The Chamber of Deputies has approved a constitutional amendment which would abolish lawmakers and judges’ lifelong immunity from prosecution. Under the proposed amendment, they would only be protected for the duration of their mandate, unless their peers vote to strip them of their immunity. The bill was approved by 148 deputies, well over the 120 votes necessary to amend the constitution. Its fate in the Senate is unclear since a similar proposal was rejected by the upper chamber only last year.
Men and women will be subject to the same insurance and pension savings rates, according to a bill that was approved on Wednesday by the lower house of Parliament. Currently, Czech insurance companies and private pension funds offer lower premiums for women on many of their products. According to the Finance Minister, Miroslav Kalousek, the new bill had to be introduced in order to comply with the decision of the European Court that said the current system conflicts with the principle of gender equality. Opposition parties as well as Mr Kalousek himself have criticized the new regulation, which may cause insurance rates for women to drastically increase in some cases.
Among possible nominees for Constitutional Court judges that president-elect Miloš Zeman is considering are expert on criminal law Jaroslav Fenyk and commercial law specialist Irena Pelikánová, according to the website of the weekly Respekt magazine. As of the beginning of February, the Constitutional Court has 12 out of the total 15 judges. The president nominates new judges, who are then approved by the Senate. Mr Zeman has also said he is planning to nominate the current chief judge Pavel Rychetský for another term, once his current term expires in August.
The Pirate Party has filed a lawsuit against President Václav Klaus, for concealing information about the authors of the presidential amnesty that was issued at the beginning of the year. The party is arguing that the president’s office has the obligation to release the names of the authors under the freedom of information law. The head of the office Jiří Wiegl had rejected a request for the information from the party’s chairman. A number of other groups and politicians, including the deputy chairman of the Social Democratic party Lubomír Zaorálek, have issued public complaints about the lack of information about the amnesty.
President-elect Miloš Zeman received nearly 1.5 million crowns in campaign donations in cash, the news site Aktuálně.cz reported. By comparison, donors gave his rivals for the post of head of state sums totaling tens of thousands of crowns. Some of the donations to Mr. Zeman’s campaign, which were lodged in his campaign account in person, were in the hundreds of thousands of crowns. The head of the Czech branch of the corruption watchdog Transparency International, David Ondráčka, told Aktuálně.cz that the sums created considerable suspicion as they left no traces in the banking system. Mr. Zeman’s campaign team refused to make any comment on the matter.
The German police and customs officers have arrested a four-member Berlin-based group that was smuggling marihuana from the Czech Republic into Germany. Three men and a woman had been under surveillance for several months prior to being arrested on Monday evening while returning from the Czech Republic with 50 kilograms of marihuana. The Bavarian and Saxon officials have criticized the allegedly lax Czech drug regulations many times in the past.
The Czech branch of the PEN club has issued an open letter calling on the Czech President Václav Klaus to refrain from attacking his predecessor Václav Havel. President Klaus, whose second and last term in office will end in less than a month, has made a number of public statements recently that expressed disrespect for the former president, playwright and lauded dissident. In an interview for a Polish newspaper, the current president referred to the late Mr Havel as a leftist extremist.
Scientists have discovered a new type of fly that is believed to inhabit only the Podyje National Park in the southwestern Moravian Znojmo region. The fly is from the moth fly family and was given the name trichomyia hardeggensis. Entomologists Markéta Omelková and Jan Ježek from Brno’s Masaryk University were in charge of the fly’s classification. Over 70 species of flies in Moravia are currently endangered, because of the disappearing wetlands that the species are dependent on.
Largely due to heavy snow, Tuesday saw the most car accidents on Czech roads in more than four years. The police registered 521 accidents - a sad daily record that was last surpassed on three separate days in the fall of 2008. Last year, the highest number of accidents in one day was 482 on 15 February. There were two fatalities during the day on Tuesday.
The World Radio Day is being celebrated all over the worldthe for the second year on Wednesday. The day marks the occasion of the founding of the United Nations radio in 1946. Several Czech Radio stations prepared special programming for the occasion. Czech Radio, a public broadcaster, is also celebrating its 90th birthday this year.