The Social Democrats and the Communists pooled their votes in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday to push through an amendment to the law on churches, overturning a recent veto by the Senate. Opponents of the law say that it would seriously undermine the rights of churches and those of believers. For instance, it would limit the rights of churches to set up their own schools and charities. Christian Democratic party deputies say they will file a complaint with the Constitutional Court.
Health Minister David Rath has said a parliamentary commission should investigate alleged links between the opposition Civic Democratic Party and the ailing VZP health insurance company. Mr. Rath, who put the insurance company under forced administration soon after taking office, has openly accused the leading opposition party of abusing VZP funds for dubious projects. The company has a debt of around 14 billion crowns. The opposition Civic Democrats say they are outraged by the accusations and are planning to take the health minister to court.
There is continuing opposition to a planned nuclear waste dump which is to be built somewhere in the Czech Republic. Experts have pinpointed six possible localities in different parts of the country but people living in these areas are actively opposed to the idea. They have been signing petitions against its construction and rejecting offers of financial compensation. The head of the State Institute for Nuclear Safety Dana Drabkova said on Wednesday there might be an alternative solution if several EU member states agreed to build a common nuclear waste dump at an unspecified locality. The Czech Republic needs to reach a firm decision on the location of a future nuclear waste dump by 2025. It should be ready for use by 2065.
The opposition Civic Democratic Party has lashed out at the ruling Social Democrats, criticizing what they called the party's vulgar style of government, corruption scandals and broken promises. Ahead of next years general elections the Civic Democrats have compiled a so-called Black Book of the ruling party's "sins". Opposition leader Mirek Topolanek presented this list of sins to the media at a press conference in Prague. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek dismissed the Black Book as a load of rubbish and said the opposition Civic Democrats lacked a constructive approach to the country's problems.
Frantisek Oldrich Kinsky, a member of the old nobility, plans to sue the Czech Republic for billions of crowns after failing to recover extensive family property confiscated after World War II on the grounds of the Benes decrees. Over the past decade Kinsky has filed a total of 157 lawsuits with various Czech courts over property said to be worth 40 billion crowns. It was confiscated on the grounds that Kinsky's father allegedly collaborated with the Nazis. Kinsky's lawyer says the property was confiscated illegally because at the time it was no longer owned by Kinsky senior but by Frantisek Oldrich, who was a minor at the time.
The Czech antitrust office (UOHS) began legal proceedings on Monday against the German power giant RWE's Czech gas unit, RWE Transgas, for the suspected abuse of its dominant position. RWE Transgas is alleged to have given favourable conditions to related distributors. Several large industrial companies had lodged complaints against RWE with the Czech Energy Regulation Authority (ERU), claiming that they were pressured to sign supply contracts that would have had them paying more for natural gas than do domestic purchasers.
Czech and Slovak soldiers will serve together in a single unit of the European Union's proposed Rapid Reaction Force. Czech Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl and his Slovak counterpart Juraj Liska announced in Brussels on Monday that the joint Czech-Slovak unit should be deployable by the second half of 2009. Czechs will make up four-fifths of the 1500-member strong unit, which will be under Czech command. EU member states have agreed to form 13 such units as part of the new EU Rapid Reaction Force. The units are to be deployed for peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions with the first one fully operational by 2007.
Teachers and schoolchildren in the town of Ricany, just outside Prague, braved near freezing temperatures on Monday to hold class outdoors in protest overcrowding and scarce resources. Ricany has become increasing popular in recent years with young families, due to its short commuting distance to the Czech capital. There is a waiting list for spaces at the town's two elementary schools. The mayor of Ricany says that a project has been drawn up to build a third school but the town lacks the resources.
Police will not launch criminal proceedings against a Czech member of the
European Parliament accused by a former Czech human rights commissioner
with the crime of denying the Holocaust. Petr Uhl filed a criminal
complaint against the Communist MEP Miloslav Ransdorf in May for saying
that a site in central Bohemia where some 1200 Romany people were interned
during the Second World War was not a "concentration camp".
Experts have reportedly sided with Mr Ransdorf's assertion that the site
at Lety u Pisku was technically an internment camp. Over 240 Romany
children and 85 adults died from disease or abuse in the Czech-run
facility. At least one thousand more later were killed in Auschwitz and
other death camps.
A commercial pig farm was built on the Lety site in the 1970s. This April, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding the Czech Republic remove the farm and replace it with a fitting memorial to the Romany Holocaust. In debate that followed, MEP Ransdorf said that as a historian, he knew many "lies" had been spread about Lety, which he said was not home to a "concentration camp" in the common understanding of the term.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has said he still sees no reason why the European Union flag should fly at Prague Castle, the seat of Czech heads of state. In a televised interview on Sunday, President Klaus said he believed the Czech Republic was not a province of the European Union and that the Czech national flag should not be substituted or overshadowed by any other one. Earlier this week two activists attempted to raise the European flag at Prague Castle but their effort was thwarted by the castle guards.
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