The head of the Finnish parliament and the Social Democratic Party of Finland, Paavo Lipponen, visited the Czech Republic on Saturday. He came mainly to express support to the ruling Czech Social Democrats before elections to the European Parliament due to take place later this year. Mr. Lipponen, who is seen as a potential new chairman of the European Commission, spoke about the need to reform European economy and to implement a social and development model based on internal solidarity. He also called on small countries to defend their interests within the EU rather than wait for support from traditional stronger allies.
The Czech Centre in New York has opened an exhibition of manuscripts of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death. Dvorak lived in the United States between 1892 and 1895, mostly in New York. During that period, he composed his world-famous symphony From the New World. The celebrations of the Dvorak anniversary will culminate in March with a concert by the Czech Philharmonic in the Carnegie Hall and a performance of Dvorak's opera "Rusalka" in May.
A Czech airlines flight from Prague to Bratislava made an emergency landing shortly after the take-off on Friday. According to TV Prima, the cause was reportedly a crack in the cockpit window. This was the fifth case this year that a Czech airlines aircraft had to return to the airport or could not take off at all. The previous one occurred just the day before. The average age of the national carrier's fleet is nine years.
As of the second half of this year, drivers will have almost no chance to park their cars in the centre of Prague free of charge. The Prague City Hall is planning to introduce parking zones in districts 2, 3 and 7. Similar zones have already been in place in Prague 1. The main aim of the introduction of paid parking zones is to limit the volume of traffic in central Prague.
The special police unit for fighting corruption and economic crime have arrested a man suspected of illegal imports of fuels to the Czech Republic. The man allegedly smuggled over 200 truckloads of fuels to the country over the past six months using forged documents. The police said the damage amounts to over a 100 million crowns in unpaid customs duty.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has said Czechs do not pose a threat to the labour markets or social welfare systems of countries in the European Union. Mr Svoboda made the statement at a meeting of ambassadors from EU states and new EU states in Prague on Thursday. His words were particularly aimed at Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, which had promised free access to workers from new EU countries but are now imposing restrictions. Less than three months before the Czech Republic and nine other countries join the Union, only the United Kingdom and Ireland are promising new EU citizens complete freedom on their labour markets.
Mr Klaus has also called on the Czech Foreign Ministry to begin fresh talks with the Vatican on a treaty between the Czech Republic and the Holy See. The president said he would reject the current proposed inter-state agreement, as the Chamber of Deputies did last year. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Svoboda, who is a member of the Christian Democrats, said the minister was planning to put the current wording before parliament again.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed an amendment which defines domestic violence as a criminal act. Under the new law, perpetrators of domestic violence could receive up to eight years in prison. The president also signed a law on Friday allowing doctors, dentists and pharmacists from other European Union countries to work in the Czech Republic once the country joins the Union on May 1.
The regional court in the city of Olomouc, North Moravia, has quashed the verdict of a first instance court in the town of Jesenik, which in January gave suspended sentences to three youths for attacking a Roma couple in the town. The verdict at that time outraged human rights groups and Romany activists. The three youths burst into the couple's flat in Jesenik last June after saying they were policemen. The woman, who was pregnant at the time, was hit in the eye with a cobblestone, leaving her with permanent injuries. The Olomouc court has ruled that the woman's condition must be taken into account and ordered a retrial of the case.
A court in Prague has ruled that Dagmar Havlova, the sister-in-law of former Czech president Vaclav Havel, had not breached bankruptcy rules when she failed to provide information to facilitate a company sell-off. In 1999, Mrs Havlova bought part of Prague's Lucerna Palace from a company that was later forced to declare bankruptcy. The administrator of the company's assets asked Mrs Havlova to give him information and documents needed to dissolve and sell-off the company. She failed to do so and was taken to court.