The United States Senate has rejected President Obama’s nominee for the
post of US ambassador to the Czech Republic: White House council for ethics
and government reform Norman Eisen. The president made his choice known
following a trip to Prague in July of this year and his nominee was
expected to sail smoothly into the post after being successfully vetted by
the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
The ambassadorial position has been vacant since the departure of Richard Graber in January of last year, following the change of administration in Washington. Observers say it will now remain empty at least until December, following mid-term elections in the US.
The opposition Social Democrats have demanded a thorough investigation
into claims that a security agency formerly owned by Transport Minister Vit
Barta had shadowed leading Prague politicians. Acting Social Democrat
chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said that if the allegations, which appeared in
Thursday’s Mlada fronta Dnes, are confirmed then the prime minister
should sack both the transport minister and Interior Minister Radek John, a
close associate from the same party Public Affairs. Mr. Sobotka also called
for legislation which would regulate the activities of security agencies
operating on Czech territory.
Politicians across the political spectrum have expressed concern over the allegations, pointing out that sensitive information collected about public officials not only violates their privacy but opens the door to corruption. Minister Barta has denied the claims and announced that his brother who now owns the ABL security agency would sue the paper over the story.
The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a three-year jail sentence for Czech musician Michal Moravec, arrested earlier this year in a nationwide crackdown against neo-Nazis. Moravec had appealed a verdict by a regional court which found him guilty of spreading racist propaganda at neo-Nazi concerts. He was the author of lyrics which experts described as openly racist and wrote the sleeve notes to a CD called Triumph of the Will where he glorified the Nazi philosophy. Moravec tried to defend himself by saying that some of the offensive words were the result of mispronunciation.
Labour Minister Jaromír Drábek and union leaders are battling out their differences over planned changes to the labour code in the Senate. The all-day conference in the upper chamber was organized by the Senate’s deputy chairman Michal Štech, himself a former union leader, in the hope of getting the centre-right cabinet to back down on some of the most controversial amendments in the pipeline. Czech unions have been fighting the government’s intention to overhaul the system according to which public sector employees are paid, with the intention of significantly lowering fixed salaries and increasing bonuses for performance. A late-night meeting on Thursday between workers’ leaders and Prime Minister Petr Nečas failed to break the deadlock and the unions are threatening to strike if the government tried to implement the proposed changes.
Long-term statistical data on unemployment published by the Czech Statistical Office indicate a disturbing trend – the emergence of a generation of young people who have never worked. Out of 30,000 people who have not worked in the last eight years, almost 16 thousand are people under 29 years. In the second quarter of 2010, the number of people who were jobless for more than a year grew to 155,000. Of those more than 81,000 are women, 72,000 are people with apprenticeship certificates, and the rest are people with only primary school education.
Prague inhabitants who rely on gas for cooking and heating can look forward to a drop in the price of gas in the fourth quarter. The city’s main Gas supplier Pražská plynárenská has announced a one to two percent drop in the price of gas for households depending on intake. The company has 440.000 clients in and around the Czech capital. The companies RWE Transgas and E.ON saying they are not planning to cut prices.
The Czech Republic is among the states that failed to fulfil the EU’s pledge to stop the decline in biological diversity by 2010, Czech ornithologist Lukas Viktora said on Friday in reaction to a report issued by BirdLife International ahead of a world conference on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan. The report states that wildlife species are still dying out and wildlife habitats continue to shrink due to intensive farming, the construction of new motorways, giant storing facilities, energy industry and the development of cities. The Czech Ornithological Society has criticized the fact that while 41 protected bird areas have been established in the Czech Republic, protection in them is not always effective, and many measures remain only on paper.
The interior ministry has launched a campaign aimed at curbing car-theft. The main message which will appear on radio, tv and on billboards across the country urges car owners to do more to secure their vehicles. Last year the police registered 14,000 stolen cars, meaning that a car was stolen every forty minutes somewhere in the Czech Republic. The police say that very often people themselves are to blame since they do very little to prevent theft, not having an alarm installed at the outset or leaving their car unlocked when they go to shopping malls and supermarkets.
A public opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency shows the President’s Office as the most trusted institution in the country with 76 percent of those polled saying they trusted the president. In comparison, the lower house of Parliament received only as 36 percent credibility rating and the Senate a mere 28 percent.
Atletico Madrid have agreed contract extensions with defender Tomáš Ujfaluši, winger Jose Antonio Reyes and midfielder Paulo Assuncao, the Spanish club said on Friday. All three were major contributors as the club won the Europa League last season and reached the King's Cup final which they lost to Sevilla. Czech Ujfaluši, 32, has signed a deal which binds him until 2013.