Attending the UN General Assembly in New York, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek met briefly with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday night to discuss the Islamic State threat and the situation in Ukraine. The Czech foreign minister said he had confirmed Prague’s commitment to the international effort to break the power of the IS by all means available. The two officials also discussed the present situation in Ukraine, the need to avert a humanitarian crisis during the winter and help create conditions for the country’s future democratic development.
The European Commission has criticized the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia for failing to fully transpose the EU directive about cross-border healthcare into their legal systems. The three countries’ governments have been called on to correct the lapse or face a court dispute. The 2011 EU directive stipulates that all EU citizens have the right to seek treatment beyond their country’s borders if that treatment is not available in their home country or they would have to wait excessively long to get it. All EU member states were expected to fully transpose this into their national legislation by October of 2013.
The Office of the Czech Government has said it received a similar threat in the mail as that sent to the Office of the President on Wednesday. The letter was written in the name of the Islamic State and allegedly protested against the fact that the Czech Republic had sent ammunition to Kurdish forces in Iraq. Both letters contained an unspecified white powder which was found to be harmless. President Milos Zeman, who was not in residence when the letter arrived at Prague Castle, said later he believed it was the work of a harmless lunatic. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Thursday that the matter was being investigated and that it appeared that both letters had been sent by the same person.
A bust of the late Czech president Václav Havel is due to be unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Freedom Foyer on November 19, the ctk news agency reports citing the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner. The unveiling ceremony has been scheduled to take place on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. In 1990, the late Czech president delivered one of his most famous speeches before the U.S. Congress. The bust of the legendary Czech dissident-playwright-turned-president will reside in Freedom Foyer those of alongside those of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
The board of the Czech National Bank on Thursday decided to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a historic low of 0.05%. The Central Bank also reiterated its commitment to intervening in the foreign exchange market in order to keep the Czech koruna at around 27 crowns per euro. The interventions were launched in November of last year and should continue at least until 2016.
TOP 09 deputy head Miroslav Kalousek, who has been ordered to apologize to colleague MP Zdenek Ondráček from the Communist Party for calling him a communist “fizl” a highly derogatory term for officers who served the regime beating up and persecuting its opponents, is refusing to comply and has asked the lower house to revoke the decision of the Mandatory and Immunity Committee which dealt with the case. The committee concluded that although Zdenek Ondráček served as a police officer before the fall of communism the term used by MP Kalousek was vulgar and insulting. The TOP 09 deputy head says he merely called a spade a spade and will not demean himself by apologizing. If he refuses to do so, he will be expected to pay a fine amounting to his monthly salary as an MP.
The death of a baby several hours after its vaccination this week is unlikely to have been caused by the vaccine, the head of the Czech Vaccination Society Roman Prymula told Czech Television on Thursday. The incident has triggered unease among parents especially since the State Institute for Drugs Control ordered the respective batch of Infanrix hexa vaccines to be pulled from the shelves of pharmacies around the country until the cause of death has been verified. Prymula said that in his opinion cot death was a more likely explanation since an allergic reaction to the vaccine would have come much earlier.
The NGO Arnica has warned that some loom bands accessories which have become a hit with school children have been found to contain toxic substances far exceeding permitted norms. The NGO said at a press briefing in Prague on Thursday that while the popular loom bands themselves had passed a random test some of the accessories sold on the Czech market contained a high amount of phthalates, exceeding permitted norms by up to 400 times. The Czech Trade Inspection is now investigating the claims.
Seven students from Ukraine have started postgraduate studies at Palacký University in Olomouc which invited them in February in reaction to the tense political situation in Ukraine. The university is covering the cost of their monthly scholarships and will pay for their travel expenses, accommodation and social and health insurance. The rector of Palacký University Jaroslav Miller said it was a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine in the country’s time of need.
A court of arbitration, part of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday resolved the long lasting dispute between the building firm Metrostav and Prague City Hall over Blanka tunnel compex, ordering the city to pay the remaining billion crowns to the construction company. The sum will be used to cover the construction of a new bridge in Prague-Troja area, which is part of the project. The Blanka tunnel, designed to channel traffic from the city centre, is expected to cost Prague some 36 billion crowns. It has been criticized as an overpriced and non-transparent project. The tunnel was originally meant to be opened in May but the opening has been postponed.