The Czech government’s austerity measures and budget cuts will not affect the country’s commitments towards NATO, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said. Speaking at a session of NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague on Monday, Mr Nečas said budget instability would be a greater threat to the Czech Republic’s defence abilities than the fact the country is not spending the required 2 percent of the GDP on defence. The prime minister also vowed that Czech defence spending will not decrease in the coming years. However, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that the levels of defence expenditure by the alliance’s European member states were alarming.
Former prime minister Jan Fischer has increased his lead in the Czech presidential race, according to a new poll by ppm factum. The poll suggests that 28.1 percent of people would vote for Mr Fischer. Another ex-prime minister, Miloš Zeman, was second in the survey, with 19.4 percent of respondents saying they would cast their ballots for him. Since September, Mr Fischer’s lead over Miloš Zeman increased by some 3.5 percent. The poll also shows that around 10 percent of voters would support Czech-Japanese entrepreneur Tomio Okamura while the Social Democrat candidate, Jiří Dienstbier, would receive 8.8 percent of the vote.
The police have appealed for witnesses of Saturday’s rally accident which killed four people near Uherské Hradiště in the southeast of the country. The police have also asked for any video footage and photographs of the crash. The accident happened during an amateur rally in Lopeník when one of the cars swerved off the road and hit a group of onlookers, killing four people including a seven-year-old girl. The police have not yet raised any formal charges in relation to the crash; the driver of the car blamed the accident on strong wind. Czech motor-racing authorities have meanwhile called for changes to the rules of rally events.
The Czech Interior Ministry on Monday rejected a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court which said that over several years, the police wrongly required employees to take unpaid overtime. Under Czech law, police officers, fire fighters, customs officers and members of the prison service can be asked to do up to 150 hours in unpaid service; however, the court ruled that overtime duty could not be planned long in advance, which was at least sometimes the case. Police trade unions said the verdict applied to members of the security forces, and could in effect costs the state budget up to two billion crowns. But police and ministry officials believe the verdict is related to one specific case in which overtime duty was poorly justified.
President Václav Klaus on Monday vetoed a bill on cinematography which would enhance public support for Czech filmmakers and increase incentives for foreign productions working in the Czech Republic. Under the draft legislation, the state fund for the support of cinematography would annually hand out up to 300 million crowns half of which would come from commercial TV broadcasters while foreign film productions shooting in the country would be reimbursed for 10 percent of their expenditures and 20 percent of additional costs. However, President Klaus said the film industry was a business that should not be funded with public money, and suggested the biggest problem of Czech cinema was not a lack of money but rather a lack of creative invention. The bill now returns to the lower house of Parliament which can override Mr Klaus’s veto.
The Czech telecommunications authority on Monday launched the first round of an auction of frequencies for the fourth-generation mobile networks. All three mobile phone operators active in the country – T-Mobile, Telefónica and Vodafone – are taking part in the auction, as well as the firm PPF Mobile Services which aspires to become the fourth nation-wide operator. The asking price for the frequencies is 7.4 billion crowns; the results of the auction are to be announced on November 28.
Students who were expelled from universities for political reasons between 1957 and 1989 are not entitled to receive compensation, the Supreme Administrative Court has ruled. The government in 2009 granted a compensation of 100,000 crowns, or some 5,000 US dollars, to university students expelled after the communist coup of 1948 until 1956. The ruling is related to a case of a man who was expelled in 1977 for religious activities; he was granted compensation by a lower court but the Supreme Administrative Court overturned the verdict, arguing that the numbers of students expelled were highest in the period immediately after 1948 while these people suffered more than those expelled later.
The Czech NGO People in Need says it has helped more than 12,000 families in northern Afghanistan this year to overcome the effects of last year’s drought and this year’s extensive flooding. With funds from the EU, the UN and the UK government, the group helped organize public works in the affected areas and provide jobs for thousands of people who cleared water canals and wells, built walls and repaired roads, bridges and schools. People in Need also donated farm animals and seeds to 1,200 Afghan households. In total, the Czech NGO helped some 74,000 people in Afghanistan this year, the group said in a press released on Monday.
Police are investigating alleged human rights abuses that occurred in a disabled people’s home in Zašová, in the north east of the country, the news website aktualne.cz reported on Monday. A spokesman for the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry said a recent inspection of the facility discovered that several criminal acts might have been committed; the patients were reportedly submitted to house arrests, were banned from watching TV and drinking coffee, and were forced to use communal showers. The ministry recommended the Zlín region administration, which runs the home, dismiss the director of the facility.
A 58-year-old man with methanol poisoning was admitted to hospital in the north-eastern city of Olomouc at the weekend, a spokesman for the hospital said on Monday. The man had high levels of methanol in his blood, and suffered from severe disturbances of consciousness. The police have against warned against the consumption of alcohol from unknown sources. The recent outbreak of methanol poisonings has claimed the lives of 33 people, mostly in the north east of the Czech Republic.