Wednesday, February 22, 2012

News 2.22.2012

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

News Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

By: Dominik Jun

* Czech and UK PMs will undertake a symbolic joint train journey to

* Application errors may have cost the Interior Ministry 2 billion
crowns in lost EU grants.

* Prague traffic light artist is set to begin a controversial prison

* The lower half of Wenceslas Square will be fully pedestrianised as of

* Students plan a week of action over education reform proposals.

Cameron and Necas to undertake joint Brussels trip

UK Prime Minister David Cameron will be joined by his Czech counterpart
Petr Necas on March 1st for a Eurotunnel train trip from London to
Brussels. The destination will be an upcoming EU summit; Necas is set
to visit London for a memorial event connected to the late president
Vaclav Havel on February 29th. The UK and Czech Republic were recently
the only holdouts in a proposed pan-EU fiscal discipline pact,
primarily designed to aid eurozone nations.

Czech government approves new rules for presidential elections

The Czech government has approved an implementation law for the direct
election of the next president. Under the draft bill, which must still
be voted on by parliament, candidates will be chosen via a similar
system used today to select senatorial candidates. Candidacies will be
lodged via a petition from twenty MPs, 10 senators or via a public
petition signed by 50,000 people. Mechanisms for the random
verification of signatories were also in the package. The petitions
will then be evaluated by the Interior Ministry. However, the
government failed to reach an agreement on campaign finance rules for
the proposed system but did agree that candidates should have access to
free air time on Czech Television and Czech Radio for their promotional
advertisements. A law mandating direct elections of the next president,
which will take place next year, was recently passed into law and will
come into effect this October.

Czech health minister fires head of drug control agency

Health minister Leos Heger (TOP 09) has dismissed Martin Benes, the
head of the State Institute for Drug Control, the country's chief
agency for the testing and approval of pharmaceuticals. Minister Heger
explained the firing by citing long-term disagreements over workplace
methodology, adding that an open tender process will now take place to
find a successor. Deputy Jiri Deml will serve in the top post until a
replacement is found. According to CTK, the firing may be linked to
concerns over the functioning of the Institute's central drug-testing
database, administrative issues of data protection and delays in
updating the prices of key drugs. According to Lubomir Chudoba, head of
the Czech Chamber of Pharmacists, Benes failed to effectively
communicate with his colleagues across the industry. In 2011, the Czech
pharmaceutical industry was worth an estimated 58.85 billion crowns.

Errors could cost interior ministry 2 billion crowns in grants

Faulty applications and administrative errors could cost the Czech
interior ministry 2 billion crowns in lost EU grants. This, according
to a report by the Ministry for Regional Development, who have been
tasked with examining grant application processes across the entire
Czech government. The news will be discussed by top officials in the
government on Wednesday, according to Hospodarske noviny, who also
report that up to 40% of EU grant applications by the Interior Ministry
may have been faulty. Regional Development Minister Kamil Jankovsky
reportedly met with a top official at the Interior Ministry to discuss
the implications of the report last Friday. According to Radek Smerda,
a deputy at Interior, the ministry must conduct a detailed audit to
asses the full impact of the allegations. Specifically, the problems
are set to date back to the former Interior Ministers Ivan Langer and
Radek John, and were mainly related to digitalisation and technology
projects. In total, Czech ministries have reportedly failed to source
25 billion in EU grants.

Czech artist imprisoned for traffic light stunt

Roman Tyc (real name David Hons), a Czech artist who in 2007 defaced
fifty traffic lights in Prague by amending the standard red and green
figures to show them in situations such as drinking, urinating and
being hanged, is set to begin a one month prison term. The artist chose
the prison term instead of paying a 60,000 crown fine (in addition to
an already paid fine of 80,000 crowns). The sentence is set to begin on
Friday, with numerous groups supporting his cause, including an unusual
satirical petition for sending the imprisoned artist a cake filled with
a device, which he can use to escape incarceration. According to Petr
Vidensky, one of the activists behind the petition, the aim is to
pressure the Czech president to pardon Tyc.

Prague airport seeks laser-pointer ban

Prague's Ruzyne airport is asking local authorities to approve a ban on
the use of laser pointers and other similar devices in a 20km
circumference around the site, reports Under the proposals,
fines of up to 5 million crowns could be levied against offenders, with
repeat cases being treated as criminal acts. So-called "green lasers"
are of the greatest concern, especially since they are freely available
to purchase in the country, according to Petr Navratil of the Czech
Civil Aviation Authority. Last year, 36 incidents in which pilots
reported laser beams disrupting their ability to see - and thus causing
the risk of a potential disaster - were catalogued. Even the smallest
hand-held laser pointers can cause pilots momentary blindness,
particularly at night.

