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.
Armenian armed forces to get new modern arms. Russia grants $200 mln loan to Armenia to help modernise army
Turkish Cypriot President Akinci says he feels the ongoing negotiations over the divided island of Cyprus may be concluded soon
Muslim leaders in Uganda have blamed police for not protecting Muslim imams.
According to new data from the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), shows nearly 30 journalists were murdered in criminal acts outside war zones (especially in Latin America, Philippines and India)
Gas row between Russia and Ukraine flares up again with Russia and Ukraine trading words over decentralization of Donbass
Navy Yard spokesman says no casualties, no shooter spotted at Washington Navy Yard.
The German Chancellor's chief of staff has requested a meeting with US embassy over spying reports
The French President Francois Hollande has visited Benin to discuss the Boko Haram
The UNHCR has condemned the plan of the the Hungarian parliament to vote on Friday whether the planned change to asylum rules can be decided on a fast-track basis
Bulldozers backed by Israeli forced their way into al-Araqib village in Negev Desert
According to the Iraqi forces 90 percent of the district has been cleared and the remaining areas will be done in the coming hours
BBC director general says they need to save £50 million more every year
Activists say flotilla's interception by Israel will not stop them from making further attempts to break siege
Latino Muslims are considered to be one of the fastest growing segments of Islam in the U.S., according to PBS.
Chinese foreign ministery says in a statement China pays great attention to the Iran nuclear talks process and attends nuclear talks in Vienna.