Tuesday, January 24, 2012

News 1.24.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

By: Christian Falvey

* Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek wants the country to contribute
1.5 billion euros towards aiding the eurozone, Novinky.cz reports

* Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra has told the Czech news agency he is
in favour of Czech soldiers' involvement in Afghanistan being extended
to 2014.

* President Vaclav Klaus has attacked academic criticism of planned
higher education reforms as insincere.

* Former diplomat and historian Milos Pojar has died at the age of 71.

Kalousek to back 1.5 billion euro loan to save the euro

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek wants the country to contribute a
sum of 1.5 billion euros (38 billion crowns) towards aiding the
eurozone, the website Novinky.cz reports. He intends to make the
proposal for a loan to the IMF to the government on Wednesday. The
money would come from the foreign exchange reserves of the Czech
National Bank, which would receive a guarantee from the government. In
the proposal Mr Kalousek states that the Czech Republic has netted 175
billion crowns from the monetary fund since 2004, and he would consider
it indecent and immoral to refuse to participate in the loan. EU
leaders have agreed to bolster the euro with a 200 billion euro loan to
the IMF; eurozone countries have only committed to 150 billion thus far.

Kalousek in Brussels: no one understands Czech position on referendum

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday amid negotiations on the fiscal
discipline pact in Brussels, Mr Kalousek also said that no one in the
EU understands the position of the Czech cabinet, which wants Prague��s
accession to the planned deal to be decided in a referendum. Mr
Kalousek is deputy chairman of TOP 09, which opposes a referendum but
was outvoted by its coalition partners, who insist the planned treaty
changes basic EU legislation and transfers further national powers to
Brussels. The fiscal discipline treaty is meant to tighten the EU��s
supervision of national budgets and will be discussed at the EU summit
on Monday.

Defence Minister in favour of Czech involvement in Afghanistan being
extended to 2014

Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra has told the Czech news agency,
CTK, he is in favour of Czech soldiers' involvement in Afghanistan
being extended to 2014. The mandate for their current presence there
will expire at the end of 2012. Mr Vondra made the statement before
arriving in Washington for talks with US Defence Secretary Leon
Panetta. He did not go into details about the strength of the future
contingent but allowed that helicopter crews could remain as well as
training specialists, while Czech special forces would terminate their
mission this year. The US itself wants to withdraw its forces by 2014
if local conditions allow CTK notes. Currently the Czech Republic has
some 600 troops in Afghanistan.

Vondra negotiates deal allowing Czechs to seek military orders in US

The defence minister also negotiated a treaty in Washington on Tuesday
that will allow Czech companies to seek military orders in the United
States. The agreement will give Czech contractors an equal position
with American and European companies and may be signed in the spring.
The treaty will also apply to security and rescue services and will
allow Czechs to compete for commissions for the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), among others. Poland signed a similar treaty
with the United states in September of last year.

Klaus attacks critics of planned college reforms

President Vaclav Klaus has attacked critics of planned higher education
reforms, saying they were playing the academic freedom card
insincerely. Speaking to Czech Radio on Tuesday, the president said he
was outraged by the reactions of academics to the proposals, which he
said were essential. The issue, he said, was about state schools that
the state had the right to make decisions about, and academics should
not fight against tuition while seeking independence from the state.
Students and professors hold that the reforms limit the institutions'
freedom by increasing the influence that politics and business have on
science. Deans of public colleges are discussing their concerns with
the Education Minister Josef Dobes on Tuesday.

Diplomat and historian Milos Pojar dies aged 71

Former diplomat and historian Milos Pojar died unexpectedly on Monday,
the website Lidovky.cz has reported. Mr Pojar was an editor for the
publishing house of the Academy of Sciences and wrote a number of books
on Judaism and Israel, but was banned from publishing his work during
the Soviet occupation. After the fall of communism he served as the
country's first ambassador to Israel, a post currently held by his son,
Tomas. He was 71 years old.

STEM: 53% system is better now than under communism

The number of people who believe the current system promises a better
future than the communist regime is at its lowest point since 1993.
According to a January poll carried out by the STEM agency, only
slightly more than half of the population think the current regime is
better than the one before November of 1989. That percentage fell by
five points since last year's survey. Younger and more educated people
were more likely to assess the current system positively, as were
entrepreneurs and right-wing voters.

Second lowest rate of homicide in Prague in 2011

Police in Prague last year recorded the second lowest rate of homicide
since 1990. The metropolis saw 29 cases of murder in 2011, of which 26
were solved. Only the previous year, 2010, saw fewer homicides, when 22
cases were investigated. The total number of punishable offences
however rose in 2011 by roughly 10%. The majority of cases, 57%, were
committed by repeat offenders, while first-time offenders were
responsible for only 5% of solved crimes. Police also recorded a rise
in wilful property damage while other property crimes, such as car
theft, were down. Crime in Prague accounted for nearly a fourth of
criminality in the Czech Republic.

Social Democrats propose bills to decrease household indebtedness

The opposition Social Democratic Party has proposed six bills aimed at
decreasing the indebtedness of Czech households. The series of bills
looks to limit contractual fines, introduce an obligation to ask a
debtor to pay before filing a lawsuit, and integrate orders for
property seizures. The government says it is willing to discuss the
legislation and is already considering some of the measures. The party
says that Czech households owe more than a billion crowns and often end
up in debt traps, one of the reasons for which they believe are the
harsh conditions of debt collection.

Havel Library neighbours file complaint on refurbishment

The Club for Old Prague and neighbours at Hradcany in Prague have filed
a complaint with the zoning commission against the refurbishment of a
historical building to become the Vaclav Havel Library. The contested
modifications to the 16th century building include primarily the scope
of the cellar under the courtyard, which they say is overdesigned,
superfluous and could endanger the stability of even the surrounding
buildings. Neighbours are also concerned that the construction could
open underground water sources.


Conditions over the coming days are expected to be mostly cloudy with
daytime highs just above the freezing point.

Articles posted on www.radio.cz today

Tell of Bubenec reveals oldest evidence of ploughing in the Czech lands

The Prague district of Bubenec, in the bend of the Vltava river, is a
quiet, mostly residential part of town, and a scene of continuous
archaeological discoveries. People have been living in the area since
at least the 5th millennium BC, when the phenomenon of agriculture
began to spread through Central Europe. Only last year the district
made the international news with the discovery of an atypical burial
site from the ancient Corded Ware culture. Now archaeologists working
on the site of the new Canadian embassy have found what appears to be
the earliest use of agricultural ploughing in the Czech lands. In this
episode of Czech History, Christian Falvey speaks with Petra Marikova
Vlckova, one of the members of the archaeological team.


Defence minister wants Czech troops to stay in Afghanistan until 2014

Czech troops may stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. Defence
Minister Alexandr Vondra, who is in the United States on a working
visit, said he would ask the Czech Parliament to extend their mandate
by another 24 months, as their current mandate will expire by the end
of the year. However, the opposition has criticized Mr Vondra for
announcing his plans without a prior debate in the lower house.


Nadal denies Berdych in tough four-setter at Australian Open

Men's World No. 7 Tomas Berdych had been having a good season so far -
recently winning, for example, the Hopman Cup in Australia with women's
player Petra Kvitova; but on Tuesday he faced an even bigger challenge:
trying to get past Spain's Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open to reach
his first-ever semi-final at the Grand Slam tournament.


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