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25-03-2014 18:46 | Ian Willoughby

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Negotiator says government could tax monies paid to churches under restitution law

The Social Democrats’ chief negotiator on the issue of church restitution, Alena Gajdůšková, says if a team made up of her party and coalition partners ANO cannot reach agreement with faith groups on changes to the law then taxes could be levied on financial settlements being received by the churches. She made the comments ahead of talks on Tuesday evening with church representatives. The Social Democrats were strongly opposed to a law passed by a previous, right-wing government returning church property and compensation in lieu of assets that cannot be returned. Ms. Gajdůšková also said the state would push for right of refusal on property handed over.

Lower house rejects Russian annexation of Crimea

The Czech lower house has passed a motion rejecting the annexation of Crimea by Russia as a contravention of international law. Deputies also gave their backing to the government in negotiations on a joint European Union and NATO approach to resolving the situation in Ukraine. Of 179 deputies present in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies 16 Communists and one member of Dawn voted against the motion, which came from the opposition Civic Democrats. A proposal from an opposition TOP MP that the cabinet push for economic sanctions against Moscow failed to find support.

Government rejects debate on minister’s comments on conditions under Nazi rule

The government have blocked an opposition proposal for a Chamber of Deputies debate on statements the minister of justice made about conditions in Bohemia and Moravia during the Nazi occupation. For her part, Minister Helena Válková on Tuesday repeatedly apologised to MPs for suggesting in an interview that “not much had happened” during the so-called protectorate. Petr Fiala, chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats, said the minister’s comments had been ahistorical nonsense and called on her to weigh up whether she should remain in her post. Culture Minister Daniel Herman said the opposition ought not to abuse Ms. Válková comments to adopt cheap populist positions

Ethnic Czechs in Ukraine disappointed Prague unwilling to help them move “home”

Members of the small Czech community in the Ukrainian region of Volhynia say they are disappointed the Czech government has decided not to help them move to the Czech Republic. More than three dozen ethnic Czech families in Volhynia had said they feared for their futures given the political situation in Ukraine. Spokesperson Ema Snidevych told the Czech News Agency that officials from the Czech embassy in Kiev had not dedicated enough time to monitoring the situation of the Volhynia Czechs. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Monday the officials had decided that the minority were not in danger and wished to move to the Czech Republic for economic reasons.

Civic Democrats file complaint with Constitutional Court over charging of Nečas

The Civic Democrats have filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court over the charging of former party leader and prime minister Petr Nečas on suspicion of bribery. Twenty-seven MPs from the deputies groups of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have signed the complaint, a spokesperson for the former party said on Tuesday. Mr. Nečas is accused of having bribed three then Civic Democrat MPs with lucrative posts at semi-state companies in 2012 for not toppling his government. The three were charged with bribe-taking last summer but released under parliamentary immunity. Mr. Nečas’s government fell in the wake of the police operation, in which his then chief aide and future wife Jana Nagyová was also charged.

Official: Increase in number killed by trains may be due to mild winter

Some 59 people have died after being hit by trains in the Czech Republic so far in 2014. The figure is 20 higher than that registered at this time last year. The latest victims were recorded on Monday, one in the Frýdek Místek area in North Moravia and one in Blansko, north of Brno. A spokesperson for the Czech railways inspection body, Martin Drápal, said the increased number of deaths may be because a relatively mild winter has led more people to walk on tracks. Mr. Drápal said in the vast majority of cases those killed had been trespassing illegally on ground closed to the public.

Celebrations marking Bohumil Hrabal centenary launched in Brno

Celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Czech novelist Bohumil Hrabal have kicked off in his birthplace, the city of Brno. The series of events, leading up to Friday’s anniversary, include theatre performances and film screenings of his works, lectures and exhibitions documenting the authors life and work. The celebrations will culminate with a street party outside Hrabal’s family house in Židenice during which the organizers plan to release a hundred pigeons.

Director Tim Burton to attend concert of film music ahead of exhibition opening

The US director Tim Burton is due to attend a concert of music from his films composed by Danny Elfman at Prague’s Municipal House on Tuesday night. Mr. Elfman will appear in the concert signing a song from the movie Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sketches and storyboards by the filmmaker will be projected above the stage. Some of them will also appear in an exhibition of Tim Burton’s art that is due to open on Friday at the House of the Stone Bell on Prague’s Old Town Square. The helmer of such works as Batman, Sleepy Hollow and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is also due to attend the opening of that show.

Berdych reaches fourth round in Miami

The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has reached the fourth round of the Miami Masters. The 28-year-old, ranked seventh in the world, overcame Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2 6-4 on Monday to set up a clash with American John Isner for a place in the quarter-finals. As expected, Berdych has not been included in the Czech team to travel to Japan for the Davis Cup quarter-finals; non-playing captain Jaroslav Navrátil has nominated Lukáš Rosol, Radek Štěpánek, Jiří Veselý and Jan Hájek for the tie, which takes place on the first weekend of April.

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