Five American military experts completed a preliminary survey of the Brdy military area, south west of Prague on Friday. They were studying conditions for the possible building of a radar base in the area as part of a US missile defence system. The factors they considered included whether the radar could limit the transmissions of nearby facilities, such as television and radio. The experts will assess the data collected in Brdy in the weeks ahead. The Czech government officially started negotiations with the United States on the stationing of a US radar base in March when it replied to a request by the Americans in January to locate the base on Czech territory. Negotiations are expected to last until the end of the year.
Ten new security cameras began operating on Charles Bridge on Friday. Prague city hall installed the cameras in response to a number of acts of vandalism targeting statues on the Czech capital's most famous monument. The cameras will allow for events on Charles Bridge to be monitored twenty four hours a day by state and city police. Of the thirty one statues on Charles Bridge, eighteen have already been vandalised or damaged in some way.
Two Roma organisations announced on Friday that they intend to demonstrate before the offices of government next Wednesday to demand the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. The protest is being jointly arranged by the Romany Association of Northern Moravia and the Romea civic association. They have also launched a petition calling for Mr Cunek's resignation, which has already been signed by a hundred representatives of Roma organisations and international institutions. Mr Cunek made a controversial comment about the Roma in last Friday's edition of the tabloid Blesk. When asked by a reader whether other people should receive state subsidies like Romanies, Mr Cunek said they would first need to get a suntan, behave in a disorderly way and light fires on town squares before politicians would regard them as badly off.
Meanwhile in related news, a new poll indicates that an overwhelming majority of Czechs think that politicians should resign from their post if they are charged with a crime. The survey conducted by the CVVM research agency found that 96% of the Czech population think that a politician should resign in such an event even if the criminal charges are not directly related to his or her area of responsibility.
The inspectorate of the Ministry of the Interior has filed corruption charges against three officers from the foreigners' police in the north Moravian town of Jesenik. The men were arrested on Friday and charged with taking money from Vietnamese nationals in return for arranging residency permits in the Czech Republic. Two foreigners have also been arrested and charged in the case. All five men could face prison sentences if found guilty in court.
The city of Prague will provide housing to three Cuban families who were granted asylum in the Czech Republic recently, Prague councillor Jiri Janecek told the Czech Press Agency on Friday. The families were granted asylum here last month after fleeing religious and political persecution in Cuba. Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer had asked the Prague City Hall to provide flats for the refugees. Prague has already provided housing to 131 asylum holders in the past 4 years.
Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party chairman Martin Bursik has said
that his party might leave the coalition government if Regional
Development Minister and Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek remains
in the cabinet. In an interview for Czech Television on Thursday, Mr
Bursik said the Green Party would have problems staying in the
governing coalition with Jiri Cunek still being a minister. Minister
Bursik said he could see no other solution but Mr Cunek's departure
from the government.
These developments are likely to put further pressure on Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek, who has been charged with taking a bribe as mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago, but who has so far refused to resign. Mr Cunek has also been heavily criticised for making offensive remarks about Romanies.
The Czech government will have no money to remove a pig farm from the site of a former Second World War concentration camp for Romanies in Lety, south Bohemia, Civic Democrat Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told journalists on Friday. Mr Topolanek said that although every government up to now had supported the idea of relocating the farm, no administration would ever be able to find the necessary funds to do so in the state budget. It has been estimated that it could cost as much as eight hundred million crowns or thirty eight million dollars to relocate the farm. Instead of talking this step, the prime minister has supported the idea of building a memorial nearby, which he has called a dignified but affordable solution to the problem. Mr Topolanek's remarks have been criticised by groups representing Romany Holocaust victims. Three hundred and twenty six people died in the concentration camp where the farm is now located.
The last state-owned brewery Budvar could be transformed into a joint-stock company by the end of the year, the Minister for Agriculture Petr Gandalovic told journalists on Friday. The change should be the first step towards privatising the brewery. Minister Gandalovic said that he was convinced such a step was necessary in order to ensure Budvar's further expansion and development. In its current legal form as a state enterprise, the brewery cannot accept injections of foreign capital or pay out dividends. The minister warned, however, that these changes could be hampered by ongoing lawsuits concerning the Budvar brand. Budvar has been involved in a number of trademark disputes with the American Anheuser-Busch brewery all over the world. Anheuser-Busch owns the Budweiser brand, a name Budvar also uses for some of its products.
An amendment to the Penal Code proposes tougher sentences for corruption in the public sector. The amendment increases the maximum sentence for taking a bribe from eight to 12 years and raises the sentence for offering a bribe from one to two years. Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil said on Thursday the government is to debate the new legislation in the months to come, and the law should take effect as of next year. The law will also ban officials convicted of corruption from working in public posts, Mr Pospisil added. The amendment is based on a long-term programme approved by the government last October. It also includes the establishment of special courts and anti-corruption agents as well as a special phone line for reporting suspicions of bribery and gaining advice from the Transparency International anti-corruption watchdog.
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