A new report by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, sees “deeply-rooted anti-Gypsyism” as one of the main obstacles to Roma’s inclusion in the Czech society. The report, which was released in Brussels on Thursday, also highlights continued segregation that the country’s Roma community faces in education and housing. Mr Hammarberg, who visited the Czech Republic in November 2010, noted frequent racist and anti-Roma discourse among leading politicians and the media, and said the country should strengthen its efforts and implement inclusive policies.
The Czech Senate postponed on Thursday a vote on the planned European Stability Mechanism which should safeguard financial stability in the eurozone. The news agency ČTK reported that some senators wanted to coordinate their stance on the issue with that of the lower house which is scheduled to vote on it in two weeks’ time. The Czech government needs an approval by both chambers of Parliament to be able to negotiate changes to the EU’s Lisbon treaty required for the mechanism to be adopted. European leaders will debate the mechanism at an EU summit in Brussels later this month.
Senators on Thursday also passed new legislation that will allow the authorities to release details about gas stations selling low-quality fuel. The Czech Trade Inspection, which oversees the quality of goods sold in the Czech Republic, first published the names of such gas stations in January but said new legislation was needed to make sure it will be able to do so regularly. Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kocourek said the amendment to the Czech Fuel Act would require the inspection to publish the details about the sellers, suppliers and producers that are found to sell low-quality fuel. The new bill has yet to be signed by the president to enter into force.
A group of Christian Democrat senators have filed a complaint with the Czech Constitutional Court against a 26-percent tax imposed earlier this year by the government on producers of solar power. Senator Jiří Čunek said they were motivated by concerns that the Czech Republic might face international arbitration over the new tax; if the Constitutional Court rejects the complaint, the senators believe it will diminish solar power producers’ chances of winning possible arbitrations.
Following a solar power boom, the Czech government imposed a 26-tax in January on its producers to prevent an imminent hike in power prices.
A new poll by the Médea Research agency suggests that 77 percent of Czechs opposed the adoption of the euro while 15 percent of those polled agree with the introduction of the single European currency. The survey, which was carried out in January, shows 8 percent of those who took part have no opinion on the matter.
The Czech Republic is required by its EU accession treaty to eventually adopt the euro; however, no deadline has been set by the government. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said in January the country would adopt the currency once it fulfils the criteria, the eurozone is stable and the euro’s advantages prevail over those of the crown.
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday appointed Jan Vokál the new bishop of the Hradec Králové diocese which has been vacant since Dominik Duka last year became the Archbishop of Prague. Jan Vokál, a native of Hlinsko in eastern Bohemia, left Czechoslovakia in 1983, and became a priest five years later. Over the past two decades he worked at Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Czech TV reported Jan Vokál was the second choice for the position as another candidate turned the offer down.
Some 7,000 elderly people living in Prague are threatened by rising rents, according to a survey commissioned by Prague City Hall. They are retired and live alone in apartments larger than 38 square metres which means they might soon be unable to afford the recently liberalized rents. The survey found that around 270,000 retired people live in the capital, most of them in rent-controlled apartments.
The US media group Time Warner has acquired 3.1 million shares in Central European Media Enterprises, or CME, increasing its stake in the company to nearly 31 percent, Reuters reported on Thursday. Time Warner spent more than 60 million US dollars on the transaction that drove CME shares on the Prague exchange up by 8.4 percent. CME is the owner of the Czech Republic’s most-watched television station, TV Nova, and other commercial broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe. The Czech news website ihned.cz reported that Time Warner bought the shares from the firm Testora Limited, CME’s third largest stakeholder controlled by the financial group PPF.
The number of marriages hit a record low last year, according to figures released on Thursday by the Czech Statistical Office. In the first three quarters of 2010, 39,000 marriages were contracted in the country, which is the lowest number recorded since 1871 when the statics were first complied, the news agency ČTK reported. The highest number of marriages was registered in 1973 when nearly 100,000 couples got married. Experts say the Czech society is undergoing changes similar to those registered in Western Europe some 40 years ago.
Czech tennis player Lucie Šafářová beat Russia’s Dinara Safina 6:3, 4:6, 6:3 n the second round of the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday and advanced to the tournament quarterfinals. The fifth-seeded Czech took broke Safina’s first serve and won the first set but was losing 4:0 in the second. Šafářová then failed to convert two opportunities to equalize and lost the set. In the third, she broke serve again and wrapped-up the match. In the quarterfinals, the 24-year-old Czech will face second seed Marion Bartoli of France.
Clear skies and spring temperatures of around 7 degrees Celsius are expected to last over the next few days before they drop again and we’ll see snow in places.