News MPs back proposal to establish private babysitting groups
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday backed a proposal to establish non-profit babysitting groups as a way of addressing an acute lack of places in kindergartens. The bill was approved in a first reading, and sent to house committees for further debate. The minister of labour and social affairs, Michaela Marksová Tominová told MPs these groups, with a maximum of 24 children, would not be generating profit, and could only charge parents fees to cover their expenses. The ministry believes around 1,100 such groups could be set up by 2015, allowing tens of thousands of parents to work. That would mean between 380 and 570 billion crowns in taxes and other revenues for the state budget.
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Euro commissioner nominee: Prague eyeing regional policy, transport and administrative affairs portfolios
The Czech Republic has its sights on three potential European commissioner posts, the country’s nominee Věra Jourová said on Tuesday. Ms. Jourová, who has up to now been Czech minister for regional development, said the country was primarily interested in the portfolios of regional policy, administrative affairs and transport. She said she would not be involved in negotiations on her future position and was preparing for a “grilling” of candidates at the European Parliament in September.
Prague police have filed charges against a foreign man who drove onto a pavement in central Prague at the weekend, seriously injuring six pedestrians. The man, who is 26, then fled the scene. He has been charged with failure to provide assistance, endangerment while under the influence and bodily harm; if found guilty, he could face up to eight years in prison. The incident occurred on the city’s Hybernská St at 6:30 AM on Sunday. The driver abandoned his car but left personal documents in the vehicle.
Sculptor David Černý must pay a former director of the Czech National Gallery, Milan Knížák, CZK 100,000 in damages for defaming him in a Czech Television interview. The Prague Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal lodged by Mr. Černý, upholding a previous decision it made. The artist also has to pay Mr. Knížák’s court costs. Mr. Černý used abusive language to describe the then National Gallery head in an interview for a 2011 documentary on an award for young artists. Mr. Černý caused controversy with a sculpture for the 2009 Czech presidency of the EU that was considered offensive by some member states.
Zaorálek calls on Moscow to aid crash investigation and cease sending weapons and gunmen to eastern Ukraine
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, says the Russian Federation should provide assistance to an independent investigation into the crash of a Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine and also cease sending weapons and gunmen to the region. He said if Moscow failed to do so in a matter of days an extraordinary EU summit should adopt strong sanctions targeted at sectors of the Russian economy. Mr. Zaorálek was speaking in Brussels, where EU foreign ministers have been meeting for the first time since Thursday’s incident, in which almost 300 people died when a Malaysian Airlines flight came down in territory held by pro-Russian rebels.
The Czech government has approved the candidature of the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Petr Pavel, for the post of chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Monday night, the Czech minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, said General Pavel had a “very solid chance” of obtaining the position, which is second only to the general secretary in the NATO hierarchy. For his part, the general said if he wins the post in a vote in mid September it will be a great honour for the Czech Republic and an expression of trust on the part of the country’s allies.
The Czech Republic is one of the last remaining EU states which does not have a children’s Ombudsman, according to a government report on the state of human rights in the Czech Republic. The report says that while cases relating to minors are dealt with by the Ombudsman’s Office, the institution lacks the staff and money needed to deal with the vast amount of requests for help it gets annually and children’ cases deserve priority. The Czech Republic has come under fire from international institutions for failing to give Romany children equal access to education, failing to secure the right of children from divorced families to be in contact with both parents and keeping them in children’s homes for years in order to protect the rights of their biological parents.
Storms and heavy rain complicated traffic and flooded cellars in many parts of the country, particularly in south-western Bohemia. Rail traffic between Prague and Mariánské Lázně was disrupted for several hours on Monday night and fire crews worked around the clock clearing away uprooted trees and pumping water from cellars. In some places the rain amounted to 67 liters per square meter, causing flash floods which temporarily closed down the lobby of Prague’s Mustek metro station. The ABC theatre in Prague was flooded for the third time this year.
The Czech government has approved extending a freeze on the wages of top public officials up until 2018. The proposal, put forward by the Labour Ministry, would see the wages of the president, government ministers, senators, deputies and judges kept on their present level for another four years after a previous freeze expires at the end of 2014. The only exemption is a one percent valorisation due to inflation. The proposal, which still has to pass through Parliament, would affect some 4,000 people.
President Miloš Zeman who attended Monday’s cabinet meeting praised the ruling coalition for its willingness to spend money on investment projects, saying it had given the public “reason to hope” in a better future. Mr. Zeman took part in the government session primarily to emphasize the need for the government to strengthen the sphere of economic diplomacy and push ahead with plans to expand Czech business interests beyond EU borders. He mentioned in particular Russia, China, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as offering considerable potential.
Meteorologists have issued a storm warning for the south-western parts of the country where heavy rain on Monday night and Tuesday morning may swell smaller rivers. Day temperatures should not drop below 22 degrees Celsius but the southern parts of the country may be hit by heavy storms with hailstones and high wind. The week is expected to be hot and humid with plenty of rain and temperatures gradually rising back to the 30s.