Czech citizens could be free to travel to the United States without a visa by the end of this year, Richard Barth of the US Department of Homeland Security said in Prague on Wednesday. Mr Barth said American and Czech officials were moving closer to an agreement on visa-free relations; he said the only thing now needed to allow the lifting of the visa requirement was the introduction of an electronic system of approval which would monitor visitors arriving in the USA. Czechs wishing to visit the US would be able to apply for approval via the internet before travelling. Mr Barth made the comments following meetings with Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
The renowned Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal will take over as chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in autumn 2009, a spokesperson for the orchestra said on Wednesday. Mr Inbal follows Zdeněk Mácal, who stepped down abruptly last year but still conducts some concerts for the Czech Philharmonic. The Prague-based orchestra will not appoint an interim chief conductor. Eliahu Inbal has broad international experience; he is best known for his interpretations of late-Romantic works but is also a noted opera conductor and has helmed the premieres of a number of modern pieces.
The Office for the Investigation and Documentation of the Crimes of Communism is looking into the repression of a student demonstration in October 1967, Hospodařské noviny reported. Former police officers who quelled the protest and the military prosecutors who investigated it could face charges, the newspaper said. Several students were injured while others were barred from completing their studies. The crimes of communism office said it would decide on how to proceed in the next few days after it receives a file on the incident from the military archives.
A presidential election planned for this Friday could be postponed due to
a dispute over how the bicameral vote should be held. A decision by the
Chamber of Deputies procedural committee on Wednesday to back a public
brings the lower house into conflict with the Senate, where the majority
in favour of a secret vote. Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka said if
agreement is not reached during talks between representatives of both
houses on Thursday then Friday’s joint session of Parliament could be
suspended while a solution to the stalemate is sought. Mr Sobotka said he
would not describe the situation as a constitutional crisis, but
instability which required political negotiation.
A hastily arranged meeting of the governing coalition failed to make any headway over the issue on Wednesday. The coalition’s biggest party the Civic Democrats – who control the Senate – are in favour of a secret vote. But their partners the Greens and the Christian Democrats, along with the opposition Social Democrats and at least some Communist legislators, back a public vote.
The incumbent Václav Klaus is set to face Jan Švejnar in Friday’s vote, with Mr Klaus regarded by many pundits as the favourite. An opinion poll by the CVVM agency released on Wednesday suggests that both presidential candidates have equal public support of 42 percent. However, Mr Klaus may have more opponents than Mr Švejnar: 22 percent of respondents said they were decidedly against the incumbent, compared to 16 percent strongly opposed to the challenger.
Contrary to previous reports, some stands selling sausages and other food are to remain on Prague’s Wenceslas Square, a representative of the Prague 1 authority said on Wednesday. However, there will be a reduction in the number of fast food stands on the square and the selling of alcohol will be banned. It is not necessary to have two fernets and three vodkas with your klobasa, councillor Rudolf Blažek told reporters. Suggestions last year that all the food stands on Wenceslas Square would be removed met with a negative reaction.
Czech police last year unlawfully took DNA samples from both persons remanded in custody and others who had been sentenced, the ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, said on Wednesday. Mr Motejl said the database into which the DNA samples were entered was itself not legally based. He said the police should destroy all DNA samples if asked to do so by prisoners who had been tested without their prior agreement. Mr Motejl said the database should be defined by law, not based on an internal police order as it is now. Police took 17,000 DNA samples in 2007.
Barbora Tachecí has been fired as the director of Czech Radio’s biggest station, Radiožurnál. Ms Tachecí had come in for some criticism for changes introduced to the station at the beginning of this year; hundreds of listeners sent complaints to both Czech Radio and the council which oversees it. No figures are currently available regarding the number of listeners in the period since Ms Tachecí’s changes were implemented.
Civic Democrat deputy Eva Dundáčková says the couples who take part in a TV wife-swap programme have come close to committing the crime of abandoning their children. The MP, a member of the Chamber of Deputies family committee, made the comment in a Czech Radio interview. Last week the committee wrote to TV Nova asking the station to drop the show “Výměna manželek”. However, the programme’s director said the children involved had given their consent, adding that it was filmed under the supervision of psychologists.
Czechs traveling to the United States could be able to do so without a visa by the end of the year. On Tuesday, the magazine European Voice suggested that the Czech Republic could be included in the US visa-waiver programme alongside five other EU countries by the end of 2008. The magazine speculated that Malta, Cyprus, Hungary, Estonia and Greece would also be included in the visa-waiver programme, while the Czech Republic’s neighbours Slovakia and Poland would both have to wait longer. The speculation coincides with the visit of Richard Barth, the head of US Homeland Security, who is in Prague this week to discuss a Czech-US memorandum on border security.
The publishing house Albatros has filed charges against an unnamed individual for printing and distributing a version of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ in Czech, which they deem illegal. The publishers have also called upon the supermarket chain Tesco to stop selling this version of the latest Harry Potter book. Albatros own the rights to the Harry Potter series in Czech, and have previously taken a rival publishing house to court over the publication of a pirate version of ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, a case which Albatros subsequently won. Tesco has said that is will not stop selling the copies of the book that it has in its warehouses, to which Albatros has responded that it may press charges.
Demonstrations held in 11 cities over election of Communist MP Ondráček to chairman post
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Czech Republic caught up in plastic waste disposal crisis in Europe
President Zeman’s Chinese advisor arrested
Growing concern over plight of leading Chinese investor in the Czech Republic