News Civic Democrats to run anti-euro campaign for European Parliament

25-02-2014 19:55 | Ian Willoughby

The Civic Democrats’ campaign for elections to the European Parliament will centre on the rejection of the euro, the party’s freshly unveiled electoral leader Jan Zahradil said on Tuesday. The erstwhile main Czech right-wing party will also push a demand to close the European Parliament’s second home in Strasbourg and a freeze on energy prices. Second on the Civic Democrats’ ticket is Evžen Tošenovský, while Eva Zamrazilová is third.

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Over 10 percent of Czechs suffer from disabilities

16-04-2014 14:25 updated | Jan Richter

Around 10.07 million people in the Czech Republic, or 10.2 percent of the country’s population, suffer from some form of disability, the Czech Statistical Office said. Since 2007, the percentage of people with disabilities has increased by 0.4 percentage points; however, the average period during which people suffer from disabilities has shortened from 13.6 years in 2007 to 12.4 years. The figures, based on patients’ registers, also suggest an increase in the number of people with innate disabilities; in 2007, 12 percent of disabled people were born with their handicap while this year, it was 14 percent. 

Czech Fair Play awards handed out

16-04-2014 14:10 | Jan Richter

Hockey player Tomáš Slovák, bike rider David Pabiška and former cyclist Jan Smolík received the Czech Fair Play awards on Wednesday. Škoda Plzeň defenceman Slovák was honoured for admitting to the referee he had deflected a puck out of play during the decisive match of last year’s play-offs finals. David Pabiška, meanwhile, assisted an injured rider during last year’s Dakar Rally; he called a medical helicopter and waited with the injured Italian biker until it arrived. Former cyclist Jan Smolík, who won the international Peace Race event in 1964, received an award for his life-time commitment to fair play principles, the organizers from Czech Olympic Committee said. 

Poll: 60 percent of Czechs perceive foreigners as problem

16-04-2014 13:53 | Jan Richter

Foreign nationals who moved to the Czech Republic in the past five years are perceived as problematic by 60 percent of Czechs, according to a survey by the CVVM agency released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, some 32 percent of people who took part in the poll said foreigners did not present a problem on the national level. Locally, however, foreign citizens are perceived as problematic by 25 percent of Czechs. The poll also founded that some 70 percent of Czechs believe foreigners permanently residing in the country increased unemployment; 65 percent said they contributed to rising crime levels and 57 percent suggested foreigners presented a health risk. 

EC criticizes Czech restrictions of EU nationals’ political rights

16-04-2014 13:33 | Jan Richter

The European Commission announced on Wednesday it would continue its proceedings against the Czech Republic, along with Poland and Latvia, over the countries’ restrictions of EU nationals’ political rights. Under Czech law, citizens of other EU member states are not allowed to join a political party or form their own, and are at a disadvantage to local citizens when exercising their right to stand as candidates in local and European elections. That is contrary to EU law and goes against the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality, according to the European Commission. The Czech Republic and the other two countries now have two months to address the issue or face proceedings at the EU Court of Justice. 

Average mortgage rates drop to all-time low

16-04-2014 12:31 | Jan Richter

The average mortgage interest rate dropped to a historic low of 2.93 percent in January, according to an index compiled by the Fincentrum advisory firm. It is the lowest average rate since 2003 when monitoring began. In March, nearly 8,300 clients took out new mortgages, which was around 2,500 more than in the previous month. The overall volume of new mortgages grew last month to 13.8 billion crowns, some 4.3 billion more than in February. The decrease in rates has been fueled by competition among banks, and could continue for months to come, an analyst for the Fincentrum firm said. 

Amnesiac found in Norway not planning to return to Czech Republic over fears linked to past

16-04-2014 09:58 | Ian Willoughby

A Czech man found suffering from amnesia in Norway says he is afraid he could be attacked in the Czech Republic in relation to unclear events in his past and wishes to start a new life elsewhere as soon as he has acquired new documents. The man, who is 36 and calls himself John Smith, claimed in an interview for the Norwegian station TV2 that he was involved in a financial crime investigation for four years but was evidently afraid to hand in a report on the matter and left the country. He was discovered in a snow drift in Oslo in December and identified last week after Norwegian police released his picture. They suspect he was the victim of a crime and are conducting an investigation. 

TOP 09 launch petition against concentration of media ownership as part of Euro elections campaign

16-04-2014 09:46 | Ian Willoughby

As part of their campaign ahead of next month’s European Parliament elections, TOP 09 and the linked Mayors group will gather signatures on a petition calling on the European Commission to pass legislation against excessive concentration of media ownership, Eurozpravy.cz reported. TOP 09 MP Stanislav Polčák said they also want the European Commission to address the question of media owners who are simultaneously in public office. The move seems targeted against billionaire ANO chief Andrej Babiš, who is minister of finance and owns the company behind two of the Czech Republic’s leading newspapers as well as the country’s most listened to radio station. 

Žižkov freight station to become cultural hub says minister, but questions remain over funding

15-04-2014 18:18 | Ian Willoughby

A railroad freight station in Prague’s district Žižkov will be transformed into a cultural hub in the future, the minister of culture, Daniel Herman, said on Tuesday after signing a memorandum on cooperation with the city’s authorities. The freight yard, a protected site, is set to house the National Film Archive, while the Museum of Decorative Arts and the National Technical Museum should have exhibition spaces in a functionalist building on the site. However, no agreement has been reached over who will fund the large renovation project. 

Ukraine needs strong leader not gangster, even with angelic smile and braids, says Czech president

15-04-2014 16:30 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says Ukraine needs a strong leader but not one of the gangsters who has ruled the country in recent years, even with an angelic smile and beautiful braids; this was evidently a reference to former PM and presidential candidate Yulia Timoshenko. Speaking on a visit to the University of Hradec Králové on Tuesday, Mr. Zeman also said it was not possible to provide financial aid to Ukraine as it would end up in the pockets of oligarchs. In response to a question from a student, he said any armed person entering a government building was a criminal, whether at Kiev’s Majdan or in Donetsk. 

Ministry ordered to pay Syndicate of Journalists nearly CZK 300 million after state fails to replace original building

15-04-2014 13:55 | Ian Willoughby

The Ministry of Finance has to pay the Czech Syndicate of Journalists CZK 292 million as compensation for a new building the state failed to provide for the organisation. The Prague City Court on Tuesday upheld a ruling to that effect made a year ago by a district court. The ministry’s only avenue of appeal is to the Supreme Court. The dispute dates back to 1967 when the Czechoslovak Syndicate of Journalists transferred two buildings on Prague’s Wenceslas Sq. to the state; the site was used to build the Federal Assembly, while the state committed to providing a replacement building by Jirásek Bridge. It failed to do so and the second site is now home to The Dancing Building. 

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