The Finance Ministry has announced plans to withdraw 6,000 licences for video lottery terminals which were originally issued until the end of 2014. The move is being made in line with the wishes of individual town halls which aim to cub gambling. The Czech Constitutional Court recently upheld a complaint filed collectively by town halls that attacked an article of the lottery law enabling the finance ministry to issue video lottery terminal licences over their heads.
The OECD, a Paris-based international organization, has warned the Czech Republic over rising levels of social exclusion in schools, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported. The group notes that while richer families increasingly send children to better quality schools, children from poorer families tend to attend the schools closest to their homes. That is detrimental to both groups of children, the OECD said. The Czech Education Ministry said it would address the issue and pledged more funding for regions where children achieve worse results at school.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday unveiled the line-up of the shadow cabinet. His ministerial team is 14-strong, with a newly added youth and sports portfolio. Jan Mládek whose candidacy for shadow finance minister was shaken by a highly imprudent remark made at the last party conference, is on the team. Jiři Dienstbier whose position was weakened after he failed to secure a post in the party leadership is shadow justice minister. Lubomir Zaorálek is shadow foreign minister and Vladimir Špidla, a former EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, is shadow environment minister.
Communist Party MEP Miloslav Ransdorf who has a 17 million crown debt has been unable to a visit from the bailiff and the confiscation of his real estate in Prague. His nine million crown house in Prague’s Libuse district and flat in Zabehlice are to be auctioned off on June 26th. The MEP allegedly owes money both to financial institutions and close friends.
The equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas on Prague’s main square is once again chained off to protect it from vandals. The chain was removed eight years ago after members of the Balbin Poetic party, a pseudo-party which regularly meets in a pub to criticize the shortcomings of Czech society and politicians, demanded its removal arguing that having a chain around the nation's patron saint did not bode well for the future and that to many people the chain symbolized the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Since its removal the statue has been an easy target for vandals and there have been incidents of drunks trying to climb it.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Wednesday criticized President Miloš Zeman over his remarks over the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. During his visit to Austria, Mr Zeman on Tuesday said the expulsion of around three million Germans was justified as 90 percent of them had voted for a Nazi party. He also suggested that for collaborators with an occupying power, the expulsion was less severe punishment than death penalty. Speaking in Prague on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nečas said the president should adopt a more measured tone, and realize that “we live in 2013 and are members of the EU”.
In related news, President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday concludes his two-day visit to Austria, his second foreign trip abroad since his inauguration last month. Mr Zeman visited the Austrian Parliament on Wednesday; at a meeting with Austrian and Czech entrepreneurs, the Czech president spoke about the future adoption of the euro by the Czech Republic, and it would protect the country against speculations with the national currency. Mr Zeman also said the two countries should increase economic cooperation.
A group of 25 MEPs on Wednesday called on top Czech officials to take
action against the destabilization of the country’s Institute for the
Study of Totalitarian Regimes, the news agency ČTK said. In a letter to
the Czech president, prime minister and the head of the Senate, the
deputies expressed their concern over the recent replacement of the
institute’s director, which could lead to the closing down of the
government-sponsored institute, the MEPs said.
Earlier this month, the institute’s overseeing board dismissed its director, Daniel Herman. Critics believe the move was politically motivated by the opposition which wants to change the discourse of the country’s communist past.
Czech judges and attorneys halted the prosecution of 757 people in 415 cases by the end of March on the basis of an amnesty issued in January by then president Václav Klaus, a spokeswoman for the Supreme State Attorney said on Wednesday. Around half of the cases were related to alleged economic crime. The controversial amnesty, which among other things ordered judges and prosecutors to stop cases lasting for more than eight years, came under severe criticism and prompted the Senate to raise high treason charges against then president Václav Klaus at the Czech Constitutional Court.
The Czech Government on Wednesday approved a controversial bill on the Šumava National Park. The draft legislation would, among other things, change the park zones and allow logging in places where it is now prohibited. The bill would also relax the rules for building skiing resorts and hotels. While the Environment Ministry believes the bill would provide better protection for the park against the bark beetle, but critics says it would in effect expose the park’s most precious areas to developers and logging firms.