Thousands of students are expected to march next Wednesday in protest against planned university reforms by the Ministry of Education. The week of protests is scheduled to take place between February 26th and March 2nd across the country and will include debates, theatrical presentations and other attention-grabbing displays. According to Jan Gruber, a member of the “Week of Protests” student initiative, the proposed government reforms, which include the implementation of controversial high school fees, threaten the autonomy of universities in favour of political and economic elites. This, he argues, will lead to falling standards of education for all. The protesters are seeking that the reform proposals from Education Minister Josef Dobeš are significantly reworked.
The Czech Communist Party has seen an uptick in support according to a new poll from the CVVM agency. Other parties are either stagnating of have seen slight falls in support. The Social Democrats retain the largest support, with 32.5%, down from 34% in January. The Civic Democrats remain at 23.5%, while the Communist Party reclaims its third place mantle with 15.5%, a significant increase from last month’s 12.5%. TOP 09, the only other party that would break the 5% threshold required to hold seats in parliament fell from 15% to 14%. A continuing trend sees the defeat of the current Civic Democrat-led government replaced with one headed by the Social Democrats in a future parliamentary election.
A new museum in the Czech town of Český Krumlov is to display a wide array of moldavites. The unusual vitreous materials are likely formed during meteor impacts around 15 million years ago. They are dark green colour and are particularly common in central Bohemia. The museum, which is set to open in 2013, has been aided by a five million crown grant from the EU’s Operational Fund. Presently, Český Krumlov, a tourist hot-spot in southern Bohemia, is already home to eight separate museums, reports ČTK.
The jailed former prime minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko failed to receive adequate medical care in prison and her condition is serious, Czech MEP Zuzana Roitova told the CTK news agency by phone from Kiev on Tuesday. MEP Roitova, a former Czech health minister, was sent to Kiev to prepare a report on Yulia Tymoshenko’s condition for the European Parliament. Ms. Roitova said she had been allowed to study the opposition leader’s medical records, though was not allowed to meet with her in person. The MEP said that the medical records clearly show that the findings in the area of the lumbar spine are so serious that a decision should have been made on possible surgery. She said that instead of treating her the prison authorities had taken away Tymoshenko’s crutches, halted administering pain-killers and subjected her to long sessions of interrogation. Roitova also noted that she considers substantiated her family’s fears she was being exposed to toxic substances in order to make her fold under pressure.
The Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka, newly elevated to the post of cardinal in a ceremony at the Vatican on Saturday, returned to Prague on Tuesday. The cardinal headed straight for St. Vitus’ Cathedral where he bowed to the relics of Saint Adalbert and knelt for a few minutes in silent prayer. He was then received by President Václav Klaus who said Dominik Duka’s appointment to the post of cardinal was confirmation of the good work of the Czech Catholic Church in upholding basic Christian values in present-day Czech society. Alongside his predecessor, former Prague archbishop Miloslav Vlk, Dominik Duka is the country’s second living cardinal.
The Security Committee of the lower house is holding a special session on
the functioning of the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague. The
session, called by the head of the security committee Radek John, of Public
Affairs, was called to throw more light on an in-depth audit ordered by the
provisional head of the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague Stanislav
Mečl. However critics say that the real reason for the meeting is the
politicization of a rift between the Supreme State Attorney’s Office and
the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague.
Relations between the two institutions are strained in the wake of a court ruling last week which effectively reinstated Vlastimil Rampula –whom the Supreme State Attorney had accused of sweeping corruption cases involving politicians under the carpet - to his post at the head of the Prague High State Attorney’s Office.
In related news, the Prague Municipal Court, which on Tuesday made available the full text of the verdict, said Mr. Rampula’s dismissal was not sufficiently justified. The ruling has also undermined the position of Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil who sacked Mr. Rampula at the request of Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman. Some observers claim that the controversy may be linked to efforts by the junior coalition party Public Affairs to gain control of the Justice Ministry, a claim the party has strongly rejected.
The victim of a judicial error is demanding 35 million crowns in compensation. Jan Šafránek who was wrongly sentenced for rape spent a year in prison before police caught up with the real culprit. In one of the first court rulings on the case a Prague district court ordered the Justice Ministry to pay Šafránek 366 000 crowns in compensation relating to lost profits. The Prague Supreme Court is to decide how much Šafránek should get for the trauma he suffered and damage to his reputation. Commentators say this is one of the most glaring cases of judicial error in the country’s modern history.
A rise in alcohol consumption among teenagers has resulted in a move to tighten punishment for selling alcohol to minors. The National Anti-Drug Coordinator Jindrich Voboril on Tuesday confirmed that a proposed amendment to the law should significantly raise fines for the offense and should give the authorities the right to close down for several days pubs which repeatedly break the law. According to a survey by ESPAD – the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs – 21 percent of Czech 16-year olds go on a drinking spree at least three times a month, 15 percent of those drink spirits. The number of teenage girls who drink beer has doubled since 1995.
Economist Jan Švejnar, whom the Social Democrats are considering fielding as their candidate for the post of president, has said he is not yet certain he wants to enter the race. Mr. Švejnar said he would prefer to see the new election rules which Parliament has yet to agree on before making up his mind. The US-based economist is slated as one of the two hot candidates for the post together with the former prime minister Jan Fischer. The other Social Democrat nominee being considered is Social Democrat deputy head Jiří Dienstbier.