Monday, May 16, 2011

News 5.16.2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Monday, May 16th, 2011

By: Christian Falvey

* The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is preparing to expel Ukrainian
diplomats from the country in response to the expulsion of its own
military attaches.

* The TOP 09 leadership says the junior Public Affairs party must
pledge to support key reforms and abandon its role as an opposition
party within the coalition.

* The Education Ministry estimates that one fifth of students will have
to retake newly established leaving exams due to failures.

* Economist Vladimir Rosel has been appointed to head the National

* A poll carried out by the STEM agency suggests that left-wing parties
would at present win a large majority in parliamentary elections.

Foreign Ministry to withdraw Czech diplomats from Ukraine

Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg is preparing to expel
Ukrainian diplomats from the country. Ukraine expelled two Czech
diplomats from the military attaches office at the weekend for
"activities incompatible with their diplomatic status". Kiev has
rejected claims that their expulsion on spying charges was in
retaliation for Prague's decision to grant asylum to the country's
former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn who has been charged with
abuse of power. According to Kiev, the Czechs were gathering
information and documents on the Ukrainian armament industry with the
aid of two paid Ukrainian collaborators. The Czech Foreign Ministry has
denied those claims.

TOP 09 leadership sets down its own conditions

The TOP 09 leadership, which met on Sunday to debate the government
crisis and map out its position at upcoming talks, set its own
conditions for the continuation of the three-party coalition. It said
the junior Public Affairs party must pledge to support key reforms and
abandon its role as an opposition party within the coalition. TOP 09
also maintains that in the wake of the scandals surrounding Public
Affairs the party should make public a complete survey of its finances.

In view of the scandals surrounding Public Affairs, both its coalition
partners have heard calls from within their ranks that it would be
wiser to continue without the junior party and rely on their outside
support in pushing through key reforms. The two strongest parties have
only 94 seats combined in the 200-member lower house and they would
thus be left entirely at the mercy of Public Affairs.

Public Affairs Babak claims to turn accounts over to auditors

Public Affairs sponsor and MP Michal Babak has asked an independent
auditing company to inspect his personal and business accounts due to
media reports questioning the origin of his assets. The move comes in
response to the recently released secret tape of party leaders
referring to Mr Babak "working magic" with the party's finances. He was
also recently initially unable to explain the origin of six million
crowns that he gave to the party. He later said that he had borrowed
most of it from two of his own companies. Mr Babak also said he may
file lawsuits to clear his name.

Economist Rosel appointed to head National Gallery

Economist Vladimir Rosel has been appointed to head the National
Gallery, Minister of Culture Jiri Besser has announced. He will take
office on June 1. Mr Besser said that he and the selection committee
had chosen someone who was able to take the institution in a new
direction. He team, the minister said, had put together by far the most
comprehensive concept for developing the National Gallery and opening
it up to the world. The ten-member committee reportedly weighed five
candidates to replace the outgoing director, well-known public figure
Milan Knizak.

Social welfare and unemployment cost state 700 billion crowns last year

State expenses for social welfare and unemployment last year grew by
five billion to roughly 700 billion crowns. The figures come from the
state closing account, which the government submitted to Parliament on
Monday. Social welfare and unemployment thus amounted to two fifths of
all of the money spent from the state budget in 2010. The majority of
the expenses came from pension payments, the total amount of which was
put at 346 billion crowns. The government's austerity package, passed
last year, was intended to decrease that amount by 23.5 billion; it was
shot down by the Constitution Court however and is going through
Parliament again.

Poll: left-wing parties would win a large majority in parliament today

A poll carried out by the STEM agency suggests that left-wing parties
would at present win a large majority in parliamentary elections.
According to the poll, elections held today would see the Social
Democratic Party with 94 seats and the Communists with 32 out of the
200-member Chamber of Deputies. Meanwhile Public Affairs has suffered
another blow to its voter preference, with the survey showing the party
would receive 2.3%, far below the 5% threshold needed to get in to
Parliament. The Civic Democratic Party would have 46 seats and TOP 09,

New leaving exams: 7% fail, 15% fail to qualify

Education Minister Josef Dobes says the fail rate among students who
took the newly established secondary school leaving exams was seven
percent thus far. Another fifteen percent were not eligible to take the
exams. The ministry estimates that about a fifth of students will have
to retake the tests. Oral exams will continue until the end of May, and
failure rates of 10 or 11% are expected. The new exams include Czech
and a second subject, either mathematics or foreign language. Students
must then take other tests in common subjects. The system of secondary
school leaving exams has been in preparation for 14 years and has been
a topic of much disagreement. Mock exams held last October resulted in
exceptionally high fail rates.

Fifty-three percent believe census was necessary

Only some 53% of people believe this year's census to have been
necessary, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. That
figure shows a decline since 2001, when 59% of Czechs said the census
is needed. A slight majority said they thought the census was well
organised and roughly every second person said they thought the data
would be protected properly from misuse. State statisticians have
received 16.8 million completed forms, many of which were duplicates
and one fourth of which were sent via the internet.

Police use firearms in car chase

Police in the north-western town of Louny were forced to use their guns
to stop a stolen van last Friday. A police spokeswoman told the Czech
Pres Agency on Monday that the 33-year-old driver refused to stop when
signalled by the police and then repeatedly attempted to ram their car
off the road. The car had been stolen in the area. The police then
fired shots in the air and then at the van's rear tyres. The van went
off the road and into a field, where the driver was arrested. No one
was injured in the incident.

Suspect leads police to body of missing man

Police have found the body of a 25-year-old Prague man who has been
missing since early March. An employee in the victim's car dealership
confessed to murdering him over money and led police to the body. The
suspect apparently told police that the victim owed him several
hundreds of thousands of crowns, that they met and had a conflict and
that he then shot him. The police were led to the suspect after tracing
the victim's mobile phone activity. If convicted he faces 15 to 20
years imprisonment.


Conditions over the coming days should be partly cloudy to overcast
with scattered showers and daytime temperatures of 15 to 20o Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Sri Lankan monk Bhante Wimala and Buddhism in the Czech Republic

This week sees an important holiday for a fifth of the world's
population, namely Buddhists, who will be marking the anniversary of
the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha on May 17. Some in the
Czech Republic will be celebrating the day as well, and that will be
thanks to a large part to Bhante Wimala, a Sri Lankan monk based in the
United States who started the Czech Republic's first two Buddhist
centres, the Samadhi Meditation Centre near Melnik and the Lotus Centre
in Prague. In Today's One on One Christian Falvey speaks with Bhante
Wimala about his work in the Czech Republic and the messages of

Government racked by old-new crisis

The centre-right Czech government is once again on the brink of
collapse. Just a month after the three parties shelved their
differences in the interest of pushing through key reforms, hostilities
have flared up anew with the junior coalition party setting down new
demands and threatening to walk out of the government if they are not

Sports News 16.5.2011

The Czech national hockey team wins bronze at the Ice Hockey World
Championship, downing Russia 7:4 in a thrilling match; football club
Viktoria Plzen are two points away from being crowned league champions;
and Czech motorcycle racer Karel Abraham finishes in the top 10 in the
France MotoGP.

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