Former Agriculture Minister Milena Vicenova has been appointed the new Czech ambassador to the European Union. Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra made the announcement on Wednesday evening. Mrs. Vicenova will replace current ambassador Jan Kohout, who has been recalled before the end of his term in Brussels. The government said that it wanted to bring in a new ambassador now to prepare for the important period leading up to the country's presidency of the EU in the first half of 2009. According to Mr. Vondra, Mrs. Vicenova is only the second woman to join the diplomatic corps in Brussels. At present, only Luxembourg has a female ambassador to the EU, he said.
Czechs are more willing to accept organs than donate them for transplantation, a poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency concluded on Thursday. According to the poll, 59% of Czechs are willing to donate their organs; this figure is down on thirteen years ago. In comparison, 75% of Czechs said that they would accept an organ transplant if their life was in danger.
The South-African court dealing with the Czech Republic's request to extradite fugitive businessman Radovan Krejcir has adjourned proceedings. The court will meet again on 27th September, reported Czech Television on Thursday. The television station also reported that the conditions of Mr. Krejcir's bail had been changed. The defendant must now only report to police once a week instead of twice, as was previously the case. Radovan Krejcir is wanted in the Czech Republic on charges of large-scale property theft and for a string of violent crimes. He escaped Czech police during a raid on his luxury villa back in 2005. He was arrested in Johannesburg on an Interpol warrant in April of this year.
Czech and American military experts meeting to discuss the possibility of locating a U.S radar base on Czech territory have so far failed to agree on all outstanding issues. The Defence Ministry made the announcement on Wednesday night, a day after a second roubnd of negotiations was launched. A Defence Ministry spokesman added that while no consensus had been reached, progress had been made during the talks. Talks covering the technical aspects of the base last week resulted in agreement on around half the issues covered. The two sides are pushing ahead with negotiations in the hope of seeing an agreement signed by the end of the year. The Czech parliament is to make a final decision on the base early in 2008.
A group of 53 ethnic Czechs who had been living in Kazakhstan were flown to Prague on Wednesday night to start a new life in the Czech Republic. This is the second of three groups of Kazakh Czechs to be repatriated, in a scheme being run by the Czech Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry plans to repatriate over 170 ethnic Czechs from Kazakhstan, as it says that the economic situation, as well as the ethnic group's safety in the region, has deteriorated over recent years. Over 50 million CZK (2.5 million USD) has been earmarked by the Interior Ministry for this project.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has entered into the debate on whether Czech President Vaclav Klaus should speak out against environmentalists at the United Nations or not. On Wednesday, the head of the Czech Green Party, Martin Bursik, criticized the president, saying that Mr. Klaus' proposed speech could seriously jeopardize the Czech Republic's chances of winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2008 and 2009. Today Mr. Paroubek voiced his opinion, saying that the president had no mandate to present his own subjective views, and that he should represent the views of his country's government instead. Mr. Klaus plans to address the United Nations at the end of September. His speech is expected to be about global-warming, and what he calls the 'over-politicisation' of this topic.
The Mandate and Immunity Committee of the lower house recommended on Thursday that Communist MP Josef Vodruska should be stripped of his political immunity. Mr. Vondruska stands accused of torturing political prisoners when he worked as a prison guard in Minkovice jail in the 1980s. Police want to question Mr. Vondruska in connection with charges filed by former inmates. Mr. Vondruska denies all allegations. The lower house is expected to make a final decision on the matter in late September.
The Czech Republic beat Ireland 1-0 in their Group D qualifier on Wednesday bringing them one step closer to Euro 2008. The Czechs entered the match ranking second place in their group, five points behind leaders Germany who are on 22, and three ahead of the Irish, after eight matches. With six points now between themselves and Ireland, the Czechs need just one win from their final three games against Germany, Cyprus and Slovakia to proceed into the European Championships.
The Czech national airline Ceske Aerolinie recorded losses of 175 million CZK (nearly 8.8 million USD) for the first six months of this year. These losses were 77% lower than for the first half of 2006, said the firm's president Radomir Lasak on Thursday morning. The firm, 90% of which is owned by the state, currently stands 182 million CZK in profit, having made more than 350 million CZK in July. Analysts predict that Ceske Aerolinie could make a slight overall profit in two years' time, if it sells off its freight terminal, and its catering services.
A subsidiary of the Czech energy giant CEZ has signed a deal to construct a power plant in Vietnam, the value of which is thought to be over 3 billion USD. The contract was signed on Thursday, along with several other agreements between Czech and Vietnamese firms valued at around 69 billion CZK (3.5 billion USD) in total. The signing of the contracts coincided with the state visit of Nguyen Tan Dunga, the Vietnamese prime minister. In the first six months of this year, the Czech Republic has imported 13 million USD worth of goods from Vietnam, and exported some 90 million dollars worth of products.
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