President Václav Klaus has vetoed a bill introducing criminal liability for companies. The Czech centre-right government considers the bill an important tool in curbing corruption. However, Mr Klaus maintains that the legislation ignores the link between a crime and its perpetrators, and is an example of shirking responsibility, adding that the bill was part of a fashionable trend to criminalize corporations. Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil rejected Mr Klaus’ claims, and said he hoped coalition MPs will overturn the presidential veto when the bill returns to Parliament. The Czech Republic is the only EU member state without such legislation.
An Austrian appeals court has rejected a motion to retain confiscated artwork belonging to the Czech state that was seized due to legal disputes with the company Diag Human. The decision overturns a Viennese district court verdict from May of this year, based upon which several paintings and sculptures that were on loan to an Austrian gallery were seized because of the blood-plasma company’s multimillion damages claim against the Czech state, which it says upset its business activities in the 1990s. The artworks should now be returned to the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has claimed 12 billion crowns from the privatisation of the coalmining company Mostecká uhelná which have been frozen on Swiss bank accounts due to suspected fraud and money-laundering. The country recently missed a deadline to confirm participation in Swiss judicial proceedings regarding the money. Prime Minister Petr Nečas told reporters on Friday that there are several possible ways of claiming the money, which will be analysed by the state prosecutor; the state will meanwhile be hiring legal representation in Switzerland. Switzerland began a probe into the case in 2005 on suspicion that the company’s directors were embezzling huge sums of money, some of which were allegedly being transferred to Swiss accounts within an extensive money-laundering scheme.
Police arrested 17 people at demonstrations of right-wing extremist groups on Thursday’s national holiday. Ten people out of a group of about 50 were detained after a demonstration of the Workers’ Party for Social Justice )the successor of the banned neo-Nazi Workers’ Party) when they attempted to cross the river where an opposing demonstration was taking place and were deterred by police. A group of young people then began throwing fireworks at officers. Seven other people were arrested during the demonstration itself for possession of fireworks. No problems were reported at the day’s main protests, a demonstration of some 2,000 people against the current centre-right government and its reform plans. November 17 marked 22 years since the beginning of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, which brought down the country’s Communist regime.
Four paintings by the early Cubist painter Emil Filla were stolen from the Peruc Chateau in Northern Bohemia, apparently on Thursday night. Police put the value of the reportedly the uninsured paintings at tens of millions of crowns, but have declined to provide any specific information as an investigation is underway. The chateau, where the Czech avant-garde artist lived after WWII, was sold five years ago, along with its gallery, to British buyers, who the local mayor says provided good security. The work of Emil Filla is among the most expensive auctioned in the Czech Republic, with one painting sold last year for over 16 million crowns.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is the latest institution to confirm a poor economic outlook for the Czech Republic in 2012. The OECD estimates a drop in growth next year to 1.6% compared to this year’s 2.1. The organisation’s report does however say the Czech economy is stable and successful and commends the current reform plans. In the spring, the OECD predicted Czech economic growth of 2.4% this year and 3.5% in the next. Its revised estimate remains more optimistic than those of the Czech National Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the European Commission.
Nearly two-thirds of Czechs believe the country’s international esteem is decreasing, according to an October poll published by the STEM agency. The polling agency says that opinion, held by 62% of respondents, is the most negative attitude towards the country’s international reputation yet recorded. Nonetheless, more than half of those questioned said that the Czech Republic’s foreign policy is essentially good. Those most critical of Czech foreign policy, according to the poll, were left-wing voters, particularly Communist Party sympathisers. Those most optimistic about the country’s prestige abroad favoured the senior government party, the Civic Democrats.
The same poll also gauged Czechs’ attitudes towards various other nations. According to STEM, the results show very high opinions of Slovakia and Sweden, followed by more Western European countries, Holland, France, Denmark Great Britain, Belgium and Austria. The countries were graded as in school and respondents overall gave failing grades to Serbia, Russia, Ukraine and China. Roughly half of those questioned gave positive marks to the United States. Compared with the same results from last year, the agency says that opinions of most countries worsened, with the notable exception of Japan, which suffered a catastrophic earthquake this year.
Smog conditions in the Czech Republic have improved slightly over the last two days, though pollution levels continue to exceed permissible limits, namely in the regions of Moravia-Silesia and Southern Moravia. Dust levels in the worst affected areas, previously four times the permissible norm of 50 micrograms per cubic metre, fell to around 87 on Thursday. The situation has lasted more than two weeks in some parts of the country, with traffic and industrial manufacturing restricted and children and the elderly advised to stay indoors as much as possible.
Czech hockey player Martin Erat, back from injury, has shown fine form in recent matches including the Nashville Predators match-up on Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The player scored two goals in his team’s 4:1 win, and was named the game’s first star. In other action, Ottawa forward Milan Michálek notched up one goal and one assist in a 5:2 win over Edmonton, while the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomáš Plekanec earned two assists against the Islanders. However, the Habs were narrowly defeated 4:3.