Germany and the Czech Republic have clashed over US visa policies, Mlada fronta Dnes reports. The paper wrote on Saturday that Germany's ambassador to the United States Klaus Scharioth wrote to US congressmen asking them to consider discussing a proposed US visa waiver programme within a United States-European Union framework and not with individual EU countries. The daily claims that in the same letter, Mr Scharioth also protested against planned tougher security measures, which many western European Union countries whose citizens currently don't need visas to the US would also have to adapt to. The German ambassador, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, said his stance reflected the EU's position on the issue of US visas. The Czech Ambassador to the US Petr Kolar said that he had expressed his "frustration" to Mr Scharioth over the letter's contents. The Czech government had previously indicated it was hopeful that visas for its citizens travelling to the US will be waived in the near future.
Residents of the Prague 1 district have voted against the erection of a statue of Sigmund Freud in the area. Prague City Hall wants to put up a statue of the famous psychoanalyst, who was born in the Moravia town of Pribor, on Kozi Placek or "Goat's Square" near the Prague's Jewish Quarter. Opponents say the project is inappropriate because Freud has little or no connection with the Czech capital. Three quarters of those who took part in the poll voted against the project. Only 5.8% of those who were entitled to participate in the referendum cast their vote. Prague 1's authorities are now expected to hold negotiations with Prague City Hall based on the result of the poll.
Prague's mayor Pavel Bem, who has taken two months' leave to climb Mount Everest, was stopped by Chinese border police upon trying to enter Tibet this week. It is not known why the mayor and his climbing team were not allowed across the Chinese border. The Tyden.cz server, which reported the news, said it had interviewed a Dutch member of another climbing group who witnessed the incident and said it was obvious to him that the Civic Democratic mayor and his companions were "obviously on some kind of blacklist". Mr Bem is now expected to try and reach Everest via Nepal.
The Czechoslovak Hussite church has suspended its bishop for Prague Karel Bican pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against him in the wake of a sex scandal. The fifty-five-year-old bishop who is married had been caught on tape demanding sex from a former male convict whom he had helped upon his release from prison. The scandal erupted last autumn when extracts of the tape were published by a Czech magazine. Mr Bican had initially denied the veracity of the tape, but then confessed when church authorities said they wanted to subject it to voice analysis. The Protestant Hussite Church was established after Czechoslovakia became an independent state in 1918. With over 100,000 members, it is the third largest church in the Czech Republic.
The unseasonably mild weather has put pressure on temperature records in various parts of the country. A temperature of 25.9 degrees Celsius was recorded in Pilsen on Saturday, which smashed the regional record for this time of year of 23.5 degrees Celsius recorded in Klatovy in 1981. Meteorologists say that other regional temperature records could also fall over the coming weekend.
The Czech minister without portfolio Dzamila Stehlikova plans to introduce special identity cards for pregnant women, which would give them priority in queues and on public transport. Saturday's edition of Mlada fronta Dnes reports that the minister wants to begin a trial run with the cards in a Czech city by the start of next year. Some critics have dismissed the proposal as a "populist" move.
Czech anti-drug police have arrested an Israeli citizen in Prague whom they say is suspected on organising supplies of ecstasy to North America, Spain and Australia, the Nova television reported on Saturday. According to TV Nova, police arrested the 27-year-old man in a flat in Prague 2 and also seized a kilo of cocaine, hashish and an undetermined amount of cash. The station says an arrest warrant has been issued for the man by the US Drug Enforcement Agency and describes him as one of the most dangerous drug bosses in the world. The man has been taken into custody and may be extradited to the United States, where he faces up to 90 years in prison.
A painting by Czech cubist painter Emil Filla was sold at an auction in Prague on Saturday for 5.2 million Czech crowns or approximately 250,000 US dollars. The sale makes Filla's "Still Life with an Artichoke" the ninth-most expensive painting sold at auction in the Czech Republic since 1990. The biggest sum paid for a painting in the country was by another Cubist painter Josef Capek. His Bath was sold at an auction last year for 9.3 million crowns (450,000 USD).
The Green Party has reiterated its demand for deputy prime minister and regional development minister Jiri Cunek to leave government. Party leader Martin Bursik said on Saturday that if Mr Cunek will not leave government of his own accord or if he was not dismissed by his own Christian Democratic Party, then Prime Minister Jiri Topolanek should dismiss the minister himself. Mr Bursik also said that he had asked the prime minister to call a meeting of the coalition parties to discuss the issue, but that he was not going to give Mr Topolanek an ultimatum that his party would leave government if Mr Cunek remained. The Green Party have also demanded that Mr Cunek refrain from commenting on Roma matters or interfering with the work of minister without portfolio Dzamil Stehlikova, who also has responsibility for minorities. Mr Cunek has been under pressure to resign from government since being charged with taking a bribe as mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago. He has also been heavily criticised for making offensive remarks about Romanies
In related news, a Communist MP, Alexandr Cerny, is one of two Czech parliamentarians who have been refused a visa by the US Embassy in Prague for a planned trip by legislators to view the United States' missile defence radar system on the Marshall Islands. The head of the Communist Party Vojtech Filip has said he has sent a written complaint to US Ambassador Richard Graber. But the US Embassy in Prague responded to the news on Friday with an official statement explaining that the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs had agreed to provide a final list of participants in time for processing, but that two legislators' names were put forward 24 hours late. Both are from different political parties. In its statement the US Embassy stressed that the processing of US diplomatic visas was "uniform" regardless of "country, nationality, or party affiliation".
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