Wednesday, March 21, 2012

News 3.21.2012

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

News Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

By: Christian Falvey

* The ABL detective agency obtained wiretap recordings of the mayor of
Prague in 2009, according to the daily Mlada fronta Dnes.

* The Czech embassy in Syria will remain open and may offer services to
other EU states.

* The lower house has passed the new postal service act, which will
remove the last monopoly from the state-run Ceska posta.

* Medical practitioners and patients are will protest government
reforms in Prague on March 27.

* In ice-hockey, Pardubice beat Vitkovice in the play-offs'
quarterfinals and booked a spot in the last four.

MF Dnes: ABL obtained recorded calls between Bem and lobbyist

The ABL detective agency obtained wiretap recordings of the mayor of
Prague in 2009, according to the daily Mlada fronta Dnes. The paper
says that the phone calls were made between then mayor Pavel Bem and
lobbyist Roman Janousek in 2007 and were later acquired from the state
intelligence agency BIS while leading Public Affairs member Vit Barta
was at the head of ABL. According to Mlada fronta, the recordings show
that Mr Janousek was involved in making key decisions about city
zoning, the sale of land and the city's personnel policy. BIS has
denied involvement with the recordings. ABL has previously been accused
of monitoring Prague politicians and of being closely linked to the
junior coalition party Public Affairs. The legislative intelligence
service committee is investigating the situation.

Czech embassy in Syria may offer services to other EU states

The Czech Republic will not be closing its embassy in Syria, and is
instead considering offering its services to other EU states that have
closed their own embassies due to the worsening security situation in
the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that the range of
services will depend on the embassy's personnel and technical
capacities and on interest among EU countries. On Wednesday Slovakia
became the latest of the seven EU countries that have closed their
embassies in Damascus, where clashes between the army and insurgents
have occurred in recent days. The ministry says the embassy is an
essential source of objective information on developments in Syria and
serves some 200 Czechs in the country.

Czech charities readying aid for Syrians

Charita CR has announced it is collecting money for food and material
aid for people in the restive area of Syria and for refugees who have
been forced to leave the country. The organisation says it is working
with a partner who cannot be named for security is distributing the
materials locally. The People in Need Foundation has also freed money
from its crisis fund and has been aiding an underground network of
medical workers since January. The humanitarian organisation ADRA is
also working on an aid project. According to the UN more than 8,000
people have been killed in fighting in Syria since last March.

Lower house passes new postal service act

The Chamber of Deputies has passed the new postal service act, which
will remove the last monopoly from the state-run Ceska posta. Ceska
posta is currently the only service able to deliver packages of less
than 50 grams, meaning primarily letters and postcards, which amount to
one third of the postal market. EU legislation accepted by the Czech
Republic requires that postal services be liberalised. The bill gives
Ceska posta a postal licence until 2017, after which time a selection
procedure will be held. Disputes have arisen regarding the requirement
that other market players compensate for the state company's losses
after that time. The industry association has warned of major lawsuits
if the bill goes ahead in its current form.

Patients plan protest against health care reforms

An association of medical patients is organising a protest against
government reforms in front of the Ministry of Health in Prague on
March 27. The association announced the protest on Wednesday, saying
the reforms will impoverish patients and demanding the cancelation of
doctors' fees and the resignation of the government. The protest is
supported by the Chamber of Doctors and is being organised by the
council for disabled persons, health care unions and the ProAlt
initiative. Three reform measures are to take effect on April 1. The
association believes they will cause problems with medicines, health
care aid and medical availability.

Czech government survives no-confidence vote

The Czech centre-right government survived a vote of no-confidence in
the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday night. The opposition Social
Democrats, who tabled the motion, criticized the government for what
they see a series of ill-conceived government steps, such as the health
care and pension reform, as the reason; however, the opposition did not
manage to get enough votes to oust the cabinet led by Prime Minister
Petr Necas which could rely on the support of all coalition MPs. Social
Democrat leader, Bohuslav Sobotka said however his party would try to
topple the coalition government again.

