In his first visit to Brussels since being appointed Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas became embroiled in the ongoing row over France’s repatriations of Roma. Ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Nečas backed France’s position saying that each EU member state should be able to enforce its own laws, and the EU should not interfere in what is to a certain extent a French internal political question. However, the Czech prime minister later said he had purposefully avoided any evaluation of the steps recently taken by the French government.
During a three-day visit to Brussels, the Czech prime minister is also taking part in a European Union summit on Thursday, and will meet the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Leaders of the Czech police and firefighters’ trade unions warned on Thursday that the austerity measures proposed by the government would decrease public safety. With the number of police officers dropping by 6,000, response to crime may take longer putting people’s lives at risk. With smaller budgets, firefighters will not be able to maintain their equipment, the trade unions said.
The Czech government has vowed to carry out significant spending cuts to bring down the state budget deficit. Czech trade unions are holding a major rally in Prague on Tuesday to protest the planned cuts.
The police on Thursday interrogated former Czech prime minister Miloš Zeman, along with several members of his cabinet, over the privatization of the country’s second biggest mining company Mostecká uhelná. In 1998, Mr Zeman’s government sold the state’s share in the firm for some 650 million crowns, or nearly 35 million US dollars. The interrogations were attended by representatives of Swiss prosecutors who are investigating the sale for suspicions that it could have been funded by billions of crowns which should have been set aside for re-cultivation of former mining sites but found its way into foreign bank accounts. The Czech police investigated the case for nearly a decade until it was shelved in 2008.
Closing speeches of the prosecution, defence counsels and defendants in the Vítkov case, in which four men stand accused of a firebomb attack on a Roma family, will be heard in the first week of October. A court in Ostrava on Thursday finished hearing evidence and adjourned the trial until October 5 and 6.
The men allegedly threw fire bombs into the Roma’s home in Vítkov, northern Moravia in April 2009. A two year-old girl suffered severe burns in the attack and doctors say it will permanently affect her health. If found guilty, the four men could be given life sentences.
In anther attempt to get prostitution in the capital under control, Prague City Hall approved on Thursday a bill that would legalize prostitution in the Czech Republic. The city will now send the bill to the lower house; if approved by both chambers of the Parliament, the bill would require prostitutes to apply for permits, pay taxes and social insurance, and undergo regular check-ups.
There are some 70 brothels in the Czech capital, with an estimated several thousand women working in them. The Czech Republic does not recognize prostitution but does not explicitly ban it either. The approval of the bill on prostitution would however require other changes to the legislation; most importantly, the country would have to quit a 1950’s convention on human trafficking.
Two third of Czechs support planned cuts in the salaries of state employees, according to a new poll by the STEM agency released on Thursday. The poll was commissioned by the Public Affairs party, which is part of the centre-right coalition government. While most Czechs agree with cuts in the salaries of army officers and employees of the justice and administration sectors, they opposed lowering the wages of teachers and health care workers. A majority of those polled also preferred layoffs to cutting salaries.
Police accused on Thursday two men of procurement fraud related to the 2009 World Nordic Ski Championships in Liberec. One of the accused is a former rector of Liberec’s Technical University. Both men allegedly hired a company without a public tender to renovate the university’s dormitories. A police spokesman said that based on their previous experience, the men must have realized they breached the law. The 12-day event, held in the northern city of Liberec in February and March 2009, ended with debts of 106 million crowns.
Thursday’s draw for the tennis Davis Cup semifinales determined that Radek Štepánek will face Novak Djokovič of Serbia in the first single in Belgrade on Friday; Czech tennis number one Tomáš Berdych will then play Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevič. Czech Davis Cup team captain Jaroslav Navrátil said it was not important who will play who but that he hoped that come Sunday the Czechs would have three points. Bookmakers however favour the Serbs, with around 1.4 to 1 odds in the hosts’ favour.
The Czech title holders Sparta Prague will face Italy’s Palermo in the first game of Europa League’s Group F in the Czech capital on Thursday. Sparta, which only won 1:0 in the latest round of the top Czech division on Saturday, will miss three key players in the midfield due to red and yellow cards. In the UEFA Cup three years ago, the Italians were knocked out by another Czech club, Mladá Boleslav.
The end of the week should be mostly sunny, with some rain showers. Daytime highs should range between 14 and 19 degrees Celsius.