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Czech Republic voted in as new member to UN Human Rights Council

The Czech Republic will promote values linked to ‘modern Europe’ as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to which it was elected, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimír Galuška has told the Czech news agency. The vote took place on Friday, with the Czech Republic being elected in the first round after gaining support from 148 out of the 191 countries present. The country will hold membership for three years.

The Czech Republic ran for a seat in the 47-member council in the East European group of candidates along with Romania and Georgia. An additional 13 new members of the Human Rights Council were elected. At least 97 votes were necessary for candidates to succeed. Mr Galuška said a significant effort on the part of Czech diplomacy, along with the Czech Republic’s strong reputation as a human rights´ advocate, were behind Friday’s success. In 2007, the Czechs sought a seat in the UN Security Council, but lost to Croatia.

As a brand-new Human Rights Council member, the Czech Republic wants to help improve the work of the council that has been often criticised for including states that violate human rights. At present, for example, one of the Council members is Cuba.

Minister: Czech Republic should use membership to transform debates into concrete action

In related news, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said the Czech Republic should use its three-year membership on the Human Rights Council to redirecting debates from what he called "futile passionate speeches” to concrete work aimed at improving human rights in various parts of the world. He made the statement shortly before departing from Moscow a day after the Czech Republic’s successful bid to join the council.

Mr Schwarzenberg was in Russia for a conference on the 90th anniversary of the birth of the late nuclear physicist and critic of the former Soviet regime, Andrei Sakharov. The foreign minister said the Czech Republic was acknowledged worldwide as a country striving for human rights, criticising offenders such as Burma or Cuba, but also ‘greater powers’. He conceded, however, that it is a problem to make a regime like North Korea’s respect human rights, saying there were insufficient levers to get the country to act.

Mr Schwarzenberg added he did not consider the Czech Republic’s election to the council ‘satisfaction’ for its failure to become an elected UN Security Council member in 2007, when it lost to Croatia.

Trade unions hold major demonstration on Prague’s main square

The trade unions have held a major demonstration on Prague’s Wenceslas square. According to organisers and the police more than 40,000 people came out to protest government reform plans. The event lasted roughly an hour and a half. Protestors charged that the government’s wide-ranging reforms in the health care, tax, social security and pension systems had been poorly and hastily planned, without proper debate and said they would hurt Czech citizens, employees, and the disabled. The minister for labour and social affairs, Jaromír Drábek, told the Czech news agency in response that the demonstration made little sense, saying he put stock in proper talks over ‘shouting’ on the square. He said it was the trade unions themselves who refused to sit down for negotiations.

Employers’ representatives come out against pension reform plan

Employers’ representatives on Friday rejected the pension reform draft proposed by the government at a meeting of the tripartite that includes the trade unions. The head of the Czech Industry Confederation, Jaroslav Hanák, confirmed that pension reform was needed but said members did not trust the proposed role of the commercial sector. The coalition government has proposed the introduction of private pension plans: while pension insurance is compulsory, pension savings in private funds would be voluntary.

The unions said earlier in the week that the draft tax and pension reforms should be changed and that the government should withdraw the planned welfare and healthcare reforms. Representatives of the government on Friday noted that changes may still be made regarding welfare. The government, employers and unions want to agree on welfare reform by mid-June so that the bills can be submitted to the Chamber of Deputies. The government approved the first part, comprising three bills, this week. But the unions and the Association of Towns and Municipalities oppose these bills because they say services would be made less available to citizens and thousands of jobs could be threatened.

General: CASA planes will be deployed only when ready

General Vlastimil Picek, the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, has told soldiers in a meeting at their base in the province of Paktika, in Afghanistan, that CASA transport planes purchased by the military, will probably not be deployed this year. The military grounded the planes due to a technical defect earlier this month: three were cleared for use on Thursday.

The CASA planes were purchased by the army primarily for deployment in Afghanistan where Czech soldiers are taking part in the ISAF peacekeeping mission. But a number of defects found since the beginning of the year means that plans of deploying the aircraft in the second of 2011 have ad to be put off. It emerged that the anti-missile protection system supplied by the Czech firm Omnipol was not functioning properly and the firm asked for the postponement of the deadline by which it was to solve the problem by mid-June. General Picek has said the planes will be deployed, but only when they are well and truly ready.

Man revived for half hour after holding breath underwater at aqua park

Rescue workers on Friday worked intensively to revive a 44-year-old man who had lost consciousness at an aqua park in Bruntál. The man had reportedly been testing to see how long he could hold his breath underwater, before other swimmers noticed he was unconscious. It took five minutes for an ambulance crew to arrive: medics were only able to restart his heart after roughly thirty minutes, but his heart stopped again en route to a nearby hospital and required specialists to use a defibrillator. They were able to resuscitate him again, but he was brought to hospital in very serious condition, a spokesperson said.

Football: Dukla secures return to top Czech league

The famous Czech football club Dukla Prague is set to make a triumphant return to the country’s top domestic league next season, after defeating Kladno in their most recent match in the 2nd league by a score of 3:1. Dukla has not played in the top flight since 1994, when it was relegated to the 3rd league over financial difficulties. The team now leads the 2nd league with 56 points, eight more than second-place Viktoria Žižkov and 12 more than Jihlava. The team can now finish no worse than second spot, cementing the club’s promotion.


Partly cloudy skies and a chance of thundershowers are expected on Sunday. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of around 25 degrees Celsius.