Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday signed agreements with 16 churches and religious societies on financial compensation amounting to 59 billion crowns for property confiscated by the communist regime. The agreement is part of a broad property restitution deal, approved by Parliament earlier this year. The churches are set to receive the funds over a period of 30 years. After that time, they will receive no public funding. The agreement has come under criticism from the opposition which on Thursday lodged a last-minute complaint against it with the Constitutional Court. The court’s secretary said on Friday it would be proper for the Czech government to postpone signing the contracts until the Constitutional Court delivers a verdict on the issue.
In related news, the Baptist Union in the Czech Republic rejected an agreement with the government on financial compensation, the group’s head, Milan Kern, said on Friday. The church was set to receive some 228 million crowns under the deal; however, Mr Kern said they would rather fund their church with contributions from members. The Baptists are the only church which took part in the property restitution negotiations that eventually refused to sign the agreement. The group has around 2,500 members.
Several members of the judiciary are under investigation by the organized crime unit of the Czech police, according to a report by Czech TV. The broadcaster said that among those investigated was Prague district judge, Ondřej Havlín. The police reportedly interrogated some people on Thursday, and are now searching “public offices” for evidence. Prague’s supreme attorney Lenka Bradáčová said more details of the case would be released over the weekend.
This year’s deficit of Czech public finances should not exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Friday. Mr Kalousek’s remarks came in a reaction to an estimate by the European Commission which predicted the deficit would reach 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP. Keeping the gap below 3 percent would bring an end to the excessive deficit procedure launched against the Czech Republic by the European Commission in 2009, Mr Kalousek said. The finance minister however warned the target could only be met provided that European economy does not experience any dramatic downturn.
The head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, would like to meet with the Czech president-elect, Miloš Zeman, “as soon as possible, EU commissioner for enlargement, Štefan Fülle said following a meeting with Mr Zeman in Prague on Friday. Miloš Zeman invited Mr Barroso to Prague shortly after his victory in the first ever direct presidential election last month. The president-elect said both officials could fly the EU flag over Prague Castle, a gesture the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, consistently rejected.
Representatives of the Czech, US, Croatian and Slovak defence ministries signed on Friday a letter of intent on the establishment of an international military aviation training centre, known as MATC. The document was adopted on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels. The centre will provide training to helicopter pilots from air forces of NATO countries; it is expected that it will operate at several Czech air force bases as well as at those in other NATO member states.
Around one third of homeless people living in the Czech Republic seek assistance, according to a new survey by the Czech Statistical Office and social services providers which was released on Friday. About the same number of them also have jobs. The survey counted 11.500 homeless people; however, the real number of people living in the streets could be three times higher. The highest number of the homeless – 2,600 – was registered in the northern Moravian-Silesian region, followed by Prague and South Moravia.
Prague City Council plans to establish low-emissions zones by the year 2015, council member Radek Lohynský told the ČTK news agency on Friday. The zones should reduce air pollution in the centre of the capital by restricting the movement of older vehicles in the area. The planned zones would cover most of downtown Prague including Old Town, Hradčany, New Town, Holešovice, Smíchov and Nusle. Prague City Council has commissioned a feasibility study on the project which should be completed within two months, Mr Lohynský said,
In cooperation with their German colleagues, the Czech police and customs have arrested four men suspected of smuggling illicit drugs from the Czech Republic to Germany, a spokesman for the Czech customs said on Friday. The officers also confiscated marihuana and crystal meth worth around seven million crowns, and hundreds of thousands of crowns in cash. The police believe the men were in charge of an extensive drug smuggling network with links to Vietnam. If convicted, the men could face up to 18 years in prison.
Viktoria Plzeň have advanced in football’s Europa League after a 2:0 home win over Napoli which gave them a remarkable 5:0 aggregate victory over the Italian side. The goals in Thursday’s second leg came from Kovařík and Tecl. Sparta Prague, meanwhile, have exited the competition. Trailing 0:1 from the first leg in Prague, they gave Chelsea a scare when a goal from David Lafata put them ahead for a long period of the game; however, an equalizer in time added on killed the Czechs’ hopes of forcing the tie to extra time.