Czech President Václav Klaus, speaking at the Czech Senate on Friday to commemorate the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day, has said that the extermination of European Jews by the Nazi regime should not be forgotten and should remain an everlasting memento. He added on the occasion that it was necessary to recall the crimes against humanity committed against the Jewish population due to efforts by some to re-write the past for political purposes. Holocaust Remembrance Day, honouring the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust in World War Two, is marked on January 27, the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. In the Czech Republic, like in most European Union member states, the day has been officially marked since 2004. Besides Mr Klaus, the special session in the Senate on Friday was also attended by Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka, Chamber of Deputies chairman Miloslav Vlček and others.
A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency has suggested that public preference for the opposition Social Democratic party has continued to grow, with the party earning 38 percent of the vote if a national election were held today. According to the poll, the ruling Civic Democrats would be second, coming in 10 points behind, the Communist Party third at 17.5 percent, and the Greens fourth at 7.6. The Christian Democrats would be last, garnering 6.4 percent of the vote. Surveys have now repeatedly seen the ruling Civic Democrats fall increasingly behind their closest parliamentary rivals in terms of popularity.
The Czech ombudsman, Otakár Motejl, has revealed that Polish nationals recruited by an agency to work for car producer Škoda Auto on a temporary basis were treated worse than fulltime Czech colleagues. Checks at the jobs agency, Zetka Auto, which recruited the workers, uncovered “extensive shortcomings” the ombudsman made clear in a year-end report. The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza first raised the alarm in October 2006: the jobs agency at the time admitted that it paid workers a monthly wage of little over 10 thousand crowns per month, around half the regular salary in the sector. The daily charged that the some 900 Polish workers were sometimes forced to work 16 hours without a break, that wages were often paid late and that they were a fraction of what workers had been promised. Legal proceedings were launched against Zetka Auto following an investigation by the Czech labour office. Following the scandal, Škoda Auto changed its procedure for selecting agencies recruiting temporary labour.
The former head of a hospital in Havlíčkův Brod, east Bohemia, is facing charges for allegedly failing to alert the authorities in time over suspicious deaths at the site, the regional daily Jihlavský děnik reported on Friday. The Havlíčkův Brod Hospital was the site of a series of murders in 2006 by suspect Petr Zelenka; he is currently on trial. Mr Zelenka, then employed as a nurse at the facility is charged with having murdered seven patients and attempting to kill ten others, by injecting them with lethal or would-be lethal doses of the blood-thinning drug heparin. The former hospital director, Josef Pejchl, dismissed any wrong-doing in connection with the case, saying he had alerted the authorities; if found guilty of criminal negligence, he could face up to three years in prison.
In hockey action on Thursday in the NHL Czech forward Radim Vrbata notched
a hat trick to lead his team Phoenix over the Nashville Predators 4:3 in
overtime. Vrbata scored all three goals in regular time, and also assisted
on the winner in OT by Czech defender Zbyněk Michálek. The hat trick is
Vrbata’s career third in the NHL.
In other games: Michal Rozsíval helped his New York Rangers defeat Atlanta 2:1, scoring once and earning an assist. New Jersey Devil Patrik Eliáš scored twice against Montreal, but his team still lost to the Habs 4:3.
The head of the president’s office, economist Jiří Weigl, a friend and long-term associate of President Vaclav Klaus, is reportedly a strong candidate for membership on the governing board of the Czech National Bank, the daily E15 has reported. The daily has cited independent sources. According to the newspaper, Mr Weigl could replace outgoing ČNB vice-governor Luděk Niedermayer, whose six-year term expires in February. The paper has written that those familiar with the situation at Prague Castle have said Mr Weigl has not yet reached a final decision. If Vaclav Klaus wins re-election next month, the office head could continue working for the president. Jiří Weigl, an economist, was offered a post on the national bank’s board in the past, but he declined.
Czech and US negotiators will open a fifth round of negotiations in the Czech capital on Monday on a possible tracking radar in the country as part of the United States’ expanded missile defence shield. US officials revealed the news in Prague on Friday. The first three days of talks will focus on a general legal agreement. Negotiations will then switch to a separate deal covering ballistic missile defence and the radar's operation on January 31. Recently the US showed increased interest in sealing a deal quickly. But Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has stressed that getting a quality agreement took priority over speed. Washington wants its anti-missile shield in place and operational by 2012 in order to counter threats by so-called rogue states.
The Czech Republic’s Tomáš Verner has won the European figure-skating title, becoming the first Czech to do so in 16 years. Verner, the silver medallist in 2007, beat two-time world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland, who finished second, and defending champion Brian Joubert, who finished third. Verner led after the short programme and finished the competition, held in Zagreb, Croatia, with a final score of 232.67 points. His winning routine was set to the theme of Oscar-winning epic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
Members of the Civic Democratic Party have denied reports of pre-election bargaining with the Christian Democrats, aimed at guaranteeing support for President Václav Klaus’s re-election. Speculation has the Civic Democrats helping push a property settlement between the state and the Church through Parliament in return for Christian Democrat votes. A proposed settlement between the state and Church on compensation for property confiscated under the Communist regime was reached earlier this week. In a letter on Friday Christian Democrat Cyril Svoboda urged fellow party members to back Mr Klaus in the February 8 presidential election, as a means of improving the bill’s chances. The president has himself reacted with annoyance to speculation over votes bargaining. He made clear he refused to join in any such debate.
On Thursday, A Prague court acquitted Zdeněk Doležel of charges of attempted fraud in connection with the privatisation of Unipetrol. Mr Doležel was suspected of demanding a 5 million CZK (250,000 USD) bribe from a Polish businessman when he was secretary to the prime minister in 2005. Jacek Spyra says that he was asked for millions of crowns by Mr Doležel, in return for bringing the firm that Mr Spyra represented back into negotiations. Mr Spyra’s claims appeared to have been reinforced by footage recorded secretly by TV Nova, which shows Mr Doležel asking for ‘five million in Czech’ during one of their meetings. Mr Doležel insists, however, that this was a coded statement meaning something completely different. It is not yet clear whether today’s verdict will be appealed.