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Government backs bill on budget responsibility

The government has approved a constitutional bill on budget responsibility which includes the setup of a national budget council and debt brake at 55 percent of GDP, cabinet spokesman Martin Ayrer told the Czech News Agency on Monday. The so-called financial constitution´s main aim is to limit a rise in state debt, a measure required by the European Union. It also reduces the size of debts of regions and municipalities. In order to pass, the bill will require a constitutional majority and will have to be signed into law by the president. According to available information, the centre-right opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats are willing to back the bill, although TOP 09 has called for even stricter conditions.

Constitutional Court rules Health Ministry can continue with mandatory vaccination for children

The country’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the Health Ministry can continue with mandatory vaccination for children for chosen illnesses. In doing so, the court failed to side with parents who wanted the use of the hexa vaccine to be their decision alone. The group had argued that the vaccine, which targets serious diseases including Hepatitis B, “overburdens” children’s immune systems. But the court ruled that the purpose of vaccination is above all to protect public health, in this case overriding the needs of the individual. Judge Ludvík Daněk said that the autonomy of parents in deciding health matters for their child was “not absolute”. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček welcomed the decision, saying he knew of no more important a defence than mandatory vaccination. Under Czech law, anyone failing to vaccinate their child in such cases risks a fine of up to 10,000 crowns.

Poll: just over 50 percent of Czechs happy with EU membership

Fifty-one percent of Czechs have said they view their country’s membership in the European Union positively, according to a new poll conducted by Ipsos, commissioned by the Office of the Czech government. The state secretary for European Affairs, Tomáš Prouza, pointed out in 2012 the number was far lower – just 30 percent. He added that two-thirds of respondents felt the Czech Republic’s image in the EU was much improved compared to three years ago. Former president Václav Klaus, who stepped down in 2013, was a staunch Eurosceptic; some previous centre-right governments also took a tougher EU stance.

According to the Ipsos poll, one-third of Czechs are in favour of greater federalization within the European Union, while around one-third would prefer its dissolution.

Blanka Tunnel may see further delays

The opening of Prague’s Blanka Tunnel, slated for April, faces further delays as cables destroyed by water will have to be replaced, an undisclosed source has told the Czech News Agency. The leadership at City Hall is to discuss the matter this week, according to ČTK.The electric cables were damaged by heavy rainfall last year and by dampness within the tunnel. Security and safety tests also remain to be conducted, the news agency said, which could further push back the grand opening. The tunnel cost Prague almost 37 billion crowns.

Government backs Roma integration plan to 2020

The government on Monday backed a new strategic plan on Roma integration to 2020 with the aims of improving education, housing, employment, and security. The Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier released details of the plan in the face of worsening conditions in recent years: around one-third of the country’s Roma, 80,000, live in ghettos, the Czech News Agency said. In 2007 there were around 300 such areas; according to experts, the number has grown by as much as a hundred since.

Long-lasting "judicial mafia" dispute settled

A long-lasting court dispute involving former supreme state prosecutor Marie Benešová and her successor and other officials she branded “judicial mafia” has ended in conciliation, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday. Ms Benešová, now a Social Democrat member of Parliament, was originally ordered to apologise as well as pay compensation. Benešová will not retract the apology but will be returned the original sum of 370,000 crowns. Ms Benešová said the parties involved had agreed to end the dispute as the case would have continued with no end in sight.

Three-year suspended sentence confirmed for former StB officer

Prague’s Municipal Court has confirmed a three-year suspended sentence for a former member of Communist Czechoslovakia’s secret police, the StB, for the beating of 17-year-old David Kazban during interrogation. Petr Beran committed the crime in January 1989 in connection with Palach Week, when demonstrators, marking the 20th anniversary of the self-immolation of Jan Palach, met to demonstrate against the Communist regime. Mr Kazban was beaten on the head, neck and back in the incident. Mr Beran was appealing an earlier sentence; his partner originally received a two-year suspended sentence and did not appeal; the latest sentence is binding but can still be contested under specific conditions at the Supreme Court.

Convict given exemplary 30-year sentence for brutal attack against cellmate

The regional court in Hradec Králové on Monday sentenced 26-year-old convict Patrik Kónya – already serving a sentence in Valdice prison for murder – to 30 years behind bars for an attack on his cellmate that left the other man in critical condition. The attacker admitted to the crime during police questioning, saying there was no motive and that he had no personal reasons for hurting the other man; he also said they had not quarrelled. Kónya told the police on the morning of the attack he had felt tension, leading him to steal a hammer from a work area; he said he had intended to use it only to break a sink and toilet. Monday’s ruling can still be appealed.

Faltýnek: ANO not selecting “shadow ministers” for ministries controlled by coalition partners

ANO are not selecting “shadow ministers”, the head of the party’s deputies group, Jaroslav Faltýnek, told Czech Radio. On Saturday, Mladá fronta Dnes reported that the grouping was choosing “shadow ministers” for the ministries headed by coalition partners the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. However, Mr. Faltýnek said ANO were merely creating expert groups headed by one member focused on particular policy areas.

Czech Lion organisers admit “Jim Carrey” at awards ceremony was lookalike

The organisers of the annual Czech Lion film awards have admitted that Jim Carrey did not attend Saturday night’s prize-giving ceremony in Prague. They had previously insisted that a lookalike who appeared briefly on stage at the event was the Hollywood star, despite a marked difference in appearance and age and reports that Carrey was elsewhere. However, on Sunday evening the organisers released a statement, evidently extending the “joke”, claiming they had been the victim of a sophisticated con trick.