The Roman Catholic Church has lost an appeal to regain control of Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague. On Thursday, the Supreme Court in Brno ruled that the cathedral at Prague Castle belonged to the Czech state. The Catholic Church can only now appeal this decision at the Constitutional Court. The dispute over Saint Vitus Cathedral dates back to 1992. It is under a resolution from 1954, declaring that the cathedral belongs to the Czech people, that the Czech state has successfully maintained ownership of the church. Dynasties of Czech rulers are buried in the cathedral, which dominates the Prague skyline.
Czech President Václav Klaus has spoken out against the hefty financial stimulus packages being implemented by political leaders around the world in the face of an economic downturn. In an article in the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes, Mr Klaus also accused world leaders of ‘raising panic’ at a time of crisis. He reiterated his calls for less, and not more, regulation of financial markets in a time of recession. The president warned against throwing money at the economy which ‘our children and grandchildren will have to repay’. Last month President Václav Klaus likened the current financial downturn to a flu, which goes away in seven days, whether you treat it or not. On Thursday, the Czech president said that politicians should stop meeting for ‘merely demonstrative’ summits, which only ‘increased panic’.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that the purposefulness of building a US radar in the Czech Republic could be up for discussion if countries such as Iran ‘change their stance’ on nuclear weapons. Speaking at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Schwarzeberg reiterated that the American radar was not planned as a defence against Russia. The Bush administration unveiled plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic and station ten interceptor missiles in Poland as part of America’s global missile-shield. New US president Barack Obama has said that he will go ahead with the project only if it is proven to be ‘cost-effective’ and proven to work.
European regions should avoid resorting to protectionism in light of the current financial downturn, head of the Committee of the Regions Luc van den Brande said at the start of a two-day summit of EU regions being held in Prague. The summit is the single largest event organised within the Czech Republic’s EU presidency, and has brought hundreds of European regional representatives to the Czech capital. Speaking on Thursday, Mr van den Brande urged regional councils around the continent to cooperate, not compete, with each other in times of financial crisis. On the first day of the summit, participants agreed that drawing from EU structural funds more quickly and more effectively would prove a partial solution to the crisis.
The cabinet has approved an amendment to the Czech Republic’s insolvency law which would help employees of firms which go bankrupt. Under the amendment, the Czech state would pay up to three months wages to those who find themselves unemployed when the business they work for goes bust. The proposed amendment also allots money to firms on the brink of bankruptcy, in a bid to help them restructure instead of having to close. According to Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas, the cabinet will now push for the amendment to be passed though the Lower House and Senate as soon as possible. He believes that the change could be written into law by as soon as April.
A Třebíč hospital in which two newborn babies were accidentally swapped is appealing the amount of damages it had to pay the families involved. A Brno court ruled in January that Libor Broža and his partner Jaroslava Trojanová should receive 1.2 million crowns (54,500 USD) from the hospital, while Jaroslava and Jan Čermák should receive 2.1 million crowns (95,200 USD) in damages. The sum was less than the families had requested, but following the verdict, both sets of partners said they would not pursue the case any further, as they now wanted to get on with their lives. The families involved say they are surprised by the hospital’s decision to appeal.
Over a year ago it was discovered that two baby girls had been mixed up at birth and had been living with the wrong families for over nine months. The girls were swapped back shortly before their first birthdays.
The president of the Czech Medical Chamber, Milan Kubek, has written to the country’s female doctors, saying that, contrary to stories in the media, he had not criticised their work. Mr Kubek was reported to have told the lower house’s health committee that women’s work was inferior to that of men and that ‘feminisation’ was the second biggest cause of the crisis in the health care system. But in the letter sent on Wednesday he told his female colleagues that he had only criticised the shortcomings of doctors who threaten the standard of health care in the Czech Republic. He said he had also just pointed out that some branches of medicine were more attractive to women.
Meanwhile, the Association of Contract Physicians has called on Mr Kubek to resign over the matter. In a statement, they said they were shocked by the medical chamber head’s comments about female doctors, and demanded that he apologise.
The newspaper Právo has demanded an apology from the head of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, who, it says raised false alarm about the state of the daily’s finances. The firm which owns Právo - Borgis - said that comments Mr Paroubek made about the poor financial state of the paper in an open letter to its editor-in-chief were untruthful and damaged the newspaper’s reputation. Právo responded to Mr Paroubek’s claims by saying that 2008 had been the best year, in financial terms, in the newspaper’s history. The demand for an apology follows claims made by Právo’s editor-in-chief, Zdeněk Porybný, on Wednesday that he was being pressurised by Mr Paroubek to portray the Social Democrats in a favourable light. The left-leaning Právo grew out of the former communist newspaper Rudé Právo.
A Czech skier has been fined CZK 280,000 for causing an avalanche in the Austrian Alps, Lidové noviny reported. The man is accused of starting an avalanche near the mountain resort of Kitzsteinhorn on Saturday, when he skied in an area where an avalanche warning was in place. Nobody was hurt but the local rescue service had to search the area in case anybody was caught in the snowslide.
Prague’s flood defence system was brought into operation on Thursday, amidst warnings of rising water levels across the country’s rivers. Flood gates on the outskirts of the capital were closed, blocking river traffic from entering into the metropolis. As snow melts in Moravia and eastern Bohemia, and with 15 mm of rain forecast for Friday, meteorologists warned of the possibility of floods in the capital going into the weekend. River traffic within the capital itself has not been disrupted, but many boats moored along the Vltava have been ordered to go to the harbour in Holešovice. Local authorities have said that they are taking precautions and that the situation as yet does not look too dangerous.
It should be rainy over the next couple of days, with temperatures dropping to between 4-8 degrees Celsius.