News Telička: Czechs failed to realize potential of EU membership
The Czech Republic gained much through EU membership, but failed to make the best use of the potential it offered, according to former EU commissioner Pavel Telička. In an interview for the ctk news agency in connection with the upcoming 10th anniversary of the country’s accession to the EU on May 1st, Mr. Telička said Czechs had benefitted from the free movement of people, labour and goods, but due to their own negative attitude had thrown away the chance to help mould important concepts and norms that would later apply across the EU. We were viewed as a troublemaker and thus often left out of informal talks, Mr. Telička said. The present centre-left government has vowed to bring the country back to the EU mainstream and take an active part in moulding the future of Europe.
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Higher security measures are likely to be in place in the Czech Republic over Christmas and the New Year. The increased security already took effect on November 13 and 14 following the Paris attacks. They include stepped up police protection of airports, shopping centres, and some embassies. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said that there was no question of altering these measures now and that would depend in large part on developments in other European countries. Chovanec said Wednesday that the Czech Republic has detained a person suspected of having international links with terrorism. The minister made the announcement on his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon. Police later said the man was Turkish and sought by Interpol.
Members of the lower house of parliament proposed additional spending in the 2016 budget totalling up to 44billion crowns on Wednesday as they debated next year’s spending package. Most of the extra spending was focused on the army, border protection, education, and social services. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said he would address the new demands in the final third reading. He added though that many ministries are currently now able to spend all the funds they are already allocated. The Ministry of Defence has been earmarked 50 billion crowns this year but appears on course to spend just 34 billion, he added.
The head of the Czech energy regulator, Alena Vitasková, has accused mafia groups of seeking to get her removed from her job. Vitasková made the comments ahead of the meeting with head of state, Miloš Zeman, on Wednesday. She was due to speak with president about the current state of support for renewable energy, where her office is refusing to make payments for 2016 because they have not been approved by the European Commission. Zeman has the power to sack the head of the independent energy office. She afterwards declared that he had no intention of doing so and that a solution to the support standoff could be found.
The Ministry of Transport says that it will make the transition from paper to electronic motorway tolls within three years. A similar electronic system will already be up and running in Slovakia next year. The ministry says that the new system will allow it to clamp down on counterfeit motorway stickers, a problem that was particularly evident at the start of 2015. Prices for year long stickers will be the same next year as this at 1500 crowns.
A former judge at the centre of a series of fraudulent bankruptcy cases has been sentenced to 8 years and six months. The court in Tábor handed down the sentence to Jiří Berka. Berka was discovered in 2003 to be behind a series of cases in which 10 companies were declared bankrupt on false and fabricated evidence with the overall damage estimated at 264 million crowns. Once declared bankrupt, the assets of the companies could be picked up for a pittance. A further eight people involved in the cases were also sentenced Wednesday. The verdicts can still be appealed.
The political coalition governing the Czech Republic’s third biggest city, Ostrava has fallen apart. The Social Democrats have quit the hitherto coalition with the ANO party and Christian Democrats. Their place has been taken by the Ostravak movement. The move means the Social Democrats are out of power for the first time since 1990.
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called for strengthened university ties between the Czech Republic and China. The number of Czechs studying in China and vice versa should increase, he said during his ongoing trip to China. The prime minister also warned that the lack of Czechs able to speak Chinese is threatening to become a brake on economic and other relations. Under a current agreement there are just 10 Czech students in China and the same number of Chinese in Czech universities.
In football, Czech international Petr Čech and his Arsenal team kept alive their hopes of progressing past the group stage in the European Champions League on Tuesday night. Arsenal won 3:0 against Dinamo Zagreb with Čech little tested between the posts. In the same group, Bayern Munich thrashed Olympiakos Pireus 4:0. That means that Arsenal can progress to the knock-out stage if they can convincingly beat the Greek team in the last game.
People with HIV often face discrimination both at the workplace and in the field of health care, according to a lawyer working for the Czech AIDS Help Society. Jakub Tomšej told the ctk news agency that employers frequently seek ways to get rid of employees with AIDS and there have allegedly been numerous cases of doctors refusing to treat them. The lawyer says only a fraction of AIDS sufferers who face discrimination fight for their rights in court.
The historic Prague House at the Golden Ring in Tyn street will come under the administration of the Museum of Prague, the Prague City council decided on Tuesday. It is currently administered by the Prague Gallery. The reason for the change in administration is that the building is to house a permanent exhibition devoted to the life and times of Charles IV which is to open next year on the 700th anniversary of his birth.