A broad reform of the Czech Republic’s old-age pension system could begin in 2012, says the most likely next prime minister, Petr Necaš. The Civic Democrats leader made the comments after a meeting with members of a government commission that spent years considering how best to overhaul the pension system. Mr Necaš said that due to political considerations the final version of the reform plan might not correspond exactly to one of two proposals put forward by the commission this week. He also said a possible new coalition of his party, TOP 09 and Public Affairs should discuss pension reform with the Social Democrats, who are likely to go into opposition.
The number of racially motivated crimes recorded in the Czech Republic has fallen in recent years, according to a report released by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights. However, the report found that around one third of the country’s Romany minority say they have been the victim of attack. Czech NGO In Iustitia pointed out that the new report does not cover 2009, when there was a rise in the number of recorded crimes with a racial subtext. In the most high profile case, four neo-Nazis are accused of racially motivated attempted murder after allegedly firebombing a Romany family’s home in north Moravia in April 2009; the attack left a small child fighting for her life after suffering burns on 80 percent of her body.
The funeral has taken place in Prague of the comic actor, writer and director Ladislav Smoljak. He died on Sunday at the age of 78. Among those in attendance at a private funeral at the city’s Olšany crematorium on Friday were former president Václav Havel and Zdeněk Svěrák, with whom Smoljak enjoyed a long and successful professional partnership. Prague’s Jára Cimran theatre, which Ladislav Smoljak co-founded, was open to members of the public who wished to pay their last respects to the comic great.
Czech judges have warned that if the number of administrative workers in the judicial system is not increased, the quality of the court system will fall back to what it was in the 1990s. The president of the judges union, Tomáš Lichovník, said the financial crisis had resulted in increased workloads, which combined with a shortage of skilled staff threatened a return to the often slow handling of cases seen in the past. Mr Lichovník said he welcomed a statement by the three parties currently in talks on forming a new government promising to fund the hiring of more court officials and assistants. Meanwhile, the judges have warned that if their wages are cut as part of austerity measures they could take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Václav Havel was placed in intensive care in New York after suffering serious heart arrhythmia during a visit to the United States last month. The playwright and former president, who is 73, made the illness public on Friday. In a statement on his website, he said that he had recovered completely. A former chain smoker, Mr Havel had bouts of lung cancer in the 1990s and suffers from breathing difficulties. The one-time dissident is currently in Prague preparing to film a staging of his most recent play Leaving.
Most of the vaccines against swine flu purchased by the Czech state last year will be destroyed, the minister of health, Dana Jurásková, told reporters on Friday. Some will be kept as strategic supplies. The Czech Republic bought a million doses of the vaccine at a cost of CZK 220 million (around USD 10.3 million). However, only around 65,000 people in a country of 10 million had themselves inoculated against the disease.
The Czech athlete Barbora Špotáková came first in the women’s javelin at a Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday. Špotáková, who holds the world record in the discipline, finished some way in front with a throw of 68.66 metres. It was the Olympic champion’s second longest throw this season and the fifth best of her career.
The 47th Kmochův Kolín international festival of “dechovka” or brass band music has got underway in the central Bohemian town of Kolín. The Czech president, Václav Klaus, officially opened the three-day festival. Organisers said their aim this year was to attract more young people by placing a greater emphasis on contemporary music than in previous years. The festival is named after 19th century brass band composer and conductor František Kmoch, who was from the town.
The singer-songwriter Bob Dylan is playing a concert at Prague’s O2 Arena on Friday night. One of the most significant figures in post-war US culture, the 69-year-old has performed five times in the Czech Republic since his first concert in the country in 1994. Dylan’s last concert in the capital was five years ago, while he performed in Ostrava in 2008. The British singer Elton John played at a sold-out O2 Arena on Thursday night.