Around 200 Czech sugar beet growers protested outside the German and British embassies in Prague on Wednesday against plans by the Anglo-German sugar refining giant Eastern Sugar to close its central European plants. Czech sugar beet growers say Eastern Sugar's closure plans will affect 22.5 percent of the country's EU-set sugar production quota in a single stroke. About 20 percent of the country's 900 sugar beet farmers fear their market will disappear. The chairman of the association of sugar beet growers of Moravia and Silesia, Josef Uchytil, says the Czech Republic is likely to be turned into a net sugar importer because of the changes.
Czech ice-hockey star Jaromir Jagr has set a new National Hockey League record for goals by a European player. The Kladno-born forward scored twice in his New York Rangers 4-0 win over Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Jagr, who is 34, became the 16th player in NHL history to score 600 goals on Sunday and his two goals moved him to 602 for his career.
The Prague High Court has sentenced David Lubina, found guilty of the murder of a TV technician, to 25 years in prison. A lower instance court sentenced Mr Lubina to 23 years in jail earlier this year but the state prosecutor demanded a tougher sentence. In September 2005, David Lubina shot dead TV Nova editor Michal Velisek in Prague after Mr Velisek tried to defend a woman that David Lubina was threatening.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has launched a new round of talks on forming a government that would end a five-month parliamentary stalemate and move the country towards early elections. After appointed PM for a second time, Mr Topolanek, chairman of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, is now looking to form a broad coalition with his party's rivals the Social Democrats, the centrist Christian Democrats, and possibly the Green Party. The Social Democrats, who have lost ground in opinion polls, do not want elections until 2008 at the earliest. The Greens, on the other hand, support a spring 2007 vote.
The Czech Republic plans to send a barrel of beer to Brussels as an "extraordinary ambassador" to show its opposition to a proposed rise in EU alcohol taxes. The Czech Republic, the world's biggest beer-drinking nation per capita, is opposed to a 31 percent rise in the minimum EU duty on beer and spirits proposed last month by the European Commission. The rise, which needs the unanimous approval of the EU's 25 member states, would add one euro cent to the price of a half litre of beer. According to Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty, who will head to Brussels alongside the barrel for a meeting of EU finance ministers, the Czech Republic is prepared to veto the proposed tax rise.
The government has decided that the chief of the military office of the Czech President, Vlastimil Picek, will replace Pavel Stefka in the post of chief of staff as of next March when General Stefka's term of office expires. The nomination has yet to be approved by President Vaclav Klaus who is also commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces.
The building of the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly near Prague's Wenceslas Square has been conveyed from the ownership of the Finance Ministry to the Culture Ministry. The government approved the transfer on Wednesday. The steel-and-glass building which now houses Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will in future serve as a depository for the nearby National Museum. According to Culture Minister Martin Stepanek, with its 3,000 square metres of exhibition space, the building could eventually become part of the museum.
A state attorney has stopped the prosecution of a police officer who was accused of beating up Green Party deputy Katerina Jacques during an anti-Nazi May Day protest. Mrs. Jacques was arrested in a skirmish after ignoring a police order to keep at a distance from a skinhead march. Mrs. Jacques said she was attacked and beaten for no reason and the officer in question, Tomas Cermak, was sacked and charged with abuse of public office. State Attorney Michal Zachystal on Monday shelved the case saying there were insufficient grounds for prosecution and that Cermak had proceeded in line with police regulations when performing the arrest. Mrs. Jacques said she would appeal.
Czech rival parties are making known their stands on early elections, ahead of this weeks government talks led by the Civic Democrats. The Green Party which had been pushing for early elections in 2007 on Tuesday softened its stand, saying that it would accept early elections in the spring of 2008 at the latest. Party leader Martin Bursik said that his party considered a shortened government mandate to be a top priority and only if that were satisfactory would he be prepared to discuss the division of power in the new coalition cabinet.
A secondary school in Prague has been forced to remove surveillance cameras from classrooms after students protested against invasion of privacy. The Josef Skvorecky Literary Academy had cameras installed all over the premises allegedly for security reasons, to prevent bullying and vandalism. The move evoked a storm of protests from both students and parents who said that cameras in the classroom were an unacceptable invasion of privacy. The Office for Protection of Private Data and the Ombudsman backed the protests, especially when it emerged that the school intended to keep the recordings for a certain period of time.
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