The Czech health ministry has warned of the danger of more methanol poisonings over the Christmas holidays. According to police estimates there could still be up to 5,000 litres of uncertified, potentially dangerous alcohol in small stores and households. In the course of the past three months 38 people have died of methanol poisonings from bootleg liquor and three are currently in hospital in serious condition. Spirits have been banned from Christmas markets around the country.
The Senate on Thursday also extensively criticized the newly-introduced electronic S-cards via which the state wants to pay out welfare benefits as unethical and unconstitutional. The Senate’s Committee for Social Affairs is to debate a proposal for their abolition tabled by the Social Democratic Party. The new S-card system has evoked enormous controversy, with critics pointing out that pensioners living in small villages may have problems getting to a money machine and would inevitably lose money on the transaction from their already meagre pensions. Senators moreover point out that people will be forced to have an account at Česká Sporitelna, selected by the government to run the operation, even if they already have an account elsewhere.
The Czech Defence Ministry is to equip the armed forces with new uniforms. According to the ministry’s spokesman Jan Pejšek the purchase for summer and winter uniforms to the tune of 93 million crowns is to be made via the NATO support agency, after the ministry’s tender for new uniforms was cancelled by the Czech anti-monopoly office. The ministry has had problems placing a tender for new uniforms for the past two years.
Thousands of people who were forced to work as virtual slaves in a Czechoslovak army unit in the 1950s could receive compensation, the news website iDnes reported. Men sent to the Auxiliary Technical Battalions would get a one-off payment of CZK 1,800 for every month of what was practically imprisonment, under an Interior Ministry proposal to place them in the same category as “class enemies” jailed by the Communist regime. The latter have already received similar compensation and the move comes in response to a court case in September in which a former “member” of the Auxiliary Technical Battalions won compensation. The proposal is set to go before the government.
The Senate has called on President Vaclav Klaus to sign the addendum to the Lisbon Treaty relating to the creation of a European Stability Mechanism. The addendum to the treaty which was agreed on at an EU summit last December has been ratified by both chambers of Parliament but still lacks the president’s signature making the Czech Republic the last EU member state which has yet to complete the ratification process. The Senate has called on the president to sign the addendum without further delay, noting that failure to comply with Parliament’s decision in this matter would be in violation of the constitution. The country’s Eurosceptic president postponed putting his signature to the Lisbon Treaty for as long as possible, signing it only after the EU nodded to his demand for a Czech opt-out from the treaty’s Chapter of Fundamental Rights.
Two Hungarian women have been detained after customs officers found 7 kg of marihuana in their luggage. The women, aged 19 and 31, were transiting the Czech Republic by train and the drug was found during a routine check at the Olomouc railway station. Its street price has been estimated at 700,000 crowns.
The government agency for social inclusion will expand its activities to 17 more towns and cities around the Czech Republic in 2013, according to the head of the agency Pavel Šimíček. The agency, set up in 2008, has been active in 33 problem localities to date, working closely with local authorities to resolve housing problems and creating a liaison between people living in social exclusion and labour offices, schools and the police. According to available data there are around 300 slums around the Czech Republic, inhabited predominantly by members of the Romany minority.
The anti-corruption police have proposed filing charges against 17 members of the Prague branch of the Social Democratic Party. The suspects are believed to have paid people to enter the party and vote according to their directions. This was done to influence voting in compiling the list of candidates in the 2010 general elections and elections to the Prague City Council. Two men are suspected of offering bribes, 15 of taking them.
Parliament’s Commission for European Affairs has asked the government to vote against a proposal by Brussels to impose a 40 per cent female quota on listed company boards across the EU. Opposition to the proposal was spearheaded by Public Affairs. The commission concluded that introducing quotas for companies should be a last-ditch measure that should be decided by individual member states. MP Viktor Paggio from Public Affairs described the proposal as an ill-conceived attempt at social engineering that would inevitably backfire. The EC defended the proposal on the grounds that all its previous attempts to address a severe gender imbalance across the 27-country bloc by attempting to reach voluntary agreements with companies had failed.
A Ukrainian porn-star who was refused asylum in the Czech Republic demonstrated outside the Czech Parliament building topless on Thursday to draw attention to her case. Anastazia Hagen, who is a mother of three, says she fears returning to her homeland where she could be persecuted for acting in porn-movies. She fled the country 18 months ago and settled in the Czech Republic with her husband and three sons.
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