The Czech Constitutional Court on Monday ruled that churches and religious
societies can pursue their property restitution demands at courts without
having to wait for specific legislation to be passed by Parliament. Former
church property, confiscated by the communist regime, was in 1991
by an act which said all demands would be dealt with in special
legislation. Reviewing a complaint by a Roman Catholic parish in Nový
Bydžov, in eastern Bohemia, however, the court said on Monday that since
no such law had been passed to date, churches can take the state to court
over individual demands.
The lower house of Parliament is later this week scheduled to vote on a controversial bill that would return the Roman Catholic Church and other groups some 135 billion crowns worth of property, partly in financial compensation. Some lawyers believe that Monday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court would pave the way for church property restitution even if the bill is rejected.
President Václav Klaus has appealed to MPs to reject government legislation raising the VAT rates. Speaking during his visit to a Prague elementary school on Monday, Mr Klaus said he hoped that “common sense will prevail” in Tuesday’s vote on the issue in the lower house, and that MPs would vote “responsibly” on the draft legislation. The centre-right Czech government is planning to raise the VAT rates by 1 percent to 15 and 21 percent respectively to narrow the gap in public finances. The plan has been criticized by the opposition, a number of economists including President Klaus who say the VAT hike will further deepen the recession of the Czech economy.
Health Minister Leoš Heger on Monday filed a criminal complaint over the failed project of electronic health records, or IZIP. Mr Heger said an audit of the project found that more than 450 million crowns, or nearly 23 million US dollars were lost due to irregularities in contracts between the country’s main health insurer, VZP, and the firm that managed the project. The IZIP project was launched in 2002 and cost 1.8 billion crowns. However, it was scrapped earlier this year for being ineffective and overpriced.
The real wage decreased by 1.1 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Monday. The average salary increased by 2.3 percent and reached just over 24,600 crowns; however, the real wage decreased after deducting inflation. Analysts say relatively high inflation of 3 percent along with unfavourable development on the labour market and uncertain economic outlook were the main causes of the decrease in the real wage which was higher than expected.
The makeover of Prague’s public transportation system has been reported
to have caused minor problems on Monday, the first weekday it was in force
after it was launched on Saturday. Some passengers complained about having
to transfer on previously direct lines while others said they needed
time to cover their daily routes. People also complained that some bus
stops were moved or cancelled.
As part of the biggest changes to Prague public transport in more than 30 years, some bus and tram lines have been cut while some of the major lines have been reinforced. The transport company also introduced new cross-city bus connections. The authorities hope to the makeover will cut up to 400 million crowns in costs.
The new school year began on Monday for 1.2 million Czech elementary and secondary school students. More than 104,000 children started school for the first time; 3,500 more than last year. Elementary schools report an increase in the numbers of pupils for the second year in a row; however, the number of secondary school students dropped by around 5 percent. President Václav Klaus welcomed pupils at an elementary school in the Prague district of Vinohrady; he set 9th graders a math problem none of them or their teachers were reportedly able to solve. For his part, Education Minister Petr Fiala visited a school in Strakonice, in southern Bohemia, on Monday.
The mandate and immunity committee of the lower house on Monday voted to recommend to MPs to allow police to extend charges against MP David Rath. The police want to add new charges related to purchases of equipment for Central Bohemian healthcare facilities. The former Social Democrat governor of the region has been in police custody since his arrest in May on corruption charges. He attended the committee’s session in person on Monday after he was escorted there from prison.
Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa has proposed a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the Czech Republic until the end of June, 2014. Mr Chalupa told reporters on Monday the moratorium should give lawmakers enough time to pass new legislation introducing rules for the use of exploration technologies. The Environment Ministry is planning to complete an analysis of the impact of shale gas exploration by the end of 2014 before respective legislation is put to vote in Parliament. Mr Chalupa’s proposal will now be discussed by the government. No shale gas deposits have been discovered in the country so far but plans to launch exploration came under criticism from NGOs, local politicians and inhabitants of the areas that could be affected by these activities.
A court in Prague on Monday sentenced a 36-year-old former floorball coach to nine years in prison for sexually abusing teenagers. The court found the man guilty of rape, seven cases of attempted rape and sexual abuse of boys aged 14 to 17 years he committed between 2001 and 2010 as coach of a Prague floorball team. The man denied all charges; the verdict has not yet come into force.
Members of the Czech national football team met in Prague on Monday, ahead of their opening qualification game for the World Cup 2013. The nomination for Saturday’s game against Denmark includes Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech, midfielder Petr Jiráček of Hamburg in Germany’s top division, Sparta Prague’s forward Václav Kadlec, striker Matěj Vydra from the UK’s third division club Watford FC, among others. National team manager Michal Bílek will however have to do without injured players Tomáš Rosický, Václav Pilař, and Daniel Kolář.