The Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, is in Prague for a three-day
visit at the invitation of ex-president Vaclav Havel and Forum 2,000, of
which he is co-founder. His meeting with Mr. Havel on Saturday took place
in a cordial atmosphere. Dalai Lama said he greatly prized his friendship
with Vaclav Havel, calling him “a great moral authority and a friend of
the free world ”. He presented his host with a white scarf and golden
wheel, a symbol of strength in adversity. “I asked him to live another
ten years at least” the Dalai Lama later told newsmen. The ex-president
thanked the Dalai Lama for coming to the Czech Republic where “he was
much loved by the people and slightly feared by politicians”. Mr. Havel,
who has been ailing, returned to Prague for the meeting after spending
weeks in seclusion at his country cottage.
In the coming days the Tibetan spiritual leader will be speaking at Charles University on the subject of China and its human rights record and he is expected to lead a debate on the search for happiness in an uncertain world.
There have been mixed reactions from pundits on the Czech Republic’s cautious approach towards the intergovernmental treaty on fiscal policy agreed on at Friday’s EU summit in Brussels. While political analyst Zdenek Zboril welcomed the government’s reserved stand, saying that the imposition of financial restrictions from Brussels could create many problems, economics professor Vladimira Dvorakova said the Czech Republic could pay dearly for its “yes and no” approach. She pointed out that the Czech Republic is not Britain and the crown is not the pound, noting that in view of its position and economy the country was better off in an alliance than standing isolated.
The upcoming VAT hike on foods and medicines due to come into effect in January has arrived early as many shops have gradually started increasing the price of various products, the internet daily idnes reports. The paper says that this “creeping” price rise is an old business tactic that served well in the last VAT hike in 2008 when the tax on food products went up from 5 to 9 percent. In the new year prices will stay put and people will get the impression that nothing much has changed. Czechs will be paying more next year not just for the said items but for water, power and public transport as well.
The Social Democratic Party has unanimously approved its budget for 2012. Marin Starec, the party’s deputy for financing, said the budget reckoned with a 237 million income and expenditures to the tune of 261 million crowns. The deficit of just over 23 million crowns is linked to next year’s regional and senate elections.
Police have cracked down on a gang of ID forgers, arresting eight people including two Slovak nationals. The gang was active in south Moravia where it forged passports and IDs for illegal migrants. According to a police spokeswoman the forgeries were of an exceptionally high quality and the gang was well-organized. A complete set of IDs per person, including a false driver’s license, was allegedly available for 3,000 to 4,000 euro.
The gorilla baby Tano which was rejected by its mother soon after birth at the Prague zoo and found a new home in the Stuttgart zoo several weeks ago is said to be prospering unexpectedly well and has become a big local attraction. The gorilla baby is being fed artificially and has round-the-clock care. Tano was the fifth gorilla baby born in Prague’s Troya Zoo. After several rejections by its mother, the zoo’s management decided to send it to Stuttgart zoo which has a specialized centre for rejected gorilla offspring. Tano is the 59th gorilla baby it has saved.
Czech Railways and Prague City Transport have announced an imminent change in many intercity train and Prague bus schedules. Some Prague busses have been cancelled altogether and others have been re-routed. The change comes into effect on Sunday December 11th and will be valid for a year. Passengers will find the new schedules at bus stops, on the internet (www.dpp.cz)and Prague City Transport has set up a special call line for those in need of advice.
The Czech Republic has tentatively agreed to consider support for an intergovernmental fiscal agreement which would introduce a tougher debt and deficit regime for those EU members who commit to it. Eurozone leaders agreed to seal a separate treaty on fiscal union after several countries including Britain and the Czech Republic effectively blocked a revision of the Lisbon treaty. The new fiscal agreement should be endorsed by all 17 euro zone countries and any others who wish to make the commitment. The Czech prime minister said Prague welcomed any moves to stabilize the euro-zone, but would have to consult its parliament on making a far-reaching fiscal commitment. Sweden has also said it would have to put the matter to its parliament. Britain refused to support the deal after failing to secure concessions for itself, and Hungary has also refused to join.
President Klaus, a staunch Eurosceptic and conservative, on Friday welcomed the development saying the EU had made a pragmatic decision and the Czech delegation had handled the matter well. Opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka has called for a nationwide debate on the Czech Republic’s stand in this matter. He said the Czech Republic was at a crossroads where it could either support further integration of face increasing isolation.
Companies in the Czech Republic that illegally employ foreigners will be fined up to five million crowns and will lose the right to public orders and state subsidies, under an amendment to the law approved by the Senate on Friday. The amendment aims to bring Czech law in line with EU directives. It obliges companies to report signing on foreigners from non-EU countries and to keep copies of the employees’ documents proving their legal workforce status. The bill is yet to be signed into law by the president.