Vlastimil Rampula back in office

Vlastimil Rampula is to take up his post at the head of the High State
Attorney's Office in Prague on Wednesday after the Prague municipal
Court ruled his dismissal invalid. Rampula was sacked in July of last
year at the instigation of the Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman on
suspicion that he was holding up key corruption investigations. The
Prague court ruled that his dismissal was not sufficiently justified.
The provisional head of the High State Attorney's Office Stanislav Mecl
is to return to his post at the Supreme State Attorney's Office in Brno.

April will see pedestrianisation of lower half of Wenceslas Sqaure

The bottom half of Prague's Wenceslas Square will be permanently
changed into a pedestrian only zone as of April 2nd. This, according to
an announcement made by Prague 1 mayor Oldrich Lomecky on Wednesday. As
of April, cars will be prohibited from both parking in and driving
through the lower half of the square as well as traversing through via
the intersecting Jindrisska road mid-square. Residents and delivery
vehicles will be excluded from the ban. Plans have reportedly been
underway for the last six months designing the pedestrianisation of the
square and should help pave the way for a long-planned revitalization
of the entire area. New traffic signs as well as a police presence will
serve to enforce the new ban, which will come in addition to a
March-November ban on all cars in the square on the first Sunday of
every month.

Students plan week of protests over planned university reforms

Thousands of students are expected to march next Wednesday in protest
against planned university reforms by the Ministry of Education. The
week of protests is scheduled to take place between February 26th and
March 2nd across the country and will include debates, theatrical
presentations and other attention-grabbing displays. According to Jan
Gruber, a member of the "Week of Protests" student initiative, the
proposed government reforms, which include the implementation of
controversial high school fees, threaten the autonomy of universities
in favour of political and economic elites. This, he argues, will lead
to falling standards of education for all. The protesters are seeking
that the reform proposals from Education Minister Josef Dobes are
significantly reworked.

Communists up by 3% in latest opinion poll

The Czech Communist Party has seen an uptick in support according to a
new poll from the CVVM agency. Other parties are either stagnating of
have seen slight falls in support. The Social Democrats retain the
largest support, with 32.5%, down from 34% in January. The Civic
Democrats remain at 23.5%, while the Communist Party reclaims its third
place mantle with 15.5%, a significant increase from last month's
12.5%. TOP 09, the only other party that would break the 5% threshold
required to hold seats in parliament fell from 15% to 14%. A continuing
trend sees the defeat of the current Civic Democrat-led government
replaced with one headed by the Social Democrats in a future
parliamentary election.

New moldavite museum for Cesky Krumlov

A new museum in the Czech town of Cesky Krumlov is to display a wide
array of moldavites. The unusual vitreous materials are likely formed
during meteor impacts around 15 million years ago. They are dark green
colour and are particularly common in central Bohemia. The museum,
which is set to open in 2013, has been aided by a five million crown
grant from the EU's Operational Fund. Presently, Cesky Krumlov, a
tourist hot-spot in southern Bohemia, is already home to eight separate
museums, reports CTK.


Overcast conditions continue across much of the Czech Republic, with
temperatures ranging from 3 to 6 degrees Celsius. Mild conditions are
set to continue, with temperatures up to 9 degrees Celsius on Thursday
and some showers in the east.

Articles posted on today

Czech MEP intervenes on Tymoshenko's behalf

Czech MEP Zuzana Roithova has confirmed that jailed former Ukrainian
prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has failed to receive adequate medical
attention and is in serious condition. The MEP travelled to Kiev last
Friday and was allowed to inspect medical records, which reportedly
showed a decision should have been taken on surgery regarding the
politician's lumbar spine.

Ambitious exhibition project "Other Air" brings surrealist art to Prague

Something is in the air in Prague's Old Town Hall: An exhibition titled
"Other Air" gives the public a chance to see both a retrospective of
Czech and Slovak surrealist art from the last two decades, as well as
surrealist works from renowned international artists. In addition, the
exhibition features a rich accompanying program with surrealist films
and readings and a bilingual catalogue with surrealists texts. The
ambitious project kicked off in February and will be running in the
Czech capital until April. We spoke to artist and member of the Czech
surrealists, Katerina Pinosova, about the exciting and unusual project.

Prague's "Rocket" TV Tower undergoes re-fuelling on 20th anniversary

In this week's Spotlight, we visit Prague's infamous TV tower and find
it in the middle of a major re-construction.

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