Vol 2, No 9
6 March 2000
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
News Review for the Czech Republic
All the important news from the Czech Republic
since 26 February 2000
The US Report on Human Rights submitted annually by the State Department to the US Congress stated that the Czech government generally respects the human rights of its citizens but problems remain in several areas such as the work of the police and courts. Problems were also noted in the area of women's rights (the Czech Republic does not have any legal definition of sexual harassment, for example) and especially in the discrimination against Roma and the violence committed by skinheads. Czech skinheads have targeted Romani citizens, who are subject to widespread prejudice and suffer from social discrimination, insufficient political representation and difficult access to education. Czech police have occasionally failed to take sufficient action in cases of threats or attacks against Roma. However, as yet the Roma have been unable to unite behind a program or set of mechanisms to advance their interests within the democratic structures of the country.
The Chamber of Deputies sent the budget to a third reading thanks to the Opposition Agreement that exists between the ruling Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) and the main "opposition" Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Prime Minister Zeman promised that four of his cabinet ministers will be replaced (a condition the ODS stipulated) 48 hours after the final budget passes. Deputies attached more than 100 proposed changes to the legislation including re-allocation of CZK 2 billion mostly in education and health care. The final deficit, however, will remain at CZK 35 billion, compared to last year's CZK 31 billion.
The Czech Republic lost its first case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Court decided that the Czech Constitutional Court violated the right of fair trial during the court proceedings with restitution claimants over the Rakona factory. The Czech Republic is obliged to pay damages to complainants of more then CZK 10 million within 3 months.
The governor of the Czech Central Bank (ČNB), Josef Tošovský, and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Václav Klaus attacked each other on the pages of the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt this week. Tošovský, who served as interim Prime Minister after the collapse of Klaus's centre-right coalition in 1997, said in an interview that Klaus was waging a campaign against both him and the independence of the Central Bank. He complained that the ODS intends to propose changes to the amendment on the law on the ČNB. Klaus has said repeatedly that the Central Bank's tight monetary policy snuffed out economic growth in recent years, while ČNB officials have said that a lack of structural reforms during the Klaus government forced the ČNB to take strict measures. Tošovský stressed that politicians had to make up their mind whether they wanted to tamper with the currency and the independence of the Central Bank or respect European Union rules.
Austria's Erste Bank formally signed an agreement to purchase 52 percent of the state-held shares in Česká Spořitelna (Czech savings bank). The deal, approved by the Czech government and Erste Bank in February, calls for Erste to pay CZK 19 billion for the stake and to boost basic capital by CZK 4 billion within the next two years. Meanwhile, the Czech government has guaranteed potentially more than CZK 14.9 billion in doubtful assets of the loss-registering Česká Spořitelna, the country's second largest bank, in which most Czechs keep their household savings. Finance Minister Pavel Mertlík commented that the sale to Erste would bring necessary capital and know-how to Česka Spořitelna, which plays a significant role in the health of the economy. Mertlík has come under fire from opposition members in Parliament, who have demanded that he explain why the government agreed to guarantee so much of Spořitelna's non-performing debt, while negotiating only with Erste.
Former Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda and his adviser Barbora Snopková were released from detention, where they had spent almost 100 days. They are charged with embezzlement of some CZK 6.5 million in connection with the bankruptcy of the pram manufacturer Liberta, based in central Bohemia. The stay in prison inspired Svoboda, who suffered a nervous breakdown after being incarcerated, to draft amendments to the law on detention. The investigation is still continuing.
Police arrested the head of the extreme-right party National Alliance, Vladimír Skoupý, who had already been charged with propagating fascism. Skoupý was arrested while surrounded by some 30 skinheads, who were on their way to a planned demonstration against Communism outside the nearby headquarters of the opposition Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM).
The High Court has overruled a verdict in a compensation case filed by Fehim Hanuša, who was shot and seriously injured during a police raid in 1995. Hanuša was almost shot to death by police when he refused to be taken into detention on account of accusations of rape, which later proved to be false. The lower court, the decision of which has now been overturned, had previously ordered the Czech Interior Ministry to pay Hanuša CZK 300,000 in compensation for his injuries, claiming that the raid was unjustified.
Beata Struhárová, 6 March 2000
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