The American actress Sharon Stone was among the Hollywood stars on hand this Friday night for "A-list" celebrations ahead of the official opening of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The festival, which takes place in the famous Bohemian spa town, is now in its 40th year. Ms Stone received the festival's Crystal Globe award for her contribution to world cinema. Also honoured was the Czech director Jiri Krejcik, aged 78, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Other big name celebrities invited to Karlovy Vary this year include Robert Redford, the founder of the independent Sundance film festival, and Ingmar Bergman's favourite actress, Liv Ulmann, who is now a director in her own right.
Several Social Democrat deputies serving on Parliament's defence committee are pushing for the Czech army's 1 billion dollar tender for the purchase of armoured personnel carriers—now underway—to be revised. The tender, agreed by the Cabinet in April, is the largest in the army's history. Social Democrat MPs Radek Turek and Antonin Seda are among those calling for the share of domestic Czech participation in any contract to be 40 percent or higher. The current tender sets that minimum at 25 percent. Formal bids to outfit the army with some 230 NATO-standard compatible armoured personnel carriers are now due at the Ministry of Defence by mid-July. But industry analysts say the deadline will need to be extended by a month or more, if the ruling Social Democrats succeed in changing the tender's conditions.
Two separate accidents along the main highway from the northern Bohemian city of Liberec to the Czech capital, Prague, tied up traffic for hours on Saturday. Several people received minor injuries in both accidents, which together involved a dozen cars. The accidents also caused complications for the organisers of the Skoda Auto "Ralleye Bohemia", an annual racing event in and around the city of Mlada Boleslav, home to the Skoda carmaker. Later in the day, a car competiting in the race crossed over a barrier and struck three spectators.
The English football club Fulham has confirmed it is looking to sign Sparta Prague striker Tomas Jun, the leading scorer in the Czech top-flight last season. The 22-year-old Czech international is believed to be valued at £2.7million. A representative for Jun told Sky Sports that discussions were still underway, with no official bid yet on the table.
A comprehensive economic analysis of the questionable leasing of Czech state-owned property in Moscow a decade ago has finally been completed. State attorney Zbynek Podlipny said the results of the analysis show that the Cesky Dum (Czech House) in Russia had been rented to a private Czech company for less than two-thirds the market rate at the time. The analysis also shows that the accounting books had likely been altered after the contract was signed, in order to obscure the 14-million crown annual loss to the Czech state. Three foreign ministry officials are now being prosecuted in connection to the Cesky Dum case and face 5 to 12 years in prison. The most senior of the three, former foreign ministry general secretary Karel Srba, is already serving an 8-year prison sentence for contracting the murder of the Mlada fronta Dnes journalist who first exposed the dubious contract. The plot to kill reporter Sabina Slonkova was foiled after the man hired to kill her went to the police.
Thee government ministers and former prime minister Stanislav Gross are among politicians who have so far failed to declare auxiliary income and donations for 2004. The deadline, set by legislation on conflict of interest, is set for July 1st. The government ministers who failed to hand in declarations on Friday include Education Minister Petra Buzkova, Trade Minister Milan Urban, and Health Minister Milada Emmerova. There are no sanctions for the failure to meet the deadline: the Constitutional Court recently struck down a fine for those who failed to declare additional earnings in time, of around 30, 000 crowns, the equivalent of about 1,200 dollars US.
Two out of six new Swedish Gripen jets, patrolling Czech air space,
were used in training flights on Friday. In May the Gripens replaced
the Czech military's Soviet-made MiG-21s, in use in the Czech Republic
(and former Czechoslovakia) since the early 1970s. The Air Force has
said two Gripen jets will routinely alternate on 24-hour alert: either
on the airfield or in training flights. Momentarily the Czech air force
has eight trained pilots capable of operatating the Gripens. There will
be an additional thirteen.
Over the next ten years the Czech Republic will pay 19.6 billion crowns, around 800 million US dollars, for the lease of a total of fourteen Gripen jets. The Czech air force is due to receive additional planes next month.
The Finance Ministry has revealed that the Czech state budget has shown a surplus for the first half of 2005, a total of 3.7 billion crowns. The result was unexpected, the first time the state budget has been in H1 surplus since 1998. The Finance Ministry has attributed the result to fast growing revenues and lower spending.
The president's spokesman Petr Hajek has revealed that in a letter President Vaclav Klaus has called on other top constitutional officials and the heads of all five parties in Parliament to conduct a "serious" discussion on the European Union and its future. Mr Klaus has made clear he would welcome a meeting with the prime minister, the heads of both houses of Parliament, and party chairmen, as soon as possible - during the summer months. The impetus behind Mr Klaus' initiative are apparently the recent "No" votes in the French and Dutch referendums, as well as a breakdown in negotiations on the EU's future budget at the union's most recent summit in Brussels.
Four Czech university students have received recognition for their work in an essay competition on the subject of Turkey and the European Union. Prizes were awarded at the Turkish ambassador's residence in Prague by the Turkish ambassador, Sabri Cenk Duatepe and by euro MP Jan Zahradil. The first prize in the competition went to Petr Preclik, a student of international relations at Brno's Masaryk University, who is said to have addressed questions of identity and cultural shift towards Turkey and the Balkan states.
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Czechs drinking less beer
Picturesque South Bohemian border town lands national award
Former US ambassador to Prague, William Luers, on what it was like to serve in Communist Czechoslovakia