Tuesday, March 13, 2012

News 3.13.2012

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

News Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

By: Christian Falvey

* The police have accused the country's chief hygiene officer Michael
Vit of abuse of public office and manipulation of contract procurement.

* The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs plans to cut welfare
benefits by three billion crowns.

* An outgoing Constitutional Court judge has criticised government
reforms as socially insensitive and 'insane'.

* The detective agency ABL, which has been linked to the troubled
Public Affairs party, has changed its name to Mark2 Corporation.

* The number of births in the Czech Republic decreased in 2011, leading
statisticians to speak of a gradual dying out of the native population.

Chief hygiene officer accused of abuse of office

The police have accused the country's chief hygiene officer Michael Vit
of abuse of public office and breach of trust over alleged manipulation
of contract procurement for the Interior Ministry. According to the
police, Vit manipulated a tender for consultancy services for the
ministry. He allegedly placed the procurement with the husband of his
subordinate at the Health Ministry. Vladan Broz, from Transparency
International who filed a criminal complaint against Vit, said the
tender documents were manipulated. Michael Vit has rejected the
accusations. If his guilt is proven he could face up to ten years in

Labour ministry to cut welfare benefits by three billion

Welfare benefits will be three billion crowns lower than originally
planned due to budget cuts being considered by the coalition
government. Labour Minister Jaromir Drabek told journalists on Tuesday
that the three billion could be saved by strict checks on whether all
necessary conditions for benefits were being met, and by preventing
unemployment benefits from being misused. With the ministry looking to
cut a total 3.8 billion crowns from its budget this year, Mr Drabek
also said he plans to lower operational costs and money earmarked for
IT. The government is planning further austerity measures in order to
adhere to the planned state budget deficit amid a worsening economic

Labour Minister gave bonuses of more than one million crowns

In related news, the news website Lidovky.cz has revealed that Labour
Minister Drabek has given more bonuses to his employees than any other
minister, with one deputy rewarded with over one million crowns. In an
interview with the site, Mr Drabek said he was an advocate of adequate
remuneration. At least seven of the bonuses exceeded 100,000 crowns,
with one post-bonus package amounting to 187,000 per month, or more
than the salary of the prime minister. Drabek said he stood by the
bonuses, emphasising that his ministry implemented fundamental reforms
last year and saved the state nearly a billion crowns.

Constitutional judge criticises government reforms as socially
insensitive and insane

Outgoing deputy chair of the Constitutional Court Eliska Wagnerova has
harshly criticised government reforms as insane and socially
insensitive. In an interview for the daily Pravo Judge Wagnerova went
on to say that she did not want to live in such a country. Prime
Minister Petr Necas responded to the comments severely, saying the
judge's last day on March 21 would be a holiday for Czech democracy,
adding that the Constitutional Court is not meant to be another chamber
of Parliament. The Constitutional Court is currently adjudicating on
some of the government's reform laws at the behest of the opposition
Social Democratic Party.

ABL changes name to Mark2 Corporation

The detective agency ABL, which has been linked to the troubled Public
Affairs party, has changed its name to Mark2 Corporation. The move
comes a few days after the company featured prominently in the
corruption trial of its founder, Public Affairs leader Vit Barta. Mr
Barta sold the company to his brother Matej upon the party's election
to Parliament in 2010. The website Lidovky.cz reports that Matej Barta
has stepped down, informing employees that he will now head the
company's supervisory board. In addition to drawing negative attention
for numerous personnel connections with the junior coalition party, ABL
also came under fire last year for conducting surveillance of certain
Prague politicians.

Czechs statistically "dying out"

The number of births in the Czech Republic decreased in 2011 while the
number of deaths remained the same, leading statisticians to speak of a
gradual dying out of the native population. Compared to the census
results of 2010, the population of the Czech Republic shrank last year
by roughly 30,000. The comparison also marks a definitive end of the
baby boom of the last decade, which peaked in 2008. Last year��s decline
in the number of newborn children was markedly higher than in the
previous two years together. Immigration, mostly from Slovakia, Russia
and Ukraine, made up 90 percent of the overall population growth in

Jordanian minister in Prague meets with Czech officials

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg met with his Jordanian
counterpart, Nasser Judeh, in Prague on Tuesday. The two discussed the
situation in Syria, with the Jordanian minister demanding the violence
be stopped and humanitarian aid provided the citizens. Mr Schwarzenberg
holds the position that Syrians should be protected from the regime,
but the international community should not enter the conflict
militarily. Mr Schwarzenberg also praised reform measures that the
Jordanian government is undertaking, while Mr Judeh mentioned the
importance of the late president Vaclav Havel. Nasser Judeh is also set
to meet with President Klaus on Tuesday .

Bratislava now wealthier than Prague

Bratislava has overtaken Prague as the richest region of the
post-Soviet EU countries. According to the latest statistics from
Brussels, Bratislava rose four places in 2009 to fifth place on the
EU-wide list, while Prague dropped to seventh place. Eurostat shows
central London as being by far the most wealthy region of the EU, with
per capita GDP of 332% of the EU average. The poorest regions were in
the Balkans and in Poland.

Poll: majority has confidence in high court system

A majority of Czechs have confidence in the country's high court
institutions, according to a poll by the STEM agency. The Supreme Court
enjoys the highest trust, at 64%, followed closely by the
Constitutional Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. The results
nonetheless mark a significant fall of about 10 points from 2005.
Meanwhile previous surveys by STEM have suggested that only about a
third of people in the Czech Republic trust the objectivity of judges
in general, and a majority have indicated they are unsatisfied with the
performance of lower-instance courts.

Social Democrats propose bill restricting presidential pardons

Opposition Social Democrats have proposed a bill to restrict
presidential pardons. Responding to a series of questionable pardons in
recent months, the proposed constitutional amendment requires that the
president receive the countersignature of the prime minister or other
cabinet member in order to mitigate a punishment. The bill will now be
reviewed by the government. The Social Democrats made an unsuccessful
push for such countersignatures in the amendment on direct presidential
elections. The party has asked the president's office for explanations
of a number of controversial pardons, particularly regarding two recent
ones that are being investigated by the police.


Currently cloudy conditions are expected to gradually improve over the
coming days, with daytime highs in the low teens Celsius.

Articles posted on www.radio.cz today

Government officials at odds over country's export strategy

Two Czech ministers have clashed over how the government should support
the country's exports. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose
office has put a lot of effort into promoting Czech businesses abroad,
dismissed a new export strategy designed by the Industry and Trade
Ministry. In spite of the squabbles, however, the government's support
for exporters is bearing fruit: Czech exports have reached record
levels and are a major driving force behind the Czech economic recovery.


Facebook opens up new ways of communication to senior citizens

For the majority of younger people today, life without social media is
unimaginable. Posting pictures and videos, sharing the latest news and
keeping on top of events -many aspects of daily life take place on
sites like Facebook or Twitter. But do senior citizens use this new
technology, and if so, for what? We went along to a social media course
at Prague's Elpida center for the elderly.


Sample of mysterious silver treasure goes on display in Prague City

Prague City Museum recently put on display a part of the biggest silver
treasure ever found in the country. Visitors are able to admire just a
fraction of the vast depot of nearly half a ton of silver jewelry,
tableware, goblets, coins as well as raw silver, which was hidden in a
Prague building some time after the end of WWII. The museum is now
trying to find out who hid such a huge treasure, only discovered by
accident roughly three years ago.


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