Prague's mayor Pavel Bem departed the Czech capital on Saturday morning for the Himalayas where he will attempt to climb Mount Everest. The mayor - who is a keen mountaineer - has taken two months' unpaid leave in order to try and climb the world's highest peak. He had earlier been heavily criticised in some quarters for taking so much time off from his duties as Prague mayor to do this.
At the same conference, former finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka will remain as vice-chairman of the Social Democrats after being re-elected at the party's conference in Brno. Unofficial reports say he received 84% support from the delegates, a much better showing than party leader Jiri Paroubek. Like Mr Paroubek, he was the only candidate for his post. He told Social Democrat members afterwards that he would have more time to devote to his party duties now that he wasn't a government minister. He also said he would never shy away from giving truthful opinions to Mr Paroubek.
Czech cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova finished second in the last race of her career after losing out to her great Norwegian rival Marit Bjorgen on Saturday's skiathlon World Cup in Falun, Sweden. Neumannova was one of the most successful female cross-country skiers of her generation - winning two world championships and an Olympic gold medal. She also competed in the Summer Olympics as a mountain biker. Neumannova is now set to embark on a new career as a TV-show host.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said that some institutional changes that aren't covered in the Nice Treaty need to be made in the EU by 2009 when the next European parliamentary elections will be held and the Czech Republic will hold the EU presidency. Mr Topolanek made his comments after meeting in Prague with Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who wants to resolve the issue of the European constitution as soon as possible. The two men also discussed the proposed construction of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, President Vaclav Klaus was in Berlin on Saturday to an EU summit, where the Declaration of Berlin will be ratified.
The head of Vaclav Klaus's presidential office Jiri Weigl has conveyed the president's greetings to the Social Democrat conference in Brno. President Klaus - who is still honorary chairman of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party - said the Social Democrats were the oldest democratic party in the Czech Republic and their congress was a major event for the whole nation. He also added that even though they were now in opposition they still had a major role to play in ensuring the country's well being. Later, conference delegates passed a resolution calling on the Social Democrat deputies and senators not to vote for Mr Klaus in the next presidential elections, planned for next year. Party leader Jiri Paroubek described President Klaus as a populist and an ideological dogmatist.
Several hundred people congregated on Prague's Old Town Square on Saturday to attend an anti-abortion demonstration organised by the "Movement for Life" civic association. Altogether 27,554 abortions were carried out here last year, which was the lowest total ever recorded since abortions were made legal in the country. Saturday's demonstration was also attended by some Polish pro-Life activists who successfully managed to lobby for a ban on abortions in their country.
Czech and German police have arrested 126 suspected German football hooligans ahead of Saturday's international Euro 2008 qualifying match between the Czech Republic and Germany in Prague. 117 were stopped at the border between the two countries by German police while the remaining 9 were apprehended and sent home by the Czech authorities. Around 3000 German football fans are expected to travel to Prague for Saturday's match. Czech police also expect between 500 and 1000 hooligans to come to Prague for the sole purpose of causing trouble in the Czech capital. They have been given a list of these people by their German counterparts.
Social Democrat chairman Jiri Paroubek was re-elected as the party's leader at its annual conference in Brno on Friday evening. He received sixty percent of the delegates' votes, a total which was significantly less than the 92 percent support he received when first elected last May. Mr Paroubek was the only person standing for the post. Speaking at the conference, Mr Paroubek said the Social Democrats had to modernise in order to win the next election. He said that party needed to appeal more to younger and middle-aged people and also called for more women to be put on the party list of candidates, which he described as a sign of the party's modern thinking.
Zdenek Altner, the lawyer who is suing the Social Democrats for over 19 billion crowns in unpaid fees, has excused himself from giving evidence in a scheduled hearing as part of an investigation into corruption and bribery allegations surrounding the Czech government's agreement to buy Swedish Gripen fighter jets five years ago. Mr Altner declined to attend the hearing because he wanted a legal representative present during questioning and could not engage one in time. He now has to arrange a hearing on an alternative date. The lawyer says it is nonsensical that he should be implicated in the matter and thinks the police only want to question him because - as the then governing Social Democrats' lawyer - he had had some dealings with officials who are now being investigated in connection with the Gripen case.
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