The centre-right government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Tuesday called at a special meeting for four key budget cutting measures to be fast tracked through parliament under a state of legislative emergency. The prime minister said the step was necessary to avoid them getting bogged down in parliamentary debate and to ensure that that they take effect from January 1, 2011. The demand will be put to the speaker of the lower house with the government’s lower house majority expected to back it. The lower house of parliament began discussions Tuesday on the government’s budget deficit cutting package aimed at curbing next year’s deficit to 135 billion crowns. It had called for the package to be voted on as a whole but that idea was been opposed by the left-wing opposition, the Social Democrats. They have also attacked the fast track legislative emergency saying the conditions for such an exceptional step were not met.
The Czech Republic’s corruption ranking has worsened this year according to the annual evaluation carried out by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International. The country fell from 52nd to 53rd place in the ranking of 178 countries this year. In 2008 the Czech Republic was 45th. Transparency International’s Czech branch director said no anti-corruption measures were taken over the last 18 months with the country gripped by a permanent election campaign. Politicians like to talk about measures but had so far not taken any action, he added. Among the least corrupt countries were Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas met with national and public sector union chiefs on Tuesday morning over their threat of strike action over government plans to cut wages and shake up wage scales. The prime minister offered to leave current wage scales alone but pledged to go ahead with the government’s plans to cut 10 percent off the state wages bill next year, either through job losses or pay cuts. He added that the budget for state employees would not be touched from 2012 to 2014. Union leaders said they would discuss the latest on Friday but some said after the meeting that the government’s latest offer changed little. Unions have already given notice of their intention to strike and must now decide on whether to lift their threat.
The first of 10 exiled Cuban families whom the Czech Republic has agreed to grant political asylum landed at Prague airport on Tuesday. Dissident Rolando Jiménez Posada and his family were welcomed by Interior Minister Radek John and representatives of the charity People In Need. The Czech Republic and Spain are currently the only European countries that have agreed to take the families, according to the ministry. Mr Posada was one of 53 dissidents released by the Cuban government. He said in Prague that the gesture was meaningless since he had been punished for nothing apart from fighting for his rights. The Czech Republic has long been one of Europe’s fiercest critics of the Cuban regime.
A regional court in Písek on Thursday gave the author of a book calling for Roma, or gypsies, to be deported to India a 14 month jail sentence suspended for two years. Jiří Gaudin, the author of the book “The Final Solution to the Gypsy Problem” was found guilty of inciting hatred of a group of citizens and curtailing their rights and liberty. Gaudin was last year a member of the far right National Party.
Former Czech president and dissident leader Václav Havel received the 2010 Franz Kafka literary prize on Tuesday. He becomes the 10th recipient of the international award. The judges’ panel announced their decision to award Havel for his lifelong literary and dramatic work in June. They said that his essays and plays had had a Czech, European, and worldwide impact.
President Václav Klaus has commented on the weekend’s election results, saying the influence of the new Social Democrat majority in the Senate over planned reforms is vastly overestimated. Mr Klaus told the daily Právo on Tuesday that the only thing that could slow down or stop the reforms would be a lack of unity and thoroughness within the government coalition. The president also challenged the Social Democrats’ interpretation of the results as a referendum on the government, saying the primary factor was that the party was no longer burdened by its former chairman, Jiří Paroubek.
The Senate’s foreign and defence affairs committee on Tuesday backed the government’s proposal for military missions over the next two years. The proposal counts on boosting the current Czech contingent in Afghanistan from the current 500 to around 720 next year and around 640 in 2012. Meanwhile, the Czech peace keeping force in Kosovo will be withdrawn. The main force has already returned leaving behind 92 soldiers to maintain a base should it be needed in emergencies. The Senate should vote on the plan for foreign missions on Wednesday. The vote is being pushed before senators elected during weekend elections take their seats and the Social Democrats gain a majority in the upper house. The Social Democrats have opposed the troop boost for Afghanistan.
The south Bohemian neo-gothic stately home of Hluboká nad Vltavou has won a competition organised by the state tourist agency CzechTourism for the best attraction in the country. The castle scored over other sites in the agency’s competition thanks to the fact that it is open and offers attractions throughout the year. Second placed was the Dvůř Králové nad Labem zoo with the Křivoklát castle third.
Archaeologists say they have found valuable evidence at excavations at a site at Pasohlávky in southern Moravia. The findings include amber, a clasp, tinder-box and many other iron objects from a camp of the Germanic Marcomanni tribe. It is clear from the finds that this was one of the biggest settlements of the tribe in Moravia and was based on trade with the Roman 10th legion during the 2nd century AD. The legion was sited at Pasohlávky to protect amber deliveries to Rome from the Baltic.