The EC has sent the Czech Republic a formal request for information regarding the alleged discrimination of Romany children in the Czech education system. The Czech authorities have two months in which to provide the information. Amnesty International has welcomed the move saying that the Czech Republic has for years failed to take effective measures to secure equal access to education for Romany children who are very often placed in special schools for children with learning disabilities. A group of Romany parents took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2007 and won, but Amnesty says little has changed in practice since.
Responding to criticism regarding alleged discrimination of Romany children in the Czech education system, the Czech Education Ministry said on Friday it was paying exceptional attention to securing equal access to education for all children and considered it to be one of its main priorities. The ministry’s spokeswoman Klara Bila noted that the ministry was systematically working to include socially-disadvantaged children into the education mainstream. One of these measures, which has yet to be put into practice, is compulsory attendance of pre-school classes which would help Romany children integrate and overcome the cultural differences and language barrier that often present a problem.
The police squad fighting organized crime on Friday cracked down on a group of people involved in the activities of the firm Oleo Chemical, charging ten people with tax evasion, money-laundering and embezzlement of large amounts of company funds. Among those charged is the controversial Prague lobbyist Ivo Rittig. Oleo Chemical produces and sells biofuel and it has cooperated with companies close to Mr. Rittig.
The Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday confirmed receiving a similar threat in the mail as the Office of the President and the Office of the Government earlier this week. All three institutions received an envelope containing a white powder and a threat sent in the name of the Islamic State. It slammed the Czech Republic for sending ammunition to Kurdish forces in Iraq which are fighting against the IS. The powder contained in the letter sent to Prague Castle was found to be harmless. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Friday that it appeared to be the work of one individual.
Another thirty-eight people who risked their lives to stand up to the communist regime in Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989 have received recognition from the government for participating in the so-called third resistance. Among those who joined the list of resistance fighters are the former journalist and Charter 77 signatory Otta Bednářová and the former counter intelligence agent Vladimír Hučín. Altogether around 660 people have been awarded this status under a law on the third resistance passed three years ago. Among them are former dissidents, political prisoners and people who saved the lives of others by helping them to flee to the West across the heavily guarded Czechoslovak border.
The centre-right opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats on Friday failed to push through their demand for an amendment to the civil service bill which would make it compulsory for ministers to produce clean screening certificates as proof they do not have a communist past. This has been a matter of contention between the governing coalition and the opposition ever since Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s centre-left government took office. The finance minister in Mr. Sobotka’s cabinet, TOP 09 leader Andrej Babiš, has failed to produce a clean screening certificate. Mr. Babiš’ appointment to the post caused controversy and although a court in Bratislava later ruled that Andrej Babiš was falsely described as being an agent of the Communist era secret police, critics say his past contacts with the communist secret police present a problem.
Britain is refusing to pay the Czech Republic the equivalent of 100 million crowns in unemployment benefits paid out to Czechs who previously worked in Great Britain, Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova Tominova told Czech Radio on Friday. Czechs who worked in Britain for years but retained their “centre of interest” in the Czech Republic were entitled to unemployment benefits if they failed to find work after returning home. Since they paid taxes in Britain the Czech Republic is entitled under European law to demand a refund of those benefits. The respective advisory committee of the EC has ruled that Britain must repay the debt, but London claims the decision is not legally binding. The Czech Republic wants to coordinate its steps with Poland and Slovakia whom Britain also owes money for the same reason.
The lower house of Parliament has approved the abolition of direct payments in health care, with the exception of a 90 crown fee for emergency visits. A 30 crown fee for prescriptions introduced by the former center-right government has likewise been scrapped. Deputies will also debate the cabinet’s proposal to scrap an article of the law which would force doctors to issue exclusively electronic prescriptions as of next year, on the grounds that many doctors outside of the big cities are technically not prepared for such a move. The health commission of the Chamber of Deputies has suggested that this duty could be postponed by three years instead of being scrapped.
Police and bomb disposal experts are searching the premises of Pardubice University in the wake of a bomb threat. According to the city’s police chief an anonymous caller said a bomb had been timed to explode at the university on Tuesday September 30th. The building was immediately evacuated and police have been searching the building. Nothing suspicious has so far been found, but the authorities are taking the threat seriously and the university will remain closed for the entire day next Tuesday. Another thorough police search will precede the buildings’ closure.
A police officer on Friday won a three year long court battle to clear his name after being accused of stealing a bread roll worth six crowns in Kaufland. The officer was accused of having eaten the roll as he did his shopping and a member of Kaufland’s security took a picture of him doing so on his mobile phone. One of the most bizarre cases in the Czech judiciary dragged for three years with witnesses providing conflicting accounts, until the Supreme Administrative Court finally issued a not-guilty verdict on Friday, saying there was insufficient proof the officer in question had stolen a roll and eaten the evidence before he got to the cash-desk. The reason why the case came to court in the first place is that the officer’s superior fined him, cutting his salary for two months, for the alleged theft.