The former chairwoman of the lower house Miroslava Němcová has called a constituting session of the new Chamber of Deputies. The house will meet on November 25th at 2pm for the swearing in of deputies and procedural matters such as the election of MPs to committees and sub-committees. The session is expected to continue for several days.
Social Democrat officials are to meet with church representatives on Thursday to debate the possibility of revising the law on church restitutions. The meeting will be attended by representatives of the Czech Bishops Conference, the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Federation of Jewish Communities. The Social Democrats consider the scope of the restitution law excessive and are pushing for a revision which would alleviate the burden on the state budget. Under the law the country’s churches will receive 75 billion crowns worth of land and property confiscated by the communist regime and get 59 billion crowns worth of compensation money for the rest, to be paid by the state over a period of 30 years. In addition to righting the wrongs of the past, the agreement will enable churches active in the Czech Republic to gain full independence from the state by 2030.
Police have filed charges of abuse of office against a former manager of the country’s leading health insurance company VZP in connection with an agreement between the said company and the Prague Proton Therapy Centre. The insurance company is refusing to cooperate with the centre, instead sending cancer patients for treatment abroad, on the argument that the agreement on cooperation signed is highly disadvantageous for it. The contract guarantees the proton centre a guaranteed number of patients and an annual income of over one billion crowns for a period of 15 years.
Potential coalition partners, the Social Democrat and ANO parties, remain divided on tax policies, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said. The parties are in talks on forming a coalition government along with the Christian Democrats; they have agreed on a series of issues including austerity measures, ways to boost economic growth, and others; however, the ANO party refuses the Social Democrat plans to raise corporate taxes and to introduce property checks. Leaders of both parties are to meet again on Saturday.
The central bank’s recent intervention against the crown has triggered a shopping fever, the internet news site novinky.cz reports. Retailers and e-shops report a steep increase in sales particularly electronics where the predicted price hike is expected to be significant. Alza.cz says its sales have doubled since the announcement and internet stores selling electronics and household appliances report a 200 percent increase in sales. The National Bank is intervening on forex markets to weaken the crown which is expected to increase the price of imported goods, products made from imported materials and petrol.
The police have seized cash, accounts, houses as well as luxury vehicles worth over 72 million crowns in a major operation against fuel tax evasion, a spokeswoman for the Czech tax authority said. The police have also confiscated 270,000 litres of fuel in the operation which took two months to prepare and discovered cases of tax evasion worth 750,000 million crowns; no one was arrested in the clampdown, the spokeswoman said.
The police have cracked down on a drug-smuggling ring in a nation-wide operation involving close to 300 officers. Nineteen people were arrested of whom thirteen have so far been charged with the production and trafficking of illegal substances. The operation involved house searches around the country during which the police uncovered three illegal laboratories and confiscated large quantities of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, hash and marijuana.
The number of homeless people in the Czech Republic is rising, according to the Czech Salvation Army. The organization says that according to its estimates there are now approximately 30,000 homeless people in the country and another 70 thousand people are at threat of losing their homes. The main reasons why people end up in the street are growing indebtedness, loss of employment, high rents and divorces or break-ups. The plight of such people is made worse by the fact that the Czech Republic does not as yet have social housing. The government recently approved the country’s first national strategy against homelessness.
The non-governmental, non-profit organisation Post Bellum, which documents important historical phenomena of the 20th century through eyewitness accounts and memories, on Sunday handed out its annual Memory of the Nation awards. This year’s recipients are Holocaust survivor, Professor Felix Kolmer, František Wiendl, who helped smuggle 28 people out of communist Czechoslovakia, and leading members of the anti-communist dissent Jiří Stránský and Dana Němcová. Since it was establish in 2001 Post Bellum has collected the life stories of 3,500 people and passed them on to the broad public through radio and TV reports and exhibitions.