The Czech Social Democratic Party has welcomed the victory of François Hollande in the French presidential election. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said the French socialists’ resumption of the presidency after 17 years was a strong encouragement for social democracy in Europe, and a sign of hope and a turnaround. He added that Hollande would have to lead a tough fight to implement growth measures against those in Europe who have favoured radical cuts. Czech Social Democrats would support him in this struggle, he said. President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Nečas also congratulated Mr Hollande his win. Mr Nečas warned France against any step away from budget responsibility, saying it would be a mistake to deepen debt and budget deficits in order to raise growth. François Hollande gained a clear lead in the second round of polling Sunday evening, making incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy the first one-term president of France since 1981.
Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský has criticised psychiatric facilities for impeding contact between child patients and their parents. In his report for 2011, the ombudsman writes that the children’s stay in such facilities does not mean that contact with their parents can be prohibited or limited. One such facility reportedly allowed telephone contact between children and their parents only for an hour and a half period during which 25 children had one phone available. Mobile phones were not allowed in a number of institutions. The ombudsman plans to deliver a summary report on children’s psychiatric facilities, including his recommendations, this year.
Mr Varvařovský also stated in his report that banks cannot deny senior citizens standard services on account of their age. The complaint came in response to a case where a man was denied a credit card because he was over 70 years of age. The ombudsman says the bank did not consider the other circumstances, such as the man’s solvency, and did not respond to his discrimination complain, but changed its policy only after hearing from the Czech National Bank. The report states that the ombudsman’s office receives ever-increasing complaints of discrimination against the elderly, for example in telecommunications, where providers have reportedly denied certain services to seniors.
A new survey conducted by Factum Invenio has suggested that former prime minister and presidential hopeful Miloš Zeman is in third place among voters, trailing early favourites Jan Fischer, who headed an interim government in 2009/2010, and Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar. According to the poll, if the election were held today Mr Fischer would receive 24.4 percent in the first round, followed by Mr Švejnar with 17.8 percent and Mr Zeman with 12 percent. Only the first two would compete in the run-off. Almost 67 percent of voters, the survey suggests, would take part. The Czech Republic will be holding its first-ever direct presidential election in early 2013, when Václav Klaus ends his second and final term in office.
More than 201,000 clients switched electricity providers in the first four months of the year, nearly half the number for the whole of last year, according to data from the electricity market operator OTE. The situation is similar on the gas market, where clients have changed suppliers in order to save. Experts believe the rate of change will probably not fall in the coming months. The Energy Regulatory Office recently warned of rising complaints regarding energy suppliers’ methods of signing and cancelling contracts. The ERU has ordered the companies to remedy the situation otherwise they will be sanctioned.
About a fifth of working age Czechs reported long-term medical problems last year. According to information from people aged 15 to 64 let analysed by the Czech Statistics Office, complaints most frequently involved back, muscular system, heart and circulation problems. The office’s calculations suggest that more than 1.34 million Czechs may have health problems lasting longer than one year. About 20% of female respondents cited health problems compared to some 17% of men. While such long-term problems were reported by every fifteenth just under 30 years of age, that statistic rose to every ninth person 10 years older. People aged 25 to 29 were most likely to complain of long-lasting depression or psychological problems.
The prison system lacks 1.2 billion for this year, the Justice Ministry reports. The ministry has asked the government to raise its budget by 940 million. However Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has cast doubt on that possibility, suggesting the system has too many employees per inmate. Prison services meanwhile note that the number of inmates is constantly rising and prisons are over capacity. The current budget for the prison system is 7.5 billion crowns.
The cubist painting “Woman Lying” by Czech artist Emil Filla was sold at auction for 15.2 million crowns at the weekend, making it one of the most expensive paintings auctioned off in the Czech Republic. The 1930s nude was part of a Prague private collection until now, and had a reserve price of 9.5 million crowns. It was bought by a collector who took part in the auction by phone. The all-time record at a Czech auction fell last month when a Russian-speaking collector bought “The Shape of Blue” by Frantisek Kupka for 55.75 million crowns.
Archaeologists in Prague’s Bubeneč district have found evidence of structures more than 7500 years old. Imprints from wooden supports suggested trapezoidal longhouses typical of the Linear Pottery culture that inhabited Europe in the early Stone Age. Evidence of a later structure suggested a date between 4300 and 3600 BCE from the Stroke-ornamented ware culture. Bubeneč, at the northern bend in the Vltava River, has been the site of numerous archaeological findings, most recently evidence of some of the oldest ploughed furrows in the Czech Republic. The new find pushes its earliest known settlement back to 5500 BCE and marks the earliest agricultural settlements in the country.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will mark VE Day on Tuesday with an open-doors event at its headquarters in Černínský Palace. Free tours will be given through some of the palace’s most valued rooms, such as the garden and the residence of Jan Masaryk. The garden will host an exhibition of WWII posters, photographs and historic vehicles. The palace will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. after which time a concert of Ondřej Havelka and his Melody Makers will take place.