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.
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.
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.
Fire fighters in the region of Moravia-Silesia responded in roughly 35 incidents related to strong winds in the area late Saturday and early Sunday which brought down branches, trees and phone lines in places. In several cases, they also secured sheet metal loosened from roofs. Nobody was hurt from falling trees or branches; no cars, had been damaged, officials said.
Czech President Václav Klaus has outlined his stance on a number of issues ahead of a three-day visit to Austria next week, discussing nuclear energy policy, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after WWII, and EU integration. In an interview for Kronen Zeitung, the Czech head-of-state said he could not understand sharp Austrian opposition to nuclear power, saying he believed it was a political game between politicians and activists rather than the real opinion of the public. Nuclear-free Austria has for years protested against the Czech Temelín nuclear power plant, situated 60 kilometres from the borders of Austria and Bavaria, challenging its safety. Two new blocs are to be built in Temelín in future. The third and fourth blocs are to be completed in 2025. When asked about his rejection of possible demands of Germans and Austrians forced to leave their homes in Czech border regions after WWII, Mr Klaus said the past could not be changed nor should it be turned into a political issue. The Czech president also repeated his longstanding view of the EU, saying the present model of European integration was a mistake.
Barbora Špotáková, specialist in the javelin, has been named Czech Athlete of the Year for the sixth year running, recognition for her gold medal win at the London Olympics this summer as well as her top finish in the Diamond League. The award, in its 50th year, is decided by athletics officials, trainers and sports journalists. Athletes Zuzana Hejnová and Vítězslav Veselý came in 2nd and 3rd.
A 63-year-old man who was hospitalized a month ago in Frydek-Mistek in the east of the country after drinking alcohol containing wood spirits died on Sunday. The man is the thirty-third person killed by methanol, in an outbreak of poisoning tied to bootleg liquor that was illegally released on the market in mid-September. Twenty of the deaths were in the region of Moravia-Silesia. More than 60 people face charges over the methanol affair; roughly half of them have been remanded in custody.
In related news, the two racers whose Mitsubishi Lancer flew off the road, causing the tragedy, said strong winds had contributed to the accident. Michael Bartoníček and his brother Josef, well-known lawyers by profession who have been racing ten years, ruled out technical failure. Mr Bartoníček also said in an interview for idnes that they were traveling at a speed of 150 kilometres an hour when they left the road. He said that words could not express what they felt after they learned those killed had been a little girl and three young women. He added that he and his brother would try and contact their families at a later date. The families, meanwhile, are reportedly considering legal action against the race organizers, saying the area where the accident happened was in no way marked off as dangerous.
The Czech national hockey team racked up three wins in three matches to win the Euro Hockey Tour’s Karjala Cup for the first time in the competition’s 16-year history. The Czechs won the first match against Sweden 3-1, then downed Finland 1:0, with goalie Ondrej Pavelec earning the shutout, and won their final game on Saturday against Russia. The Czechs scored two on the powerplay in the first period, Russia was able to pull within one in the second, but 2:1 it remained until the final buzzer. The Kajala Cup was the only remaining trophy the national squad had never won.
The head of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka has said that his party will not block the government’s tax package in the Senate, which will boost the country’s two VAT rates and income tax for high earners. He made the statement on a Sunday debate programme, making clear that blocking the legislation now would lead to chaos in taxes next year, something the Social Democrats wanted no responsibility for. The Senate, where the Social Democrats have a majority, has until December 10 to discuss the bill, leaving precious time for the bill to pass. A filibuster at this time would only hurt, the opposition leader made clear.
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