Prime Minister Petr Necas is to meet with his British counterpart David Cameron in London just ahead of the EU fiscal pact summit on March 1. It is expected the prime ministers are will fine tune their stances before the EU countries sign a final version of the fiscal union treaty. The Czech Republic and Great Britain are the only EU member states to refuse to join the treaty, which is intended to help solve the current euro zone crisis and strengthen the fiscal discipline and coordination of economic policies within the EU. The Czech Prime Minister’s opposition to the deal has provoked a sharp dispute with coalition partner Karel Schwarzenberg and has been widely criticised in the public forum. Mr Nečas argues that he does not have a mandate to back the treaty because it transfers some national powers to Brussels, and wants Czech citizens to vote on it in a referendum.
Heavy snow and high winds continue to disrupt traffic around the country, with practically all regions reporting serious problems. Around 30 people had to be evacuated from their cars by emergency crews overnight and 50 roads remained closed to traffic on Thursday morning. Czech Railways reports numerous delays and many buses are also running behind schedule. Although the country’s main motorways are open traffic police have asked drivers not to set out on the road if at all possible since fresh problems are cropping up all the time. Many roads are blocked by stranded trucks and traffic is moving at snail’s pace in the worst affected regions. On Wednesday a pile up of 50 cars closed the main highway from Prague to Brno for several hours.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Czech investigators made mistakes in the case of a Roma man who apparently committed suicide while in custody. The court awarded roughly half a million crowns to the man’s family in compensation for damages, on the grounds that his death was never thoroughly and independently investigated. The 2002 case involved a 23-year-old Roma man suspected of having stolen a videotape recorder. After several hours in detention he leapt from an eight-metre high window while being escorted. Lawyers from the League of Human Rights argued that the investigation had been carried out by the same police officers who had the man in custody and failed to describe what had gone on during the six hours he was detained. The European court found that he police had erred in not using handcuffs and leading the man past a window without bars.
The selection committee seeking a candidate to direct the Prague transit authority has been cancelled due to an information leak. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda told the daily Právo that he was called at 2 a.m. by journalists who knew who was winning the tender at what price, despite the committee’s decision having been in a sealed envelope. Mr Svoboda, who heads the committee, added that it would not be possible to choose a director amid such pressure from the media and all sides. The Prague Public Transport Company received nine offers from personnel agencies to provide a director and had narrowed its choice down to two.
In related news, Mayor Svoboda has announced that the city’s transit authority will have to undergo an massive audit in order to check all of the commissions and contracts in which corruption is suspected. The sale and printing of tickets will also be checked. He said he is aware that the word audit is used ever more frequently to replace a real solution or win time, but that it was the only way to truly find out what was going on the Prague Public Transport Company. Interim director Magdalena Češková says her priorities are securing the lowest possible prices and the greatest transparency in new tenders. She also wants new rules on making orders and a new tender for ticket printing and IT services.
Health Minister Leoš Heger has told the daily Právo that the anti-corruption measures he ordered for the organisations he manages directly have brought savings of more than a billion crowns. The health minister said that teaching hospitals in particular have shown reduced costs for medical materials and medicines. He added that the health care facilities he manages had shown an economic result of nearly half a billion in spite of the poor economic climate and increases of doctors’ salaraies of 5 to 8,000 crowns. The president of the Czech doctors’ chamber, Milan Kubek, says he is unimpressed by the measures, which in his opinion have not brought more accountability in health business matters.
The family of painter Alphonse Mucha is preparing a concept for the permanent placement of the Slav Epic in the main train station in Prague. The family’s foundation plans to submit the technical and visual plans for a building that they say will be nearly identical to the painter’s own plan to the City Hall in March. Grandson John Mucha says a part of the family has agreed the idea with the municipal government and the Italian development company responsible for renewing the Art Nouveau station. The twenty canvasses of the masterpiece are currently in a Prague depository, after the city gallery had them moved from Moravský Krumlov last year.
The number of foreigners residing illegally in the Czech Republic could be as many as 400,000, or nearly the same as the number of legal foreign residents. The estimate was provided by migration experts from Charles University attending an international conference on immigrations trends in Prague. They say immigration to the country is predicated not only by the Czech Republic’s economic strength but also by the migration policy, which since the 1990S has shifted from “liberal, to restrictive, to restrictive-integrative", in the words of one of the sociologists present. The influx of foreigners however has been stalled since 2008 by the economic crisis, she added.
The District Court of Plzeň has given a special life sentence to a man convicted of murder for the second time. According to court documents, the man stabbed his 57-year-old flatmate to death in the summer of last year when she demanded he move out after failing to pay rent for several months. He then stayed in the flat and spent several days by the body, lighting candles and leaving offerings of wine and cigarettes. The man had already spent 11 years in prison for murdering another flatmate with a hammer in 1994.
Police have charged two Bulgarian nationals who they suspect of having affixed scanning equipment to ATM machines in Prague in order to steal card information and thereby money. Investigators believe they were successful in three cases and attained around 30,000 crowns, however the data they acquired may have given them access to millions. If convicted of credit card fraud they will face up to eight years in prison.