News Number of applicants for Czech citizenship rises sharply this year
There has been a sharp increase in the number of foreigners applying for Czech citizenship this year, the news site iDnes.cz reported, quoting a spokesperson from the Ministry of the Interior. Following the introduction in January of legislation under which such applicants do not lose their original citizenship their number reached 4,380 in the first seven months of 2014. The figure for the same period last year was 1,266. The most frequent applicants are Ukrainians, Slovaks, Russians and Vietnamese.
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The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has criticized a number of countries, among them Japan, Russia, Brazil and the Czech Republic, for not abiding by an OECD convention on combating bribery in international business transactions. In its 2014 report on fighting bribery in business Transparency said only the US, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland were actively upholding the agreements reached. The fact that some big exporters are tolerating and even exporting bribery in international business is hampering global progress in the field, the IT report says.
The Senate on Thursday approved a government-proposed bill on the introduction of a third 10 percent VAT rate on books, baby food and medicines as of January 2015. The basic VAT rate of 21 percent and the reduced rate of 15 percent will be maintained. The bill still needs to be signed into law by the president.
The European Parliament on Wednesday approved the 27 members of the new European Commission, as presented by its President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker, with 423 votes in favour, 209 against and 67 abstaining from the vote. The new Commission now needs to be formally appointed by governments or EU heads of state in order to be able to take up its duty on November 1 for a five-year term. The Czech Republic is represented by Věra Jourová, who has been approved for the post of European commissioner for justice, consumer rights and gender equality.
Hundreds of people were evacuated on Thursday morning from their homes in the vicinity of a munitions depot in the village of Vrbětice in South Moravia, which was destroyed by explosion and fire last week. Police pyrotechnics experts are continuing their investigation at the site and there is a risk of further blasts. Residents evacuated from their homes will be allowed to return in the evening.
The Senate on Wednesday approved the abolition of direct payments in health care, introduced by the former centre-right government of Mirek Topolánek in 2008. Under the new bill, patients will no longer be required to pay 30 crowns for every visit to the doctor and a 30-crown fee for medical prescriptions in pharmacies. The only fee that will remain in effect is a 90-crown fee for emergency visits. The new bill should come into effect in January 2015.
The renowned Chinese writer Yan Lianke received the Franz Kafka Prize at a ceremony at the Old Town Hall in Prague on Wednesday. The 55-year old author has published several novels and more than ten volumes of short stories. He has received China’s two top literary awards but several of his novels were banned from publishing. His works have also been translated and honoured abroad. The Franz Kafka Prize was established in 2001 and is co-sponsored by the Franz Kafka Society and the city of Prague.
Czech linguist, writer and translator Patrik Ouředník will receive the State Award for Literature for 2014, granted by the Ministry of Culture. The Czech-born author, who has been living in France since 1984, will be given the prize for life-long contribution to literature. Literary theorist and translator Jiří Pechar will receive the state prize for his translations from French, Spanish and German. The awarding ceremony will take place in Prague on Thursday, October 23.
The ANO party, along with the Social Democrats and the three-way coalition of the Greens, the Christian Democrats and Mayors and Independents have agreed on forming a coalition at Prague City Hall. ANO will take five seats in the eleven-member city council, as well as the post of the mayor. Adriana Krnáčová, former head of Czech Transparency and current deputy interior minister, will be elected to the post. The Social Democrats and the three-way coalition will have three seats each. ANO finished first in Prague in the recent local elections, followed by TOP 09, and the Three Party Coalition. Others with representatives elected are the Social Democrats, the Civic Democrats, the Communists, and the Czech Pirate Party.
Anti-corruption initiatives Transparency International and Oživení have filed charges in case of alleged vote buying and election fraud in the municipalities of Chomutov, Kadaň, Ústí nad Labem and Prague during the recent municipal and Senate elections. The groups have provided witness testimonies describing vote buying in the regions in question, Andrea Kohoutková of Oživení told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday. The anti-corruption initiatives have previously warned that election fraud in some of the country’s most economically-depressed regions has become a common phenomenon.
Maths could become a compulsory subject in secondary school-leaving exams in the spring of 2019, a year earlier than expected, the Education Ministry told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday. Maths traditionally proves to be the most difficult subject in the unified school-leaving exam. Nearly a quarter of students failed the subject this year. Education Minister Marcel Chládek previously said that it was necessary to educate teachers in new methods of teaching maths, in order to make the subject more attractive.