Czech President Václav Klaus has signed into law legislation slowing the growth of old age pensions over the next three years, the president’s spokesman Radim Ochvat revealed. By doing so, the president declined calls by the opposition Social Democrats and the country’s Senior Citizens Council to reject the bill. Last week, the Chamber of Deputies passed the bill again, overriding a veto by the Left wing-dominated Senate. Under the amendment, pensions will be indexed over a period of three years starting in 2013 with one third of the growth in prices and one third of the rise in real wages. The amendment is part of the government’s austerity measures aimed at decreasing the deficit.
The opposition party Public Affairs has charged that the government’s budget proposal for 2013 overestimates expected revenues while doing little to support entrepreneurship and lowering spending. The party was a former coalition member before it splintered into Public Affairs and LIDEM. According to party leader Radek John, the proposed budget will hurt growth and drive the country deeper into recession.
Two Czech nationals arrested on spying charges on the island of Limnos in Greece could potentially face up to 20 years in prison – if their case were to go to trial and the two were found guilty. The head of the Czech consulate in Athens Blanka Kovacsová outlined the situation on Wednesday in an interview for the Czech news agency. The state prosecutor overseeing the case has not yet decided whether the two men, aged 28 and 33, will be remanded in custody or be allowed to post bail. The duo’s public defender has requested an expanded investigation that would see witnesses be called to give depositions. The two Czechs have said in their defence that they were only researching material for a computer game; they were caught recording footage of a Greek military base as well as a local airport.
Legendary Czech actor Radoslav Brzobohatý has died at the age of 79. The actor, who starred in Czech New Wave films like Všichni Dobří rodáci (All My Compatriots) by Vojtěch Jasný and Ucho (The Ear) by Karel Kachyna, passed away just one day before he would have turned 80, his wife Hana Gregorová said. Earlier this year, Radoslav Brzobohatý was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the TýTý awards.
The Czech national football team received poor marks from viewers and sportswriters for a lacklustre performance against Finland, a friendly the squad lost 1:0. After a dismal first half, in which the Czech squad conceded the game’s lone goal, players raised their level of play, creating several opportunities but were unable to equalise.
Eight people have died of methanol poisoning from bootleg alcohol and two dozen are fighting for their lives in Czech hospitals. There is now growing concern for public safety as new cases are registered daily in different locations. Although two cases of methanol poisoning have appeared in central Bohemia the vast majority of cases are reported in Moravia. The health ministry has ordered inspections in cafeterias and restaurants around the country and the public has been warned not to consume unlabeled alcohol or spirits on tap. Police are still trying to trace the source of the contaminated liquor and it is not clear how much of it may be on the market or where it may surface. A number of suspect bottles confiscated by the police on Monday carried a Drak spirits producer label, but the company says the labels were fake. Three cases of methanol poisoning have been reported across the border in neighbouring Poland. Two people are reported to have died and a third has gone blind.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has expressed grave concern regarding the latest developments and wants a central crisis committee established in Prague to try and prevent further loss of life and damage to health. He has urged closer cooperation with the media and local crisis committees in spreading the message and taking effective preventive measures. Meanwhile the opposition Social Democrats have called for the dismissal of several ministers, saying the Nečas administration had miserably neglected its duty to protect public health.
The prime minister has come under fire for saying that support for Pussy
Riot and the Dalai Lama are harming the country’s interests and export
potential. The coalition party TOP 09 said on Tuesday that the views
expressed by the prime minister at the International Engineering Fair in
Brno were regrettable and could discredit the country.
Speaking to an audience of business leaders at the fair on Monday the Czech prime ministry said that while support for human rights must remain a top priority in Czech foreign policy, the false adoration of and support for the group Pussy Riot or the Dalai Lama were simply a fashionable trend that had nothing to do with supporting democracy and merely harmed the country’s exports.
TOP 09 leader and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has clearly distanced himself from the prime minister’s statement. In an interview for Tuesday’s Lidové Noviny, Mr. Schwarzenberg said he was horrified by the prime minister’s words and expressed concern about the fate of a government that placed economic interests above human rights. Mr. Schwarzenberg said he hoped no Czech foreign minister would ever pander to the superpowers in order to serve the country’s economic interests. Dictators must be treated the same regardless of their size, Mr. Schwarzenberg noted.