The Czech Republic does not fulfill the conditions necessary to adopt the euro, the European Commission stated in its Convergence Report published on Wednesday. The commission criticized the Czech government’s fiscal ambitions, stating that planned measures to reduce the state budget deficit in 2011 and 2012 were insufficient and too unspecific. Wednesday’s report evaluated the fiscal situation of nine countries that are hoping to adopt the euro. Of the nine countries, the only one to fulfill all conditions is Estonia, which the European Commission believes could join the euro zone in 2011.
Jiří Pernes has been dismissed as the director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes after less than a month and a half in the post. The board of the state body voted to remove him on Wednesday after allegations that he had committed plagiarism. For his part, Mr Pernes, who is a historian, has denied knowingly copying the work of others. There had been some opposition to his original selection, as he had not admitted to attending a communist evening course when applying for the job. Zdeněk Hazdra has been appointed as caretaker director. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has been in operation since the start of 2008. Among its activities is administering security archives from the communist era.
The leader of the Green Party, Ondřej Liška, has called on the state-owned energy company ČEZ to publish information about its suppliers and its foreign acquisitions. Mr. Liška said on Wednesday that he suspects the company of inefficient management. In an open letter to ČEZ’s general director, Martin Roman, Mr. Liška asked that the requested information about CEZ’s financial operations be made public by May 25, before the upcoming general elections. According to the Green Party, ČEZ has become a center of power that is beyond the control of the government.
Petr Nečas, the leader of the Civic Democrats, has suggested that sentences for corruption be increased by two to three years for persons who are in public or government office. The measure is one of eleven proposals that the Civic Democrats presented as part of a plan to fight corruption. Further, the party has suggested introducing Corruption Impact Assessments that would determine whether new proposals for a change of legislation have the potential to increase corruption. Mr. Nečas said he was also looking to cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy and suggested that three ministries be closed down. The Civic Democrats’ leader did not specify which ones he had in mind.
According to information released by the Ombudsman’s Office on Wednesday, a requiem mass will be held for the late Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl in the Moravian city of Brno on Monday. A commemorative gathering is also scheduled to take place in Brno that day. It will highlight the late ombudsman’s role in forming the Supreme Court, located in Brno. Mr. Motejl, who died at the age of 77 last Sunday, will be buried with state honors in Prague on Monday. Prague’s Divadlo na Fidlovačce theater will hold a special service for him as well. Mr. Motejl was the Czech Republic’s first Ombudsman and a highly respected public figure.
Public service broadcasters in the Czech Republic have begun airing party advertisements on Wednesday, just over two weeks before general elections. The ads will appear on Czech Television at 2 pm every day, while Czech Radio will broadcast spots at different times on three of its stations. Twenty-six parties are contesting elections on May 28 and 29. The Social Democrats are favorites to come first, while opinion polls suggest that two or more new parties could reach the five-percent threshold needed to enter the Chamber of Deputies
Now in its 65th year, the Prague Spring music festival is to kick off on Wednesday with the traditional commemorative act at Bedřich Smetana’s grave, a performance of Má Vlast or My Country by the Prague Philharmonic. The festival, which mostly focuses on classical music, will run until June 4th, and bring some 60 concerts and opera performances to the Czech capital. Performers include big names in classical music, such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Pierre Bouleze and Andrew Previn, as well as newcomers. The festival will take place at venues such as Prague’s Rudolfinum, churches across the city but also some outdoor locations such as Old Town Square.
Customs police confiscated five specimens of an extremely rare parrot, the protected palm cockatoo breed, estimated to be worth a million Czech crowns, late on Tuesday night. Officers found the birds in the trunk of a car when they were performing a routine check. The driver was returning from Slovakia to the Czech Republic via the D2 motorway, he was stopped near the south Moravian town of Břeclav. The man denied that he was smuggling the birds. Transporting palm cockatoos across borders without any documentation is in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The Czech Environmental Inspectorate and customs police are investigating the case.
The city police of Prague celebrated its 18th anniversary on Prague’s Old Town Square on Wednesday. Selected police officers were given awards for their work performance. Visitors also had a chance to see antique and modern police cars on display along with an exhibition about the history of the city police. Hundreds of Prague residents and tourists visited the celebration, which will continue on Saturday in Prague’s Stromovka park. The city police of Prague was established in 1992. Over 2500 officers work for the force.
The customs police have arrested ten members of an organized crime ring that had been dealing in counterfeit cigarettes since February of last year. The suspects are of Asian origin and are charged with smuggling tobacco leaves from Vietnam to the Czech Republic. The loss in tobacco taxes that the ring caused by selling counterfeit cigarettes is estimated at 150 million Czech crowns. Police also confiscated over fifty tons of tobacco leaves and other products for tobacco production.