Wednesday, January 30, 2013

News 1.30.2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

By: Jan Velinger

* The Senate has passed a bill legalising the use of marijuana for
medical purposes.

* The Prague High Court has sentenced former City Police chief Vladimir
Kotrous to five-and-a-half years in prison.

* The Czech Republic is considering providing military equipment and
training in conflict-stricken Mali.

* Outgoing President Vaclav Klaus is weighing the possibility of a post
within the structure of the European Union, daily Lidove noviny reports.

* The Office for Personal Data Protection has said the Ministry for
Labour and Social Affairs has until the end of June to correct mistakes
made in the S-Card system.

Senate passes medical marijuana bill

A bill legalising the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been
passed by the Czech Senate, and can take effect after being signed by
the president; 67 of 74 senators present on Wednesday voted in favour
of the legislation. Medical cannabis has been shown to be effective in
alleviating symptoms of diseases ranging from cancer to Parkinson's
disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Patients
will be able to purchase medical marijuana with an electronic doctor's
prescription. Critics of the bill had charged that many patients would
not be able to afford legalised marijuana unless the price was at least
partially covered by public health insurance, which insurers opposed.
According to some estimates, some patients could pay up to 10,000
crowns a month.

High court sentences former police chief to five-and-and-a-half years
in jail

The Prague High Court has sentenced former Prague City Police chief
Vladimir Kotrous to five-and-and-a-half years in prison, lowering his
original six-year sentence. In addition, the court ruled that Mr
Kotrous was banned from working in any of the security forces for five
years and will also have to pay a 400,000 crown fine. The former police
chief was arrested with a 150,000 crown bribe on his person last year,
which he admitted to; the prosecution charged that he had asked for an
overall sum of one million. Mr Kotrous said that his family's
unforeseen financial difficulties had led him to break the law.

Czech government may help in EU training mission in Mali

The Czech government is considering equipping and training a Malian
army battalion within a possible EU mission, Prime Minister Petr Necas
said on Wednesday, after the cabinet session. He added that Prague was
primarily negotiating the possibility with France, which put boots on
the ground in Mali after Islamist militants were said to be threatening
the south of the country. Great Britain is to send 330 troops to help.
Sending Czech military instructors would require the consent of not
only of the Czech government but also of Parliament. Prague is
considering not only providing military expertise and equipment but has
made clear it will send an additional three million crowns to Mali in
humanitarian aid.

Outgoing president setting sights on EU post?

Outgoing President Vaclav Klaus, who steps down in a little over a
month, is weighing the possibility of a post within the structure of
the European Union, Czech daily Lidove noviny reports. According to the
newspaper, citing an anonymous source close to the president, there is
a possibility the former head-of-state would even be "satisfied" with
the post of euro MP, noting elections to the European Parliament are
scheduled for next spring, enough time for Mr Klaus to launch a new
party to back his bid. Mr Klaus is widely-regarded as a staunch
eurosceptic opposed to further federalisation; any new party formed by
him would be expected to have a strong anti-federalist platform.
Several highly-placed members of the Civic Democratic Party that he
once headed, meanwhile, expressed support for the outgoing president
continuing in politics. One of Mr Klaus' closest advisors, Ladislav
Jakl, told the daily he had no information about the president's plans.

Ministry will have to make changes to S-Card system

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has until the end of June to
correct mistakes made in the S-Card system, namely breaking the law on
personal data protection, the Office for Personal Data Protection
revealed on Wednesday. Either the system, which streamlines social
benefits and welfare payments, would have to be shelved by the ministry
or the current situation would have to be approved in the Chamber of
Deputies, the head of the Office for Data Protection Igor Nemec
announced. The office head explained that the ministry broke the law by
sharing client information with the bank Ceska sporitelna which
administers the S-Card system. The bureau has launched proceedings
which could lead to the ministry being fined up to 10 million crowns.
The prime minister, Petr Necas, said in response that he had expected
the tough stance by the bureau, stressing that the ministry would have
to quickly prepare legislative changes. He is planning to meet with the
minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Ludmila Mullerova of TOP 09,
saying he expected her to have concrete plans on how to move forward.

