News Lech Walesa attacks lack of global solidarity
In an interview on Czech Television Sunday, Lech Walesa repeated warnings about the lack of solidarity in dealing with worldwide and European problems. The situation in Belarus and willingness to tackle ecological and climate problems, were examples, he said. Walesa also attacked the level of democracy in his own country saying that a democratic framework was in place but apathy reigned and the supplementary steps to make the democratic system work well were lacking. Former Czechoslovak prime minister and leader of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart echoed some of the criticisms, highlighting for example the Ukraine crisis and France’s willingness to sell large warships to Russia and Germany’s former approval for gas pipelines from Russia that would bypass Poland.
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The foundation Generace 21 is seeking to bring 152 Christian refugees from Iraq to the Czech Republic. The group, which works to help Christians in Iraq and Syria, said it had presented a list of names to the government and was now awaiting approval. The foundation says it will cover the costs of the refugees’ travel if the move gets the green light. Jan Dezort of Generace 21 said a genocide of Christians was taking place in Iraq and that his association could not stand by and watch.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, is planning a second visit to China within a year, Lidovky.cz reported on Tuesday. Mr. Zeman will attend events marking the end of World War II in the Pacific in Beijing at the beginning of September, the news website said. The celebrations will include a military parade but the president’s office has not specified which events he will take part in during the visit. The EU’s ambassador to China, Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, said it was unlikely senior EU officials would attend the commemorations, AFP reported.
One of the few remaining Northern white rhinoceroses in the world died at the zoo in Dvůr Králové nad Labem in East Bohemia on Monday night. The rhino, a 31-year-old female named Nabire, was the only one of its kind in Europe. An official said genetic material had been taken from the animal recently as its health had begun to deteriorate due to a cyst. There are now only four surviving Northern white rhinos in existence, all of them belonging to Dvůr Králové zoo; three are in a reserve in Kenya and the other is in a zoo in San Diego, California. Dvůr Králové, which received six Northern white rhinos from Sudan in 1970, is the only zoo in the world where the animal has produced offspring.
Anti-corruption activists have criticised a planned bill aimed at combating money laundering that will create a register of real owners of companies. In a statement on Tuesday the Centre for Independent Investigation said the legislation, which has been prepared for the Ministry of Finance by the Ministry of Justice, will not produce the desired outcome as its contents will not be complete. They and three other NGOs also say access to the data will be limited, with journalists only being able to use it to prevent “crimes and the financing of terrorism”. The Ministry of Justice said the bill was not aimed at creating a public database of firms’ ownership and power structures but at reducing money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Plans have been announced to create a new Czech-Polish association uniting regions on both sides of the border with a view to accessing European Union funds. Novum will be established with a declaration signed in mid-September at the peak of the Mount Sněžka, on the border of the two states, the governor of Hradec Králové Region, Lubomír Franc, said on Tuesday. A dispute over the name, which was originally proposed to be Nové Sudety (New Sudetes), is one reason the association was not set up last year, as originally planned.
Nature lovers descended on the Botanical Garden in Liberec on Monday night to admire the famous Victoria Regia, also known as the queen of the water lilies in bloom. There are only three of its kind on the continent and the Liberec Botanical Garden acquired this specimen thanks to the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh. The Victoria Regia lily is a rare sight and blooms for just two consecutive nights: white the first night, pink the second. After the second night, the flower closes and disappears under the water surface where the seeds ripen. Each plant can produce a number of flowers, but only one at a time. This is the first time that visitors have been allowed into the Liberec Botanical Garden at night in the garden’s 120-year-history.
The Czech military will pay about one billion crowns for the maintenance of its ten W-3A Sokol rescue helicopters between 2015-2021, Defence Ministry spokesman Petr Medek told the CTK news agency. The government is to debate the respective contract on Wednesday. The Sokol helicopters are mainly used in rescue operations, but also for humanitarian evacuations or for the transport of foreign nationals flown to the Czech Republic for treatment within the MEDEVAC programme.
Czech Republic and Austria to re-enforce border patrols in view of growing number of illegal migrants
Security and migration issues dominated the agenda of a meeting between Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec and his Austrian counterpart Johanna Leitner in Mikulov on Monday. In view of the growing number of illegal migrants in Europe the two sides agreed to strengthen security along their common border by re-enforcing joint border patrols and improving communication between local governments. The number of illegal migrants in the Czech Republic is now counted in the thousands, while neighbouring Austria is dealing with tens of thousands of illegal migrants.Since the majority of illegal migrants are crossing the Hungarian-Serb border, the Czech Republic has likewise offered Hungary police officers, technology and finances to help stem the flow.
Representatives of the government, trade unions and employers met on Monday over the government proposed draft budget for 2016. Trade union representatives spoke out in favour of higher investments which would stimulate economic growth arguing that the proposed 70 billion crown deficit could have been higher, but employers expressed approval of the proposed deficit saying that at a time of economic growth there was no reason to increase the gap in spending further. Finance Minister Andrej Babis argues that the proposed 2016 budget is not restrictive and will stimulate the economy while helping to bring the deficit under control. The minister would like to achieve a 60 billion crown deficit in 2017 and a 50 billion crown deficit in 2018.
The Czech Transport Ministry wants to improve conditions for bikers by increasing the number of bike lanes and giving bikers superior rights on some streets. According to a proposed amendment to the road law bikers would have right of way on these streets and cars would have to respect a maximum speed limit of 20 km per hour. This would concern for instance the cobbled winding streets in the city center and in the Old Town where traffic is already slow. The bill is to be debated in Parliament in September.