World Bulletin/News Desk
The Czech Republic is to return property seized from churches during the 1948-1989 communist era under legislation approved by its lower house of parliament on Friday, a major step towards ending years of wrangling over the fate of the assets.
Under a plan agreed by the ruling parties and 17 religious groups led by the Catholic church, the government intends to give back most confiscated assets, mainly land and buildings worth some $4 billion, plus about $2.8 billion in cash compensation split into 30 annual payments.
The plan may cause a one-off jump in the budget deficit of 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, the central bank has assessed, because all future payments would be accounted for immediately.
Prime Minister Petr Necas's centre-right government has impressed investors with its steps to narrow the budget deficit and plans to overhaul the pension, health and welfare systems.
But it nearly collapsed over the church restitution plan, a highly divisive decision in an era of tax increases and spending cuts needed to narrow the budget deficit.
The return of church property had been planned since the bloodless 1989 "Velvet Revolution".
But it had until now never won enough political support in the largely atheist central European country. The leftist opposition strongly opposed the measure, also citing severe economic headwinds.
The plan is likely to be vetoed by the upper house, the Senate, which is dominated by leftists, but the lower house can overturn the veto later this year.
The Prague cabinet has been shaky since it took power in mid-2010, beset by a string of internal disputes caused by corruption scandals, personality clashes and the demands of individual parties.
But it has survived due to a lack of alternative government alliances and the ruling parties' concern that an early election would hand power to the opposition.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that if Ukraine defaults, Russia will take a tough position against them, including defending any national interests.
Two people, including the senior transport officer in Mogadishu have been killed in a drive-by shooting.
Two provinces are now under state of emergency have clashes over a mining project turned violent.
After a campaign by teacher and student unions, the University of Helsinki has cancelled the G4S contract, followed by North Carolina also dropping their contract that provided security services in civic buildings which has now been replaced by a local company.
UN members have failed to agree on an atomic weapons ban for the Middle East.
China and Peru signed deals on Friday to cooperate on industrial production and transportation in an effort diversify a bilateral economic exchange that had been focused on natural resources.
US Senate has said that there will be no vote related to agencies telephone data collection until May 31.
A gunfight in western Mexico has killed 39 people in Mexico.
More than a quarter of French Africans feel discriminated against in their workplace in France.
The UN has said that it will investigate the firing of shots on its compound in South Sudan.
The Dutch government has agreed to introduce a partial ban on wearing the full face veil known as the niqab in public schools, hospitals, public transport and government offices. There are approximately between 200-500 women who wear the niqab in the country.
Protestors in Bosnia have demonstrated against the Morsi death penalty.
Germany and France have urged Greece to return to negotiations to complete a reform agreement before cash runs out.
The EU and the Ukraine have put in place a anti-corruption investigative team to handle misuse of EU funds for Kiev
The UN has expressed its shock over a Hungarian survey that has linked migrants and terrorism.