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.
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.
The Supreme Court has upheld a 16-year-prison sentence for an American citizen who was found guilty of murdering a man on a night tram in Prague last February. The two men reportedly had an argument in a bar after which the victim departed. The American followed him onto a Prague tram shooting him in cold blood after it had emptied out. The 43-year-old man was later found dead by the tram driver.
Korean Air and Qatar Airlines have expressed interest in purchasing shares in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said at a press briefing in Prague on Wednesday. The government is offering to sell a 96 percent stake to a European buyer; other airlines could only purchase a less than 50 percent stake in order to ensure that ČSA remains a national carrier. Although it approached 50 airlines with the offer only Korean Air and Qatar Airlines have responded. The Czech government is expected to decide on the sale in March of next year. A previous attempt to sell off ČSA in 2009 was not successful.
A Christmas outdoor ice-skating rink opened on Prague’s Ovocný trh, in the city centre on Wednesday. The rink is open from 10 am till 10 pm daily for free and people can rent skates on the spot. The ice-rink has an eleven-year-tradition and is used by around 20,000 people every Christmas. It will remain open until January 6th.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu made a brief stop-over in
Prague on Wednesday to personally thank his Czech counterpart, Petr
for the Czech Republic’s vote at the UN General Assembly last week
against the upgrading of the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations.
The Czech Republic was one of only nine countries to vote against the
Palestinians becoming an observer state – and the only European Union
country to do so. At a press briefing in Prague the Israeli prime minister
said the Czech Republic had taken a brave, if not popular, stance. He
reiterated that he remained committed to a two-state solution with the
Palestinians, but stressed that Israel would not reverse its course in the
construction of new settlements nor would it sacrifice its vital interests
for the sake of obtaining the world's applause.
Analysts note that Mr. Netanyahu’s second visit to Prague this year reflects the two countries' above-standard relations. From Prague the Israeli prime minister will travel to Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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