The new Czech minister for foreign affairs Karel Schwarzenberg has announced that a group of experts from the Czech interior ministry will go to the United States on February 1 to hold negotiations about technical measures that are necessary for a possible abolition of US visas for Czech citizens travelling to America. Mr Schwarzenberg held talks on the issue today with Paul Rosenzweig, assistant secretary for international affairs at the US Department of Homeland Security and says that negotiations lifting visa requirements for Czech citizens were developing positively. A proposal granting a visa exemption to the countries cooperating with the United States in the so-called war on terror is currently in the process of being submitted to the US House of representatives. It is thought that the Czech Republic may be one of the countries eligible for such a waiver.
Heavy snow in the Czech Republic has caused transport chaos around the
country. Traffic along the main highway from Prague to Brno was
paralyzed for hours following a collision between two trucks in the
early hours of the morning and many of the country's smaller roads are
impassable. Prague's Ruzyne Airport has had to cancel all flights and
will remain closed for until tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, the inclement
weather has already claimed one victim. On Wednesday afternoon, a
thirty-year old man died in the Moravian city of Ostrava when he lost
control of his car on a slippery road and crashed into an oncoming
Meteorologists predict that it will continue snowing across the country until the weekend and that the snow could be up to half a meter deep in some areas.
The Czech health authorities say they registered 93 new cases of HIV in the course of last year, which is a slight increase on 2005. The overall number of HIV cases registered in the country since 1985 is 920. Of those infected, 209 have developed full-blown AIDS while 123 have subsequently died of the disease. The most afflicted regions are Prague and the Karlovy Vary areas in west Bohemia.
The immunity committee of the Czech Senate today recommended that Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek, who is minister for regional development in the new government, be stripped of his immunity so that criminal proceedings can be launched against him. Mr Cunek is suspected of having taken a bribe of 500,000 CZK five years ago when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin in north Moravia. Cunek dismisses the accusation and said he wants to be stripped of immunity so that he can be exonerated. A final decision will be made by a plenary session of the Senate in about two weeks time.
A CD of Dvorak compositions by the Czech Republic's Smetana Trio has been nominated for a prestigious BBC Music Magazine Award for 2007. Their record of Dvorak compositions (Dvorak piano trios No. 3 and 4) had already been chosen as the magazine's Disc of the Month in September 2006). The BBC magazine is the world's best selling classical music periodical, with more than 56,000 readers around the world.
Vladimir Mlynar, the former IT minister has been sentenced by Prague City Court to five and a half years in jail for abusing his position as a public official and misusing state funds. The former Freedom Union minister was found guilty of using Testcom, an Internet portal company subsidized and supervised by the state, to fund a private company of a similar name. In October 2003, he earmarked 7.5 million CZK (approx. 345,000 USD) from Testcom's budget for this purpose. Mr Mlynar has appealed the decision.
The Green Party, a minor partner in the new coalition government, has expressed its concern regarding statements made by Civic Democrat Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and other government politicians on the future of the EU constitution. Ondrej Liska, the Green Party's chairman of the Chamber of Deputies European affairs committee, said some of the statements made about the document were "too radical". Mr Topolanek is reported to be pushing for the drafting of a new, simpler EU constitution. Mr Liska also expressed unease at the appointment of Eurosceptic Civic Democrat MEP Jan Zahradil as one of the one of Czech Republic's negotiators on the European constitutional treaty.
The Czech Security Council has given the green light to opening negotiations with the United States on placing part of a US missile defence system in the Czech Republic. Last Friday, Washington officially requested that talks begin on placing a radar station on Czech territory as part of a new US anti-missile defence system. President Vaclav Klaus says he is also in favour of beginning negotiations with the US on the proposed project. Mr Klaus added that he would be discussing the US missile defence system with Russian president, Vladimir Putin during his planned visit to Moscow in April. Russia has indicated that it would view the construction of the system as a threat to its security.
The new Czech education minister Dana Kuchtova has stated her intention to abolish entrance exams to grammar schools. According to statistics only around twenty percent of all students at Czech secondary schools are grammar school students, the rest are at vocational or technical colleges. This is in sharp contrast to countries such as Poland or Sweden where around half of all students attend grammar school. Minister Kuchtova said she wanted to facilitate students' entry to grammar schools by establishing new admission criteria such as their average grades and performance in primary school.
Minister of Culture, Helena Trestikova has resigned from her post just days after taking office. Ms Trestikova announced her resignation in a letter to Czech Television. She had previously stated that she was unhappy at being pressurised by Civic Democrat Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to appoint a deputy of his choosing. Filmmaker Ms. Trestikova had been nominated as Minister of Culture by the Christian Democrats, one of the smaller coalition parties in the new administration.
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