Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says that a referendum on adopting the euro will call the country’s EU pledges into question. The statement was made in response to Wednesday´s decision by the Czech cabinet that any accession to the EU´s planned fiscal discipline pact should be decided on through a national referendum on entering the euro zone. Mr Schwarzenberg said he was categorically opposed to a referendum, which would challenge what the country promised in its accession treaty and make the Czech Republic look like it is not a serious partner. He previously said regarding the fiscal discipline pact that he would not participate in a government that would lead the country out of the main stream of European integration.
The Czech Republic has received nearly 2.5 trillion crowns (roughly 125 bilion dollars) in foreign investment since it’s foundation in 1993. The Czech Statistical Office reports that the wave of investment peaked at around the year 2000. Foreign capital currently has a dominant share in the financial sector and is mostly concentrated in the automobile industry and refineries. In 2009, foreign-controlled companies in the Czech Republic employed 1.069 million people, or 5.7 times more than in 1995. The enterprises of foreign investors increased their share of production in the Czech economy from 7.3% in 1995 to 42.5% in 2009 though their profits in 2009 amounted to three fifths of all financial and non-financial companies in the Czech economy.
Heath insurance companies will begin covering cervical cancer vaccinations as of April 1. The vaccinations for girls aged 13 and 14 are expected to prevent seven to nine out of 10 cases within as many years. The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of incidence of cervical cancer in the European Union, with 1000 cases and 400 deaths a year. Physicians say that until now most girls who received vaccinations were from families that were wealthy or understood the importance of prevention and covered the 10,000 crown cost of the vaccination.
Justice Minister Jiří Pospišil opened the second women´s prison in the Czech Republic on Thursday. The 151-inmate prison in Velké Přílepy near Prague was established in former a barracks and asylum facility at a cost of 11 million crowns, compared to the 150 million crown price of a new facility. Velké Přílepy is one of three prisons to open this year to ease overcrowding. At present there are some 23,300 inmates in the country, while the currently capacity is only about 20,600. At present 24 women are serving their sentences in the facility. The first prison in the country exclusively for women is Svetla nad Sazavou in Eastern Bohemia. It currently holds 800 women and conditions there are considerably limited.
The Supreme Court has ruled that it is unethical for financial institutions to qualify loans with the writing of a last will and testament. The court found that it was both immoral and illegal for creditors to demand that property be left to them in the event of a debtor’s death. The court spokesman said that the cases usually involve elderly people who need loans for health care, home care or other reasons and leave their property as collateral. Moreover, the court determined that banks have other options for ensuring the repayment of such loans. The Czech Banking Association says it has not noted any such conditions and notes that the case in question goes back to 1992.
Charles University leaders, academics and students met on Thursday to discuss how the country’s leading university should oppose the introduction of tuition and student aid measures being prepared by the Ministry of Education. The discussion room was completely packed as those in attendance decided on a protest resolution. A protest group later threw a symbolic 90 melons (Czech slang for millions) out of windows to protest the 90 million crowns the preparation of the Higher Education Act cost the ministry. Following the meeting a group of demonstrators marched from the Law College to the seat of the government.
Czech author Lenka Procházková has filed a criminal complaint against Prime Minister Petr Nečas and members of his government over the proposed restitution of church property. Ms Procházková says the government members committed abuse of public office and breach of trust in agreeing to give the churches property that does not belong to them. Last Wednesday the government approved a bill intended to address the communist-era nationalisation of the property of churches and religious communities during the 1950s. Procházková says there are doubts as to whether the restitution is legal and objects that the bill does not contain a list of the properties in question.
Police noted a 15% rise in rapes in 2011 compared to the preceding year as well as a rise in the creation and possession of child pornography. Vice crime in general was up by 15% according to police, while clear-up rates were down by five percent. Violent crimes were also up by seven percent to nearly 19,500 cases. The number of murders – 173 – was exactly the same in 2011 as in the year before, though five percent less were solved. Sixty-five percent of reported crimes last year involved property crimes.
Artist Krištof Kinter has won the Personality of the Year art award for his sculpture of a streetlamp shining upwards at Prague’s Nuselský Bridge. The sculpture is dedicated to those who committed suicide by jumping from the bridge. The winner was chosen by a ten-member jury from some 40 names and receives a black square that has been painted over from the previous year’s winner.
The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvítová advanced to the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, beating Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. The match was a close one for the World No. 2 and Wimbledon champion, who won the first set, but was beat by her Spanish opponent in the second. Suarez Navarro took a 2-0 lead in the decider but Kvítová regained control and won a close third game. The Czech tennis star will face either Russia’s Maria Kirilenko or Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak in the third round.