Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has attacked French president
Nicolas Sarkozy over the country’s ongoing expulsion of Roma or gypsies
originally from Romania. In an interview with the daily Lidove noviny, Mr.
Schwarzenberg said it was impossible not to suspect that a racist
perspective played a role in the ongoing expulsions. He said the move was
against the spirit and position of the European Union.
Mr. Schwarzenberg also criticized the French president for the organization of a world summit on the Roma issue in Paris on September 6. The Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria, countries which host large Roma populations and certainly would have something to contribute, have not been invited to the summit. Canada, which has reimposed visas on Czechs because citizens from the Roma minority were seeking asylum, has been invited.
The Czech government’s nominee responsible for human rights, Michael Kocáb, said the Paris summit should not seek to decide people’s fates in their absence. The Czech Republic currently heads a multinational initiative on Roma rights grouping countries from central and southern Europe.
Justice Minister Jíří Pospíšil has outlined his plans for reforming
the country’s legal system. The plans include cutting the retirement age
for judges to 65 years from the current 70. The overall number of judges
would also be reduced. The minister said cutting the age limit would hasten
the influx of a younger generation of judges who had not been educated
under Communism, were more comfortable with technology and foreign
languages and had travelled. He said older judges could stay on as
judges’ assistants if they wanted.
The minister also proposed transferring responsibility for seizures in cases of debt entirely to private companies to relieve the work burden. The changes are being prepared for the end of the year and could, according to the minister, save money.
Thousands of rock fans have been gathering for the one day festival Řipfest 2010 near the historic hill Řip in central Bohemia on Saturday. The culmination of the festival will be a late night appearance by rock legend Ozzy Osbourne. The former Black Sabbath member is launching an 11-stop European tour at the Czech festival and also promoting his new album, Scream. Rain forced the cancellation of some of the earlier bands on the programme.
Fans of deceased US pop singer Michael Jackson organised a three-hour walk through the streets of Prague on Saturday in homage to their hero. The walk was staged to coincide with would have been the singer’s 52nd birthday. At various stages along the walk stops were scheduled for participants to dance to the tunes of his hit album “Thriller.” Fans from Slovakia were also expected to take part. Jackson died in June last year after taking too many sedatives.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has lifted its flood alerts for the regions of Liberec and Ústí nad Labem in north Bohemia. The institute issued the warning on Friday fearing heavy rain could result in local rivers reaching the first or second level flood danger. Level three indicates danger or extreme danger of flooding. Now, only showers are predicted for the areas with rivers only rising because of previous heavy rain. Both regions are still recovering from devastating flash floods just three weeks ago which caused around 6.0 billion crowns in damage and claimed at least five lives.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has told flood stricken farmers that payments to them will be speeded up in a bid to help them recover. Speaking at an international farmers’ fair in the south Bohemian city of České Budějovice on Saturday, the prime minister said that state payments to farmers would be prioritised. He also said demands for rental payments by the state land office could be postponed for up to a year. The Ministry of Agriculture already made a similar pledge concerning payments for land bought from the state.
Czech Minister of Defence Alexandr Vondra has said he has no knowledge of members of the armed forces wanting to take part in police and fire fighters’ demonstrations against government austerity measures. Mr.Vondra told Czech Radio on Saturday that he could not prevent them joining the demonstrations if they were not in uniform and using their own free time. Police unions have said members of the armed forces have expressed interest in taking part in protests. The Ministry of Defence this year faces a 10 percent cut in the wage bill and bill for operating costs and a 5.0 percent cut in investments.
Police have detained and charged four driving test examiners from the eastern city of Ostrava according to a police spokeswoman. She said they had been charged in connection with suspected corruption concerning driving licenses and tests. Abuse of a public office carries a punishment of up to three years in prison for a first offence.
Czech motorcyclist Karel Abraham is uncertain to start in Sunday’s Grand Prix even in Indianapolis, in the US. He took part in Friday’s training but only completed 12 courses of the circuit before his father called off the practice. He was complaining of slow reflexes and poor concentration. The rider suffered concussion following training for the Brno Grand Prix two weeks ago and has not fully recovered since.