News Institute overseeing secret police files under threat, says director
The future of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which oversees the files of the communist-era secret police, is under threat, its recently appointed director Zdeněk Hazdra said on Tuesday. Speaking at a Senate hearing prior to the election of a new Institute board, Mr. Hazdra said the agency was suffering from internal divisions and a lack of interest on the part of the public. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was set up by a right-wing government in 2007 and has come under pressure since the left have gained the upper hand in the Senate, which selects its board. Critics say it has been poorly managed and unprofessional in the digitisation of historical materials.
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Czech president Miloš Zeman has one of the main factors for the British referendum decision to leave the EU was its poor leadership. He added that compared with giants of the past, like Jacques Delors and Jean Monnet, the current leadership are in the second league. The Czech head of state added that the British exit is a loss for the country and the remaining 27 states. He added that he expected Scotland will break away from the rest of Britain and re-join the EU within five years.
The Czech Republic has won clearance from the European Commission to proceed with 10 large transport and infrastructure projects without the need to launch new Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs). Brussels has had problems with the fact that dozens of Czech projects were given approval under old assessments that in some cases pre-date the country’s accession to the European Union in 2004. The news was given by prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, currently in Brussels for a European Summit. Some of the key projects have a European as well as Czech dimension.
The trial has started of three art activists from the Ztohoven group who last year made headlines when they erected a giant pair of red underpants on Prague castle in protest at the policies of president Miloš Zeman. They could face jail sentences of up to three years on charges of theft and damage to property. One of the defendants challenged the ability of the lead judge to try the case, pointing out judges are appointed by the head of state. He also contested the 100,000 crown bill that has been estimate by presidential authorities for damage done during the stunt.
Lawmakers in the lower house have voted new rules for financing political parties that look like setting a 3.0 million crown a year ceiling for donations by companies and individuals. The proposed new rules look likely to increase the payments made for votes gained in local, regional, and parliament elections. The bill would also seek to create a new agency for overseeing election spending which now looks like it will be based in Brno rather than Prague.
Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Turkey is a fresh reminder of the dangers of terrorism, which cannot be underestimated or forgotten about in the shadow of debates surrounding Brexit, says the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Speaking in Brussels where he is attending EU meetings focused on the UK’s decision to quit the bloc, Mr. Sobotka said the European Union needed to intensify cooperation among member states in the battle against terrorism. A suicide and gun attack on Istanbul’s airport left at least 36 dead and more than 140 injured.
Large retail outlets in the Czech Republic will have to close on seven state holidays every year after the Chamber of Deputies approved a Senate bill implementing the change. The lower house was voting for the second time on the matter; it had originally voted that big shops be closed only on three state holidays but the Senate insisted that it reconsider its original wording. It must now be signed by the president. The ban – which applies to stores with floor space of 200 m2 or more – has been condemned by the Chamber of Commerce and was rejected by the right-wing parties in the lower house.
The Czech Republic does not need to accelerate adoption of the euro because of the UK’s decision last week to quit the European Union, prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in Brussels on Tuesday. Older EU members have been pushing for increased integration in a 27-member bloc, including closer ties within a currency union. Mr. Sobotka told journalists that nobody would be pressured into anything, adding that it was in Czech interests for contact to be maintained between eurozone states and those that have not adopted the common European currency.
The Visegrad Four states issued a joint statement in Brussels on Tuesday expressing deep regret for the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and saying that the EU must emerge stronger from the challenges that poses. The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary said talks on a way forward should focus on protecting the bloc’s interests. They also outlined a need to renew credibility in an EU that better reflects the concerns of citizens.
Homosexuals in registered partnerships in the Czech Republic have the right to adopt children, according to a ruling issued on Tuesday by the Constitutional Court. The court’s justices overturned a provision in the law on registered partnerships barring such adoptions, which they said was discriminatory. The Civic Code only allows married couples to conduct joint adoptions, so only one member of a pair in a registered partnership will be the adoptive parent under the new ruling unless the legislation is changed. There are around 1,800 registered partnerships in the Czech Republic.
Segway operators in Prague are considering legal action if the city’s authorities go ahead with a planned ban on the two-wheeled electric vehicles. A spokesperson for the Segway Association of the Czech Republic, which comprises 25 operators, said it would sue the city for losses incurred. From mid-August Segways should be barred from city centre pavements, cycle paths and pedestrian zones, where they have become a familiar sight in recent years.