A Prague court has ordered four men found guilty of a racially-motivated attack against a Roma student in 2002, to pay the victim compensation of 25, 000 crowns each - the equivalent of around four thousand dollars US. All four have also been ordered to provide written letters of apology. In October 2002 the four youths, the oldest of whom was 19 years of age, attacked the Roma student near a Prague metro station. The student, Marek Polak, suffered cuts, bruises, and a concussion. His attackers all received suspended sentences, the longest: three years in prison.
Czech officials and politicians have reacted heatedly to Cuba's expulsion
of a Czech senator, demanding an explanation. Senator Karel Schwarzenberg
was thrown out of the country late Thursday, soon after arriving to meet
with Cuban dissidents. So far, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has reacted
by saying the expulsion was proof the Czech Republic's tough stance on
Cuba was justified. Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka, meanwhile, has
described the expulsion as "a blatant violation of international
Karel Schwarzenberg is the former head of the presidential office under former Czech president Vaclav Havel, himself a strong critic of Fidel Castro's regime. The European Union is to decide soon whether to reinstate diplomatic sanctions against Cuba on the basis of human rights violations. The Czech Republic has been pushing the EU not to soften its stance.
Both Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the chairman of the Social
Democratic Party, Stanislav Gross, have denied they might face each
other in an eventual showdown for their party's post of electoral
leader. Speaking together with Mr Gross on Friday the prime minister
said no conflict existed between himself and Mr Gross, who he considers
a personal friend. While he did express an interest in being named his
party's election leader, Mr Paroubek stressed the post could fall to a
number of highly placed Social Democrats, including Culture Minister
Pavel Dostal or Education Minister Petra Buzkova. Both he and Mr Gross
said their party would conduct extensive research & analysis to decide
on the best person for the job.
The Social Democrats, along with the Czech Republic's other political parties, have roughly twelve months in which to prepare for national elections next year.
The Cabinet-approved changes in the sick-leave insurance system, may
not affect smaller enterprises. Under the new sick-leave bill,
employers would have to cover their employees' sickness benefits in the
first two weeks of sick leave. On the other hand they would pay lower
sickness insurance for the respective employee. After talks with the
Czech Economics Chamber on Thursday, the Labour and Social Affairs
Minister Zdenek Skromach said that businesses employing up to 25 people
may be given the choice of leaving the coverage of their employees'
sickness benefits up to the state.
The Cabinet also set the upper limits of the income base from which sickness and health insurance payments are calculated. The bill has yet to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek held meetings with Health Minister Milada Emmerova and the head of the Czech Medical Chamber David Rath on Thursday to discuss the financial state of the health sector. According to Mr Paroubek the health ministry's most recent plans to solve the financial crisis look promising and could save billions of Czech crowns in the ailing public health-insurance system. The ministry's proposal is to be discussed by the coalition parties within the next two weeks.
Hungary's Foreign Ministry has made a formal complaint to the Czech Republic against the recent unveiling of a new statue of the former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. At the end of the Second World War, president Benes issued the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the confiscation of property and expulsion of some half a million ethnic Hungarians as many of them supported Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia. The statue of Edvard Benes was unveiled in front of the Foreign Ministry in Prague on Monday.
The Czech government has earmarked 200 million crowns or 6.6 million euros for a public information campaign on the EU Constitution. According to the head of the government's department for European affairs, Petra Masinova, the campaign will be explicitly informational in its first stage and will reflect different opinions. The government of Prime Minister Paroubek has not yet decided how the treaty will be ratified, although the Prime Minister has indicated that he favours a referendum.
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, signed a bill into law on Thursday
that requires all cash register activities of small businesses to be
recorded and monitored. The lower house of Parliament proposed to
monitor cash registers in order to help the government fight against
the grey economy. Small retailers and restaurants will be obliged to
use the registers as of January 2007. Those who would fail to comply
could be fined up to half a million Czech crowns.
Also on Thursday, the President has refused to sign bills into law with which the government hoped to simplify the work inspection system.
The government of New Zealand has decided to increase the number of Czechs permitted to work in the country. Under a bilateral agreement on work stays, which took effect in March, one hundred Czechs between the ages of 18 and 30 were to be granted short-term work permits of up to one year in New Zealand. That number is to be raised to one thousand as of July.
The government has approved a bill which is to improve conditions for adoption and foster care. The bill supports all forms of alternative child care and should speed up the process of placing children into adoptive or foster care rather than having them spend years in orphanages due to legal hurdles. NGOs involved in child protection have welcomed the move.