come up with concrete measures to improve the situation.
The Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, is not going to run in the general elections scheduled for May. Mr Kohout, who was expected to top the Social Democrat ballot in the Plzeň region, was rejected by the party’s regional organization, against the wishes of the party leadership. The news comes a day after the Social Democrats announced that Interior Minister Martin Pecina will head their ballot in Prague. The move provoked an outcry from the right-wing Civic Democrats, who said this breached an earlier agreement between the two parties about the support for the caretaker government. Prime Minister Jan Fischer reacted by saying that he would not prevent any member of his government to run in the elections; Mr Fischer said however he would make sure his ministers would keep campaigning out of their agenda.
A passer-by found a newborn baby lying in a heap of snow in the central Bohemian town of Příbram on Friday, the police said. The girl, who was born with the last 24 hours, was taken to hospital; doctors said her condition was stable, and she will survive. She was born healthy; she weighs 2.8 kg and measures 28 cm. The police are looking for her mother who will face charges of wilful abandonment.
Czechs MPs supported a motion on Friday to legally sanction the Czech capital of Prague as a single voting district in local elections. The bill will now go to parliamentary committees for further debate. If approved by the lower house of Parliament, the new law would thwart plans by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats who want to divide the capital into several voting districts to eliminate smaller political groups. During the last local elections in 2006, Prague was a single voting district while in the previous elections four years earlier, the capital was divided into five constituencies.
The oldest citizen of the Czech Republic has died at the age of 107, the daily Právo reported on Friday. Mr Josef Flandera, who was born in a Czech community in Ukraine, came to then Czechoslovakia with the exile Czechoslovak army, and settled in northern Moravia after WWII. Mr Flandera, who would have turned 108 in June, died on Saturday shortly after being released from hospital. The oldest Czech is now Julie Vašíčková from the south Moravian village of Prušánky, who was born in 1903, 15 years before the foundation of Czechoslovakia.
The debts of Czech households with banks have increased eight times since the year 2000, and now amount to more than 973 billion crowns, or over 52 billion US dollars, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. Analysts believe that the situation is not dramatic as around 70 percent of the debts are mortgages. However, the fastest growing types of loans are those used to pay for mobile phones, education and health care. The relative rate of Czech household indebtedness is at about 53 percent of eurozone levels.
Czech orienteer Michal Smola received the main award of the Czech Fair Play Club for 2009 on Friday. Smola, a member of the Czech national orienteering team, helped save the life of a French competitor who suffered serious injury at a World Championship race in Hungary last year. The Czech Fair Play Club also awarded rower Václav Chalupa and hockey player Josef Černý for their sense of fair play demonstrated throughout their sporting careers.