News President Zeman: human rights issues should not hurt business
On a visit to the Papcel Litovel factory in the Olomouc region, President Miloš Zeman expressed the view that human right issues should not be allowed to stand in the way of business and trade. He said the country’s business interests were sometimes hurt by what he called an excessive emphasis on human rights on the part of Czech leaders, citing the cancelled visit by the president of Uzbekistan as an example. Mr. Zeman said this was a self-defeating policy, noting that since the Ubzbek head of state was not going to visit the country it would not be possible to bring up the issue of human rights face to face. At the same time, the Czech Republic was losing investment opportunities and risking business already underway in the country, the president noted. The Papcel Litovel factory has an eight million dollar investment in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek president recently cancelled his visit to the Czech Republic after the prime minister and the mayor of Prague said they were not willing to meet with him.
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Around 300 people gathered outside the Office of the Government on Thursday, calling for the Czech Republic to accept Syrian children and their families fleeing the civil war in their country. A similar demonstration was also held in Brno. Western countries have pledged to accept 100,000 refugees from war-stricken Syria, but the Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec recently said the Czech Republic was not ready for an influx of thousands of refugees due to security and technical reasons and would not accept any binding EU quota.
Czech biathlete Gabriela Soukalová won a 7.5 kilometre World Cup sprint in Pokljuka, Slovenia, on Thursday. The 25-year-old athlete did not miss a single target and finished 18 seconds ahead of Italy’s Dorothea Wierer. It was the first win for Gabriela Soukalová this season and eighth World Cup gold in her career.
Mayors of municipalities in the close vicinity of the Temelín nuclear power plant have called on the Czech government to carry on with the plant’s expansion. In an open letter addressed to the government, the mayors argue that significant funds have already been spent in anticipation of the project. Plans to expand the Temelín plant were put on hold in April after the Czech government refused to provide state guarantees for the price of electricity generated by the new units. The government is set to decide on the future of the project by the end of the year.
A Czech company has won a public tender for growing medical cannabis, the State Institute for Drug Control, announced on Thursday. Sixteen Czech firms have placed their bids for a license to grow and sell cannabis to pharmacies. The name of the winner has not been disclosed yet due to administrative procedures. The law on medical marihuana opening way for patients suffering from cancer and neurological diseases to use the drug under medical supervision came into force in February last year. Czech pharmacies started to sell the drug, which is now legally imported from the Netherlands, in mid-November.
The Senate on Thursday approved a three-percent hike in salaries for lawmakers. Under the new legislation, which was passed by the Senate without debate, the basic monthly salary of an MP will increase next year by 17,500 crowns, to 57,600 crowns. President Miloš Zeman said on Wednesday that he was ready to sign the legislation into law.
Minister of Education Marcel Chládek appointed 64 new professors on Thursday. The ceremony at Prague’s Karolinum was not attended by President Miloš Zeman, who, according to his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček, was getting ready for the upcoming meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann. The president in the past expressed his desire to leave the tasks of appointing new professors to the education minister or Speaker of the Senate, but the lower house rejected an amendment to the law which was drawn up in line with his request.
Three foreign nationals, who are accused by the US of collaborating with terrorists, denied their guilt at a hearing at Prague’s municipal court on Thursday. Ali Fayad, Faouzi Jaber of Libanon and Chalid Marabi of the Ivory Coast were allegedly planning to sell weapons and cocaine to American secret agents, who were disguised as members of a Colombian terrorist organisation. The court on Thursday started to discuss their extradition to the US. The men have been in custody since April, when they were arrested by the Czech police at a hotel in Prague.
Czechs disposed of unused medicines worth two billion Czech crowns last year, according to a survey carried out by the State Institute for Drug Control. Unused medicines made up for more than three percent of all the medication supplies to pharmacies and hospitals. Only a half of Czech households dispose of unused medicines by returning them to pharmacies. The survey also indicates that Czechs have stock piles of medicines in their homes worth 362 million crowns.
President Miloš Zeman on Thursday signed next year’s state budget into law. The budget projects a deficit of 100 billion crowns, or around three percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Compared to this year’s budget, the revenues are set to increase by 20 billion while expenditures should rise by 8 billion. The budget was backed by 105 MPs of the governing coalition and one opposition MP from the Dawn party. The opposition has criticized the budget over lower funds allocated for investment; these are set to reach 75 billion crowns next year, some 25 billion less than in 2014.
Czechs are marking the third anniversary of the death of Václav Havel, the country’s first post-communist president. Cardinal Dominik Duka will celebrate a mass in his memory at Prague Crossroads centre on Thursday afternoon and the Václav Havel library will be hosting a staging of Havel’s play Protest. People around the country are also joining the “short trousers for Václav Havel” initiative, rolling their pants up to remember Václav Havel’s first inauguration to the presidency, when he wore visibly short trousers.