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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Several dozen people have signed an internet petition requesting a presidential pardon for the nurse who is said to have performed euthanasia on a terminally ill patient. Among the signatories are both people who claim to know her in person and complete strangers. The case has triggered a heated debate about euthanasia on social networks. The nurse who allegedly gave her patient a higher amount of drugs to assist her death, has been charged with murder. If convicted she would face a sentence of up to 18 years.
Living standards in the Czech Republic dropped slightly last year as compared to the original 15 eurozone countries, with the country’s per capita GDP dropping to 74.1 percent of the EU average, the Czech Statistics Office reported. The figure had been at 75 percent for the three previous years. Czech households recorded the third consecutive decrease in net incomes last year. According to Czech Finance Ministry estimates living standards in the Czech Republic are expected to see moderate growth again this year.
The Social Affairs and Labour Ministry is drafting a proposed amendment to the law which should help the parents of twins, triplets and other multiples who are financially disadvantaged under the present system of state aid. Under the proposal the state would cover the expenses for a nanny and increase the one-off state bonus for the birth of two or more children. According to Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová Tominová it is unfair and illogical that the parents of more children from one birth are financially worse off than parents who have the same number of children in succession. The problem was highlighted in particular with the birth of quintuplets to a Czech mother last year.
Two dozen human rights activists gathered outside Prague Castle on Thursday morning to protest against the Chinese Investment Forum taking place there. Among the protesters, who held banners reading "China stop shooting Tibetans", was former environment minister Martin Bursík. Mr. Bursík slammed the government for putting economic interests above human rights. Chinese businessmen arriving at the conference ostensibly ignored their presence.
Detectives from the national anti-drugs squad have cracked down on a large scale-supplier of materials for the illicit production of drugs. The forty-one year old owner of a chain of shops selling chemical supplies was arrested at the end of July, but the police have only now revealed details of the case which is unprecedented on Czech scale. The chain of shops around the country served as a smoke screen and all contained large quantities of chemicals needed for the illegal production of crystal methamphetamine. According to a police spokesman the chemicals confiscated during the police raids could have made drugs with a street value of two and a half billion crowns.
A two-day Chinese Investment Forum has got underway at Prague Castle attended by over 500 Chinese and 700 Czech and other European delegates, including many senior politicians and businesspeople. The morning session of the conference on Thursday began with speeches from the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, and China’s first deputy prime minister, Zhang Gaoli. Czech President Miloš Zeman will be among the guests at a gala evening at Prague Castle’s Spanish Hall on Thursday evening. The investment forum is the biggest event of its kind held in the Czech Republic.
The government has failed to reach a joint position on a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants. Coalition party ANO is pushing for a blanket ban but after a debate on the matter on Wednesday the cabinet issued a statement saying that while there was general agreement on the idea it preferred a broader amendment that the minister of health, Svatopluk Němeček, is due to produce by the end of the year. Numerous attempts to introduce such a prohibition in the past have come to nothing. An estimated 30 percent of Czechs smoke cigarettes, with around 18,000 people dying as a result of smoking in this country annually.
The Czech government has approved the supply of munitions to the Kurdish regional government in Iraq battling against Islamic State radicals. The Czech News Agency reported on Wednesday that it had seen documents suggesting that the Kurds would receive millions of rounds of ammunition for Kalashnikov assault rifles and machine guns, as well as hand grenades and ammunition for anti-tank rocket launchers. The US Army is to deliver the supplies, worth CZK 41 million and weighing over 500 tonnes, to Iraq by the end of this year.
State company Český Aeroholding plans to use almost CZK 38 million in incentives to support a proposed direct air route between the Czech Republic and China, a Czech Ministry of Transport spokesperson said after a meeting of Czech and Chinese officials on Wednesday. A condition for any airline that expresses interest in the route is a commitment to four flights a week for a period of at least five years. The City of Prague and Czech Tourism also plan incentives for a route that would increase the number of Chinese visitors.
The Czech Ministry of Defence has reached agreement with manufacturer Aero Vodochody to sell L-159 combat planes to Iraq. A ministry representative confirmed a report to that effect carried by the newspaper E15 and said more information would be revealed at a news conference on Thursday. Previous reports suggested that the Iraqis were interested in taking 15 planes, 11 of which are in reserve and four of which are being used by the Czech Army. The Czech Republic will have to get agreement from the USA, Italy and the UK for the sale as some of the aircraft’s technology comes from those states.