Czech MPs have passed a bill acknowledging late ex-president Václav Havel’s contribution to freedom and democracy. The simply-worded proposal received backing from all the parties in the Chamber of Deputies except the Communists. The bill will now head to the Senate. A similar law was issued by the Czechoslovak parliament in 1930, recognising the contribution of President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk to the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia. Prime Minister Petr Nečas reminded MPs that Mr Havel, a champion of democratic thought, freedom and humanism, contributed to the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989. Mr Havel, who continued to support human rights worldwide, died in December at the age of 75.
The internet news site E15 has reported that the Czech Defence Ministry is aiming to try and extend an existing lease on Gripen fighter jets. The successful negotiation of a new deal would mean that a new tender originally planned by the government – mentioned by Prime Minister Petr Nečas two years ago would not go ahead. According to E15, the negotiation of an extended lease had been recommended in a classified report. As it stands, the current lease will expire in 2015. An anonymous source confirmed that steps were being taken and that the government would be informed about the results of talks in six months. The Czech Republic leased 14 of the jets from the Swedish government for 19.6 billion crowns. The original contract was signed in 2004.
With the death toll from exposure rising, Prague city hall is erecting emergency shelters for the city’s homeless. Three heated tents for some 150 people were put up in Prague on Wednesday and the capital’s floating boat shelter, Hermes, will be open during daylight hours providing tea and soup for free. Arctic conditions have already killed 12 homeless people and the worst bout of cold weather is still to come. Meteorologists say that night time lows at the close of the week could drop to minus 35 degrees Celsius and according to some forecasts the freezing cold weather could last until mid-February. Officially there are more than three-and-a-half thousand homeless people in the Czech capital.
In an interview for Czech daily Právo, Czech President Václav Klaus has
reiterated his opposition to the EU’s fiscal union, saying the current
proposal “tramples on the sovereignty of individual
countries”. He pointed to the views of some German politicians who
favoured Greece handing control of its budget policy to a special EU
commissioner, as proof. Such a solution, however, has been rejected by the
In the interview, Mr Klaus praised Prime Minister Petr Nečas for not agreeing to join the EU fiscal treaty; the Czech Republic was the only EU member that decided not to join the compact on Monday, after Britain rejected it last December. The decision not to sign has led to a quarrel between the prime minister and country’s Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mr Schwarzenberg has maintained that the Czech refusal to sign on to the EU fiscal treaty will only hurt the country’s interests.
In related news, members of the ruling coalition on Wednesday attempted to dampen recent heated rhetoric between Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – at odds over signing on to the EU’s fiscal union compact. According to TOP 09’s deputies’ club leader Petr Gazdík, the incident had been blown out of proportion; he said that the matter would be cleared up when the foreign minister returned from a trip to Israel. A representative of the Civic Democrats that the prime minister leads, meanwhile, said the two politicians would have the opportunity to meet one-on-one, stressing there was no need for other coalition representatives to be present. Mr Nečas and his foreign minister appear to fundamentally disagree over the EU treaty: earlier, the prime minister heavily criticised Mr Schwarzenberg saying in no uncertain terms he needed to focus more on other tasks at hand.
A female passenger was killed during a car chase in Prague on Wednesday morning. The incident occurred after a police patrol car on Strakonická Street noticed a vehicle that was registered as stolen. Police began pursuit while the driver of the car tried to get away. In doing so, he hit the police car and attempted to run over an officer who had emerged on foot, a spokeswoman for the police force said. The officer reportedly fired on the other vehicle in self-defence. The driver got several hundred metres away before abandoning the stolen car and disappearing nearby; police are continuing to search for him. The General Inspection Office of the Security Forces, meanwhile, is investigating the entire incident, including whether the woman in the stolen car was killed by a police bullet.
The owner of a firm in Litvínov, North Bohemia, received a threatening letter and suspicious device on Wednesday, requiring police intervention. According to a police spokeswoman in Most, 35 employees were evacuated from the premises. Pyrotechnics specialists learned that the device – an electronic explosive – was functional but could not detonate as it was disconnected from the battery. The owner received the suspicious package at his home but only opened it at work.
The General Inspection Office of the Security Forces reportedly suspects two police officers and a civilian of blackmailing a man by threatening to kill him and harm his family unless ‘a debt’ was paid off. The Czech news agency quoted the office’s spokeswoman Radka Sandorová on Wednesday. All three suspects were charged and taken into custody a day earlier; according to Ms Sandorová, the country’s rapid response unit took part in the arrest. The police officers have already been dismissed. The officers, who operated at a station in Prague’s Žižkov face charges of blackmail, damaging private property, and unlawful use of personal information; if found guilty they could face up to eight years in prison.
A man was killed on the D1 highway from Brno-Prague on Wednesday after he left his car parked on the highway curb and tried to run across. He was hit by a truck in the oncoming lane and killed instantly. The accident took place at around 9:30 am; traffic was delayed. It is not known why the man acted as he did; police are investigating.
Police say that a 67-year-old homeless man beaten to death in Vřesina near Ostrava at the weekend was killed by an acquaintance eight years his junior. Police have charged the 59-year-old suspect, who was known to live at several addresses, with the crime, saying he killed the other man using a piece of wood found in the forest. On Saturday night the two had been drinking outside and are believed to have argued. The suspect, who has already admitted guilt, robbed the victim before leaving the scene. He could face up to 20 years in prison.