Regional councillor for education resigns

The councillor for education in the region of South Bohemia, the
Communist Party's Vitezslava Baborova, stepped down on Wednesday
sending a letter of resignation to regional governor Jiri Zimola. Mrs
Baborova explained in the letter that she was resigning for health
reasons. Her decision will come into effect on February 3. The
politician, as a member of the Communist Party, was strongly opposed by
students and other activists who waged a public campaign against her
instatement. The regional governor has declined to discuss possible

Schwarzenberg team disbands

Members of the campaign team of presidential candidate Karel
Schwarzenberg (who finished second in the recent presidential election)
have revealed they will not attempt to found a new political platform.
Spokesman Marek Prazak said the campaign team had had one goal which
was to try and get its candidate elected. He made clear that members
respected the results, despite a thin line, in the team's view, walked
by their rivals regarding some statements in the final weeks of the
campaign. Mr Prazak called on supporters to push for greater decency in
Czech politics. In the runoff election last weekend, Mr Schwarzenberg
earned more than 2.2 million votes - not enough to beat fellow
candidate Milos Zeman who received roughly 500,000 more.

Property tax deadline looms

Just two days remain for individuals in the Czech Republic who bought
property last year, or made substantial renovations such as adding a
garage, to file their property tax. Other property owners do not have
to meet the January deadline and can wait to receive notification from
the tax office. The property tax was raised from three to four percent
as of 2013 - part of the government's measures to generate more
revenue, complementing existing austerity measures.

Poll: Social Democrats would win election easily, support for TOP 09

In related news, a new poll by the CVVM agency suggests that support
for governing coalition member TOP 09, headed by Mr Schwarzenberg,
doubled during the presidential elections, jumping from a single-digit
to double figures. Support for the centre-right party would rank at 16
percent if elections were held today, mirroring the results of the
actual 2010 Parliamentary election when the party received 16.7
percent. The opposition Social Democrats also improved on recent polls
and would win the election with 38 percent of the vote. The Communists
would come second with 17.5 percent and the ruling Civic Democrats last
with 13 percent. According to the survey, no other party would pass the
five percent threshold to make it into the Chamber of Deputies.

Poll suggests 46 percent happier with current system than with former

According to a new survey by the STEM polling agency, 46 percent of
Czechs (down from 53 percent a year ago) say the current democratic
system is better than the former Communist regime in Czechoslovakia
before 1989. One-third survey said the opposite was true, while 22
percent said the two systems measured up almost the same. STEM has run
the poll annually since 1992. That year, the highest number - 69
percent - said they said the current system was better. More than 1,100
people over the age of 18 took part in the survey which was conducted
from January 4-11.


Rainy weather is expected in the coming days, with temperatures due to
reach up to 6 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Government's bill on tourism to introduce structure to Czech
destinations' marketing

The Czech Republic is struggling to maintain its position on the global
tourist market. With some 8.7 million visitors in 2011, the country
ranks below other destinations in central and Eastern Europe, such as
Austria, Poland and Hungary. What's more, most tourists rarely venture
outside Prague during their relatively short stays. The government says
this is partly because the country's travel industry lacks a clear
structure when it comes to marketing and promotion. To address the
issue, it has come up with a new bill on tourism.

TOP 09 demand opens fresh fissure in weak coalition

Within hours of being elected president, Milos Zeman called for early
parliamentary elections, leading to speculation about the chances of
Petr Necas's right-of-centre coalition serving its full term. Now the
embattled prime minister is coming under pressure from within: TOP 09,
perhaps buoyed by their chairman's showing in the presidential vote, on
Tuesday issued a demand that opens a fresh fissure in the government.

Nerve-wracking weeks ahead for Pardubice as decontamination work starts

Residents of the east Bohemian city of Pardubice could be in for an
eventful few weeks, as workmen begin the delicate task of
decontaminating an area surrounding the local Paramo oil refinery. The
work itself would normally be fairly run-of-the-mill, except for the
fact that there could be a number of unexploded bombs buried in the
ground from the Second World War.

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