Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has sharply criticised the European Union for deciding to no longer invite Cuban dissidents to receptions at EU states' embassies in Havana. The EU has reportedly adopted this position so as to facilitate increased dialogue with the Cuban authorities. However, in an article in France's Le Figaro newspaper Mr Havel described the EU's stance as "diplomatic apartheid". He said the Union could not have found a better way of tarnishing the ideals of freedom and respect for human rights.
The 12th annual Days of European Cinema film festival has just got underway in Prague. It opened on Thursday night with a screening of the Hungarian film Kontroll, attended by the producer and two of the film's stars. After it ends in the capital on February 6, the festival moves on to the Czech Republic's second city Brno.
Several Czech MPs are calling for an end to the anonymity enjoyed by people who use pay-as-you-go mobile telephones with pre-paid cards. They say such anonymity makes it harder for the police to monitor criminals, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Friday. However, around three-quarters of the Czech Republic's mobile phones use unregistered pre-paid cards, and some mobile operators say they do not believe politicians would take the radical step of banning them.
A special lower house commission says the Czech Republic made several mistakes which led to the country having to pay out ten billion crowns (over 400 million US dollars) in an arbitration case; the Czech state was fined after being found guilty of not protecting the investment of a US company in TV Nova. Commission head Stanislav Krecek said it would be up to the state prosecutor to decide whether any charges were filed in connection with the costly mistakes.
The Czech ice hockey legend Ivan Hlinka was breaking the speed limit when he was involved in a fatal accident last year, according to a report quoted in Friday's Mlada fronta Dnes. Mr Hlinka was going around 160 km an hour when the accident occurred. An earlier judgment in which the driver of the lorry he crashed into was deemed responsible may now be amended or quashed, the daily said.
Vodickova Street in the centre of Prague has been closed after the pavement collapsed on Thursday while repair work was underway. Two workers fell into the hole, with one of them sustaining serious injuries to his spine. Officials say the street is likely to be closed to traffic for at least two weeks.
The ruling Social Democratic Party is preparing for an important conference this weekend, with the party's future policy direction up for debate. Chairman Stanislav Gross and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka are reportedly in favour of a more centrist approach. Meanwhile, Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach is calling on the Social Democrats to stick to their traditional socialist principles. The Social Democrats lost European Parliament, Senate and regional elections last year, and currently have around 14 percent voter support.
Three Czech women have protested about being featured in a newspaper photograph illustrating a story on growing obesity in Brazil. The New York Times took a photo of the women on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro without their permission, giving the impression they were Brazilians. One of the three, Milena Suchoparkova, who is 59, said she had always been robust but would not describe herself as obese.
The Czech Finance Minister, Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, has issued a more optimistic forecast for the country's economy in 2005, predicting growth of 3.8 percent over earlier forecasts of 3.6 percent. A cut in taxes paid by lower and middle-earning groups planned by the ruling Social Democrat party should drive the economy's growth, Mr Sobotka told journalists. The central bank, Czech National Bank, predicts that the Czech economy will grow by 3.2 to 4.4 percent.