The Czech Republic has the third worst situation in Europe when it comes to modern slavery, according to a report by the Walk Free Foundation. The human rights group says there are almost 38,000 people in the country who can be regarded as modern-day slaves. The Walk Free Foundation includes in its definition of modern slavery forced work, the sale or abuse of children, debt bondage in which children are forced to work for adults to whom their parents owe money and trafficking in people. In Europe, only Albania and Montenegro received a lower rating in the Global Slavery Index, while Hungary tied with the Czech Republic in third.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has begun a three-day state visit to Ukraine. Prior to his departure for Kiev, the Czech embassy in the city said his visit would focus on fostering closer cooperation between Ukraine and the European Union. Mr. Zeman is due to hold talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, and to discuss with local politicians the situation surrounding the imprisoned former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.
The Social Democrats should come first in next weekend’s elections with 23 percent of the vote, suggests a freshly released opinion poll by the TNS Aisa agency. However, the same survey put the party on 29 percent less than a month ago. ANO 2011 and the Communists have improved on previous figures, with, respectively, 16 and 14 percent of respondents saying they would vote for them. The new poll suggests TOP 09, the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and Dawn would also make it into the lower house.
The acting chairman of the right-wing Civic Democrats, Martin Kuba, says his party could enter a coalition government with the Social Democrats. He told TV station Prima that similar alliances had been forged in recent times in the neighbouring states of Austria and Germany. However, the Civic Democrats’ election leader, Miroslava Němcová, said she could not envisage such a coalition. The Social Democrats have ruled it out entering a cabinet with either her party or the other main right-wing party, TOP 09.
The minister of health, Martin Holcát, says the Czech Republic’s largest health insurer VZP should receive a CZK 1.5 billion loan from the Czech state by next month. Mr. Holcát made the comments on a Czech Television debate show on Sunday, adding that he was looking at ways to find another CZK 1 billion for VZP, which is struggling financially. The minister also said some parties’ pre-electoral pledge to abolish hospital fees would cause a shortfall of CZK 5.5 billion in the healthcare system; he said they should make clear where they would find the cash.
The first Signal festival of light comes to a close in Prague on Sunday night. The four-night event has presented four video mapping projects turning buildings in the city into huge screens and dozens of light-based installations, drawing large crowds and receiving international media attention. The organizers say they are considering holding the festival again in 2014.
The Czech soccer star Petr Čech played his 300th game for Chelsea on Saturday, helping the London club to a 4:1 win over Cardiff. The goalkeeper, who is 31, has won a slew of trophies with Chelsea since joining them in 2004, including the Champions League. Čech has 105 caps for the Czech national team.
The government plans to fast-track legislation aimed at preventing a number of properties in the Prague Castle complex falling under a law on church restitution, the newspaper Právo reported on Saturday. The law will go before the Senate as the Chamber of Deputies has been dissolved. Prague’s Roman Catholic archbishopric has claimed nine buildings and 10 parcels of land at the Castle. The minister of the interior, Martin Pecina, says the Catholic Church had made a deal with the state not to seek their return.
The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed on Friday that visa requirements will be lifted for Czech citizens in the next few weeks. On a visit to Brussels, Mr. Harper said that one of his country’s goals is visa-free travel between Canada and the European Union. Canada re-introduced visas for Czechs four years ago, after it received a large number of asylum applications from mostly Romani Czechs during the two years that visa-free entry was in place.
Canada will in the near future lift a visa requirement for Czechs visiting the country. The news was reported by the site Canada.com and confirmed on Thursday by the Canadian Embassy in Prague. Ottawa imposed the restriction four years ago following a spike in asylum applications from Czechs, many of whom were from the Roma minority. The Czech government had appealed to the European Union to put pressure on Canada to abolish the visa requirement.