Canada will postpone the cancellation of visa requirements for Czechs, possibly due to racial tensions in Northern Bohemia. Canada initiated visa requirements for Czechs in 2009 due to a large influx of Roma seeking asylum there on grounds of racial discrimination in the Czech Republic. A new asylum system was supposed to be launched in late 2011 and would allow Czechs to travel to the country without a visa. However, according to the news website Aktualne.cz, than plan has been delayed until next summer. The Canadian embassy in Prague told the website that it is monitoring the situation in Northern Bohemia, where racial tension has caused violence and demonstrations in recent months.
Former prime minister Jiří Paroubek has left the Social Democratic Party, which he headed from 2006 to 2010. After more than a year of speculation as to his political intentions after coming up short in last year’s parliamentary elections, Mr Paroubek on Friday told the press that his patience with the party’s platform had run out and that he wants to run a party truer to his conception of social democracy. He also said that he would have stayed with the party had it offered him an appropriate position. Mr Paroubek is in negotiations to lead a revamped Czech National Socialist Party, however its present chairman is opposed to the prospect. Social Democrat MP Jiří Šlégr also left the party on Friday. Both parliamentarians say they intend to remain in the opposition.
A demonstration of far-right extremists in the city of Ústí nad Labem on Saturday will be minded by 500 police officers. Around 1,000 people have planned attendance via Facebook. The location poses a threat of clashes with anarchist groups, which have a strong base in the Ústí nad Labem. Officers will be checking cars entering the city. A parallel protest against rising crime is to take place in the town of Varnsdorf where the locals have been calling for the resignation of the entire town council. Protests and marches reflecting growing racial tensions have been held every weekend in the region with police reinforcements costing taxpayers millions of crowns. The previous eight weekends have seen demonstrations of 300 to 700 people.
The Ministry of Education has presented a proposal for college-level reforms to the government. The plan calls for financing based on quality, the merging of smaller schools and the introduction of tuition. College institutions would also have more authority over their internal affairs according to the plan, with economic decisions to be made by a council of regional politicians and businessmen. The schools would also have to sign three to five-year agreements with the ministry in which they would stipulate the results they would attain in that time and establish the amount of funding they would receive. The introduction of tuition remains a controversial idea, with many educators opposing it out of concern for students becoming indebted.
The government’s report on the Roma minority for 2010 states that a considerable part of the population lives in a condition of social exclusion. The cabinet is to examine the report next Wednesday. The document cites a serious systemic and social problem with sweeping political impacts and an alarming lack of progress in integrating Roma children from excluded environments. It also notes that a number of municipalities have created a system of residential and social policies that essentially displace troublesome groups of people to the community’s outskirts. Problems with unemployment and education it says are then rampant in such areas. Recent statistics show there are around 400 slums in the Czech Republic with an estimated number of 80,000 inhabitants, predominantly from the Roma minority.
The Green Party is close to crossing the 5% threshold needed to retake a presence in Parliament at 4.9%, according to a poll carried out by Factum Invenio. The poll suggests that elections would still be won by the opposition Social Democratic Party, with 27.3% of the vote, though their lead over the senior government Civic Democratic Party has decreased. The Christian Democrats, who failed to enter the Chamber of Deputies last year for the first time, would return to parliament while the junior coalition party Public Affairs would not receive 5% of the vote. The left-wing parties would have a parliamentary majority of 111 mandates, according to the poll.
Taxi services in Prague are amongst the worst in Europe according to the results of an annual poll carried out by the German ADAC auto club. Among 22 European metropolises Prague took 17th place in the survey, just after Madrid and one spot ahead of Vienna. The overall rating was worsened primarily by the rating of the drivers, who the survey said disregarded traffic lights, took needless detours and charged incorrectly. The best city on the list was Barcelona, Spain, while the worst was Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Russian residents in the West Bohemian town of Karlovy Vary are petitioning for the erection of a life-sized statue of Peter the Great on the occasion of the three-hundredth anniversary of one of his visits to the spa centre. A Russian company has offered to fund the monument for 2.5 million crowns. The municipal government has so far rejected the idea however, saying they would not be opposed to a statue in the spa forests, where the 17th century tsar strolled during his stay. A deputy mayor told the residents they could build the state in the city centre, provided a statue of Czechoslovak president T.G. Masaryk was erected on Red Square first.
Leading public affairs MP Vít Bárta has been ordered to pay 100,000 crowns and apologize to Social Democrat politician Petr Benda for insulting him on a public television show. Speaking to Czech Television in January the former transport minister and grey eminence of the junior coalition party called Mr Benda a “ famous Mafioso” of the Social Democratic Party who had de facto control over his local traffic directorate. The municipal Court of Prague found that Mr Bárta’s words weer unsubstantiated and were a serious infringement upon Mr Benda’s personal rights.
The Senate has approved a bill to more strictly sentence persons found guilty of ‘buying’ votes in elections or competitive tenders. Senators voted almost unanimously to increase the penalty for such cases to half a year to three years imprisonment. The amendment to the criminal code also ups the penalty for accepting a bribe under such circumstances from eight to ten years. The bill will now go to the president for signing.