Zeman launches petition for presidential candidacy

Former prime minister Milos Zeman has launched a petition for his
presidential candidacy. The honorary chairman of the Party of Citizens'
Rights - Zemanovci (SPOZ) will address voters by sending them a flyer
with his life story. The party is aiming to collect 50,000 signatures
as required for presidential candidates. Party leader Vratislav Mynar
says that students will be the main engine of the petition campaign,
with 80 having signed on already as volunteers. Zeman, who is 67, is
the third most popular candidate at the moment according to latest
polls, with 10.2 percent.

Government agrees to rename airport after Havel

The Czech government has agreed with the proposal to rename the
international airport in Prague after former president Vaclav Havel, a
government source told the Czech Press Agency. On Tuesday, Transport
Minister Pavel Dobes said the airport could be renamed in October. The
idea, proposed by film director Fero Fenic, drew many supporters
shortly Havel's death on December 18, 2011. Mr Dobes also presented a
new logotype for the airport on Wednesday, but he would not yet show it
to the media.

Activists protest imprisonment of Gao Zhisheng and Falun Gong members

A group of Czech activists gave a letter to the Chinese embassy in
Prague on Wednesday, demanding that lawyer Gao Zhisheng and followers
of the Falun Gong spiritual movement be released from prison. The
letter was signed by Czech pop singers Marta Kubisova and Dan Barta,
writer Jachym Topol and senators Alena Paleckova and Tomas Grulich,
among others. Gao Zhisheng is one of the most significant human rights
advocates in China, known as defence lawyer for farmers from whom the
state took their land and children harmed in state-run hospitals. He
was sentenced to three years in prison in 2011. A protest against the
imprisonment of Gao and Galun Gong members was held outside the embassy
in January.

Hockey: Pardubice advances to playoffs semifinals

In the Czech hockey league play-offs, Pardubice on Tuesday night beat
Vitkovice 5:4 in the dramatic last game of the quarterfinal
best-of-seven series. Vitkovice went ahead twice in the game but
Pardubice always managed to equalize, the last time with just 31
seconds before the end of the third period. In the extra time, it took
the five-fold league champions Pardubice less than a minute to score
the winning goal when forward Tomas Rakos found the net with a
beautiful shot just off the blue line.

On Wednesday, Zlin is playing Plzen for the remaining spot in the
league semifinals; Kometa Brno and Liberec had booked their places


Clear skies and spring-like temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius
are expected to continue over the coming days; meteorologists promise
daytime highs will not go below 10 degrees.

Articles posted on today
Cycle path shows the hidden side of Zizkov

The rumbling railroad track that used to pass through Zizkov in Prague
was completely natural to the gritty-but-chic image of the 19th century
proletariat quarter. The main western entrance to Zizkov was arched by
three foreboding railway bridges, and the noisy, spray-painted cars
passed alongside Vitkov hill to the cargo station. Four years ago the
trains were still rattling the plaster off that lower end of the
neighbourhood, just as they had been since the late Industrial
Revolution, and then the route was cancelled for a higher-capacity
End of an era for Czech Constitutional Court?

The vice-president of the Czech Constitutional Court, and one of its
most distinct judges, Eliska Wagnerova retired on Tuesday as her
ten-year term expired. Dubbed the Queen of Dissent, Justice Wagnerova
left a deep mark on the top Czech court. She was behind some of the
court's crucial rulings, including that on the EU's Lisbon treaty, and
unwaveringly stood up to political pressure. Radio Prague asked Prof.
Jiri Priban from Cardiff Law School whether her departure marks the end
of an era for the highest court in the land.
Concert, screening at Prague's Lucerna to mark day against racism

March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination and to mark the occasion organisers from Opona, a
non-profit NGO, have helped put together an exhibition, screening and
concert to take place on Wednesday afternoon and evening at Prague's
Lucerna. Several notable Czech artists, including Ester Kocickova Xindl
X, and the Tap Tap are taking part.

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