News Czech PM calls for consideration of Ukraine minorities
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka warned Ukraine authorities to prepare the foundations for the country’s continued integrity by reacting sensitively to the demands of ethnic minorities. Sobotka was speaking at the conclusion of a two-day summit of heads of government in Brussels. The Czech prime minister indicated recent attempts in Kiev to revoke the status of Russian as an official language in some provinces as an example of the problem. Separately, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said that an official delegation from Prague is preparing to leave for talks with the long term Czech population resident in Ukraine. Around 40 families in the Volyn region have asked for help to be repatriated to the Czech Republic.
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Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says Deputy PM and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš should apologise to two government MPs who he said were influenced by the gambling lobby. Mr. Sobotka said such unfounded attacks were out of place in the coalition. Mr. Babiš made the comments in connection with a vote on gambling tax on Monday. One of the two MPs, Jan Bartošek of the Christian Democrats, said he expected an apology, though the ANO chief said none would be forthcoming.
ANO would win elections with 23.5 percent, ahead of their coalition partners the Social Democrats on 21 percent, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted by the Median agency. The Communist Party would finish third, with 14 percent, the survey suggests. TOP 09 enjoy the backing of 11.5 percent of voters, ahead of the Civic Democrats with 8.5 percent and the Christian Democrats with 6 percent, the poll indicates. ANO have been consistently ahead in opinion polls for some time.
Anti-gambling organisations say the government is not interested in genuinely regulating the industry but rather wants to extract the most possible money from those addicted to gambling machines. Speaking on Tuesday, representatives of Transparency International and Citizens Against Gambling said they were not satisfied with a bill just approved by the government that would increase taxation on gambling machines. Well-known campaigner Matěj Hollan accused the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, of making light of the impact of gambling and seeking only to line the state coffers with the new legislation.
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s purchase of SABMiller, which owns the Czech brewery Plzeňský Prazdroj, will not impact the price or quality of the latter’s beers in the Czech Republic, according to experts cited by the Czech News Agency. Vladimír Balach of the Czech Union of Breweries and Malt Houses said the move would not affect the manufacture of the brewery’s Pilsner Urquell or Gambrinus brands. However, some experts believe the huge deal could help boost international sales of the Czech-produced brews, iDnes.cz reported.
Speaking ahead of a soccer game between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic on Tuesday night, Czech coach Pavel Vrba said he had supported the Holland team featuring Johann Cruyff as a child and remained a fan of Dutch football. Vrba said he wished the Netherlands could qualify for Euro 2016 but that the Czechs aimed to win every game they played. The Dutch need to win to keep alive their hopes of reaching the playoffs for Euro 2016. The Czech team qualified for the tournament with two games to spare.
Children at an asylum facility for refugees have worse living conditions than inmates in Czech prisons, says the country’s ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová. After a visit on Tuesday morning, she called on the country’s asylum facilities authority and the migration police to immediately improve conditions at the Bělá-Jezová centre in Eastern Bohemia. Mrs. Šabatová said the children had inadequate clothing and were frightened by the constant presence of police and security guards at the facility, which she said did not meet basic hygiene standards. Bělá-Jezová at present houses around 400 adults and 100 children.
The police’s organised crime unit have questioned former interior minister Ivan Langer and senior police officers after a series of raids on Tuesday morning relating to the giving and receiving of bribes and abuse of office. Czech Television said that the police’s internal affairs squad had questioned the deputy head of the anti-corruption police, Jiří Jach, and the director of the criminal police, Milan Pospíšek. A search has been conducted of Mr. Langer’s home in Olomouc and a business partner of his, Ivan Kyselý, has also been questioned. The extensive operation relates to the Ševětín solar power plant in South Bohemia, Czech Television said. The magazine Respekt recently reported that CZK 100 million had disappeared during its construction.
The Constitutional Court has ruled on the reopening of a case pertaining to the possible discrimination of three Romanies who were refused accommodation in a hotel in north Bohemia. The three men claim that the receptionist had confirmed they had vacant rooms over the phone but refused to accommodate them when they turned up in person. A ruling by the regional court in Ustí nad Labem went in favour of the hotel which produced an earlier booking for all of the hotel’s 156 rooms by a German entrepreneur who allegedly failed to turn up. The Romanies are demanding an apology and 25,000 crowns in compensation.
The Czech Prison Service is to help guard Czech detention centres for migrants, the ctk news agency reports. Justice Minister Robert Pelikan has released 70 employees for the job at the interior minister’s request. Prison Service employees will be working overtime for free under an article of the labour code relating to exceptional circumstances.
The winner of this year’s Czech Press Photo is Mladá fronta Dnes photographer Jan Zátorský with a photo of migrants desperately trying to cross the Serb-Hungarian border. The picture, taken in September of this year won both the main prize, the Crystal Eye award for Photograph of the Year and best picture in the Spot News category. The jury assessed 3,700 photographs by close to 300 authors. The migrant crisis was a dominant theme this year.