Information released by the European Commission on Thursday has shown the
Czech Republic lagging behind in drawing money from European Union funds.
According to European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Huebner,
the country has used roughly 20 percent since joining the union in 2004,
from resources available until the end of 2006. The EU allocated the Czech
Republic 2.6 billion euros, the equivalent of 3 billion US dollars, for
2004 - 2006. Last year, the country drew only around 258 million US
dollars' worth. Only one country - neighbouring Slovakia - drew less.
Commissioner Huebner has pointed out that most newcomers to the EU fall behind in drawing subsidies, but stressed the situation has gradually been improving.
The Czech Senate has rejected a bill passed in the Chamber of Deputies proposing three new commemorative dates for the Czech calendar. The bill had proposed April 7th be officially recognised as "scholarship day" or "day of letters" marking the founding date of Prague's Charles University in 1348. May 10th was to be recognised as "Family Day", and June 10th was to gain official status to remind Czechs of the massacre of civilians and destruction at Lidice by the Nazis in World War II. Members of the Senate on Thursday made clear there was no question over the importance of the dates, but rejected the necessity for the days to be specially recognised on the calendar.
The draw for qualification matches for the 2008 European football championship to take place in Switzerland and Austria, will take place on Friday in Montreux, Switzerland. The Czech Republic, currently 2nd in the world according to FIFA football rankings, has been put in the strongest group together with the Netherlands, meaning the Czechs will not have to face their somewhat "traditional" rivals in the qualifiers. Other teams in the prestigious first basket include England, France, Portugal, and defending European champions Greece.
The Senate has backed a bill on same-sex partnership approved by the Chamber of Deputies last month. On Thursday 45 of 65 senators present voted in favour of the bill, which will entitle gay couples to legal union, allowing access, for example, to a partner's medical information, or inheritance rights. Gay couples will also be able to raise children, although the bill does not allow them to adopt. Some opponents of the bill, notably the Christian Democrats who voted against, have criticised the legislation as "threatening" the standing of the traditional family. The bill must now be signed by the president to go into effect. If approved by the president, it will make the Czech Republic the 13th European country to recognise same-sex partnerships, as well as the first post-communist country to do so.
Three officials from the first division's FC Slovacko football club (formerly FC Synot), as well as seven referees have been found guilty of corruption. Fines handed down ranged between the equivalent of 2 - 12,000 US dollars. The biggest penalties were handed out to the former owner of the club, Ivo Valenta, as well as manager Jaroslav Hastik. Hastik and the seven referees have also been banned from undertaking any football-linked business activities for periods of up to five years. The match fixing scandal first broke in May 2004.
The Czech Senate has approved a resolution that condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes. The resolution was drafted and recommended by the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last month. It calls for "sympathy, understanding and recognition to the victims of crimes" by the international community in order to "pave the way to further reconciliation".
The Czech opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have decided to draw inspiration from the Polish conservative Law and Justice Party, ahead of the general election in mid-June. Poland's centre right parties won an overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections last September. The Civic Democrats are holding a meeting this Saturday to determine the ways in which they can learn from their Polish colleagues.
The Czech Press Photo exhibition, which is currently on show at Prague's Old Town Hall, will be prolonged for another month. 40,000 visitors have admired the photographs since the exhibition opened in mid-November, capturing tragic or unforgettable moments like the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia, the opening of mass graves ten years after the Srebrenica massacre, Ukraine's Orange Revolution, and the disastrous hurricane season in the United States. Doors will be open to the public every day from 9am to 6pm until February 28.
The lower house of Parliament has approved a conflict of interest bill, put forward by the government. The bill tightens control over property belonging to politicians and other officials in the public sector such as the police force and the judiciary. Any income or gifts in the sum of 100,000 crowns or more, for example, will have to be declared. Any violation of the law could be fined between 30,000 and 500,000 Czech crowns (1,200 - 20,400 US dollars). If approved by the Senate and signed by the President, it will come into effect on January 1, 2007.