News Purchasing managers’ poll shows Czech economic recovery still weak
The Czech economy is not picking up as fast as expected according to a March index based on a poll purchasing managers which was released on Tuesday. Instead of continuing to climb, the index fell back to 55.5 points from 56.5 in February. One of the biggest factors in the slide was the fact that the pace of new orders had slowed down from earlier in the year. Managers, however, continue to be confident that there will be an upturn in employment. Similar poll results for Poland and Hungary also resulted in falls in their indexes.
For the daily news summary, available after 8pm CET, click here.
Police in Hradec Králové, have concluded an investigation into an incident at a hospital in the East Bohemian city in which new-born babies were given wrongly mixed medicine that almost caused their deaths. Three babies were given a preparation containing several times the prescribed amount of the barbiturate phenobarbital at the turn of August and September last year. A police spokesperson said the babies had been saved by the timely intervention of a doctor at the hospital. The case was first treated as a serious criminal act but investigators concluded it had been due to accident.
The minister of justice, Helena Válková, says she wants to introduce reforms within a maximum of four years that will make the Czech justice system cheaper and more effective. Minister Válková outlined her vision in a meeting with the new chairman of the Supreme Court, Pavel Šámal; he told journalists afterwards that the most important issue surrounding the reform would be the number of courts of first instance. Justice Šámal said some such courts were very small and created problems both in terms of staffing and the exercise of justice.
Scores of survivors and dozens of chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of European parliaments attended a ceremony honouring victims of the Holocaust at the former Terezín concentration camp in Central Bohemia on Tuesday. The event was timed to coincide with a ceremony at Auschwitz marking the 70th anniversary of its liberation. The Nazis transported up to 100,000 Jews from Terezín to Auschwitz and other death camps between 1940 and 1945, while around a fifth of those interned in Terezín met their deaths there.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, has expressed strong opposition to the kind of joint military action against Islamic terrorism proposed on Tuesday by President Miloš Zeman. In a statement, Mr. Zaorálek asked whether a “crusade” should be launched, and if so against whom and where. “Against Jihadist groups from Senegal to Somalia, against Libya, Yemen or Pakistan? Nonsense!” wrote the minister. Mr. Zaorálek said Muslims needed to take a leading role in curing the cancer of radical Islamic ideology. He said Arabs in particular should demonstrate that murder and terror are not the true face of Islam, adding that he did not believe in further Western military intervention in Syria, Iraq, or “God knows where”. Earlier Mr. Zeman had warned of a “super-holocaust” leaving hundreds of millions dead if Islamic State was not stopped.
A famous villa on Prague's Kampa is set to become the Voskovec and Werich Arts and Social Centre in honour of the great Czech actors Jan Werich (who lived there) and Jiří Voskovec. It will be operated by the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation. The authorities in Prague 1 voted on Tuesday to rent the Werich Villa to the organisation for CZK 600,000 a year on a 10-year contract with the option of another 10-year term when the first comes to an end. The future of the building had been the subject of speculation since 2002, when it was damaged in flooding.
Prague councillors have approved a possible return to paper long-term public transport passes that would start in March. The paper passes could be introduced if the city loses licenses for the Opencard electronic card system that was brought in to replace them. Opencard contracts signed by previous Prague governments are reported to have been overpriced. Mayor Adriana Krnáčová said last week that the city was prepared to introduce paper passes in order to avoid being forced to pay for new licenses under pressure of time. The operator of the service, eMoneyServices, has called for a stabilisation of the situation. Otherwise, it said, it would demand the city settle all its debts to the firm.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, has handed a second diplomatic note to the Norwegian Embassy in Prague in connection with the case of two Czech boys taken into care in the country in 2011 over allegations of sexual abuse. Their mother Eva Michaláková has been campaigning for their return. In the document, Mr. Zaorálek called on the Norwegian social services to enter into dialogue with their Czech counterparts. Norway's ambassador to Prague, Siri Ellen Sletner, said she would pass the note on to her country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Last year 233 couples entered into registered partnerships in the Czech Republic, 32 more than in 2013. The majority of the pairs – 148 – were men. Close to 4,000 gays and lesbians have entered such unions since the institution was introduced by Czech legislators eight and a half years ago. The information has been provided by gay rights activist Milda Šlehofer as no official count is kept, the Czech News Agency reported.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has warned of a “super-holocaust” leaving hundreds of millions dead if Islamic State is not stopped. Speaking in Prague at a conference marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Mr. Zeman said Islamic State was similar in nature to Germany's Nazis at the start of the 1930s. He called for unified armed action against Islamic State led by the United Nations Security Council and warned that more terrorist attacks would need to occur before the public realised that it wasn't possible to negotiate with terrorists.
The presidents of the Czech Republic and Slovakia honoured victims of the Holocaust in a memorial ceremony at the National Cemetery in Terezín on Monday. Both Miloš Zeman and Andrej Kiska condemned Nazi propaganda in connection with the former ghetto and concentration camp; the Nazis staged social and cultural events in the town during a visit by Danish representatives of the Red Cross in 1944 to mislead officials about the actual use of Terezín, where many died of disease and maltreatment or were sent on to death camps.