The funeral has taken place for the Czech soldier who died in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan last week. Officer Milan Šterba was laid to rest at a ceremony attended by family, friends and also several politicians including Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová. Šterba was a member of a NATO Special Forces unit operating in the Hilmand Province of Afghanistan.
Jan Koller scored to salvage a 1-1 draw for the Czech Republic against Denmark in an international friendly on Wednesday. Koller, the all-time leading Czech scorer, headed in the equalizer in the 42nd minute off a cross from Libor Sionko from the right. It was his 52nd goal in 86 games for his country. The Czechs were yet to win an international this year going into this match, and had lost to Poland 2-0 in a friendly last month. The Czechs will now play two more friendliest in Prague – against Lithuania and Scotland in May – before opening Euro 2008 on June 7 in Basel against Switzerland. They also face Turkey and Portugal in Group A of the tournament.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek, who is on a visit to Russia has claimed that an agreement between the US and Russia concerning a missile defense system to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic is close to being finalized. In an apparent dig at Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, he also stated that Poland had played a far more meaningful role in the negotiations than did the Czech Republic. The purported deal would allow the Russian authorities to inspect the US military sites, ensure that Russian airspace is not monitored by the radar, and also to not install rockets in Poland until a perceivable threat is discerned. Despite this apparent agreement, Russia continues to point out that it is opposed in principle to the Bush administration project.
The Christian Democrats of the governing coalition have undertaken a fresh battle to bring abortions in the Czech Republic onto the public radar. Newly released government figures reveal that abortions, which are legal in the Czech Republic, have fallen for fifteen consecutive years. The Christian Democratic Party has expressed concerns over new health legislation proposed by Health Minister Tomáš Julínek, which formalises abortion and IVF treatment. Meanwhile, Christian Democrat MP David Macek has called for a wider debate in the Czech Republic about abortion, also calling on the Czech president Václav Klaus to add his voice.
Czech health unions have issued a statement urging the government to halt preparations for the privatisation of healthcare in the Czech Republic. Specifically, they point to new proposals by the Health Ministry to float teaching hospitals and also health insurance companies on the stock exchange. Union representatives have described such moves as the first step towards the complete privatisation of Czech healthcare. Heath Minister Tomáš Julínek has denied these claims insisting that the current proposals will still leave hospitals under state ownership.
Czech President Václav Klaus has said that he will be staying away from the Beijing Olympics. In remarks published on his personal website on Wednesday, Mr Klaus said he would not attend the opening ceremony nor any of the August 8 – 24 games. Mr Klaus stressed that his actions should not be seen as a reaction to China’s crackdown in Tibet. The Czech press reported on Thursday that he would be undergoing a hip operation at the time. Mr Klaus had been invited to attend the games by the Czech Olympic Committee, which said that it fully respected the president’s decision.
A deadline given by the Czech architect Jan Kaplický for Prague authorities to make a decision regarding his controversial design for a new library passed today, with signs that the architect is prepared to make concessions. In an interview with the online magazine Tyden.cz, Kaplický conceded that he is prepared to wait for the Czech authorities to give his winning design the final go ahead. Earlier, Kaplický had threatened to pull out from the project if a decision was not reached this week.
Anti-communist protesters have decorated a Prague statue of the 14th century Hussite general Jan Žižka with a banner which read “I don’t want more totalitarianism on my conscience” The banner was unfurled by members of the civic group Dekomunizace, which seeks to use visual publicity stunts of this kind to increase public awareness of what it sees as the continuing threat posed by communism in the country. Among its members are former president Václav Havel, director Jan Svěrák and the sculptor David Černý.
The Czech Anti-Monopoly Commission has approved the sale of the Czech food company Hamé to the Icelandic Nordic Food Partners group. Hamé is one of the largest food companies in the country, specialising in products such as ketchup, and bottled and canned foods and has an annual turnover of more than two billion crowns. Nordic Partners has also seen approval for a request to purchase another Czech food company, Otomac, which specialises in meat products.
The Czech Transport Ministry has announced that around two-thirds of the trucks involved in last week’s notorious crash along the D1 highway were exceeding the 80kmph speed limit. Around ten minutes prior to the pileup, a number of sensors along the D1 motorway, which connects the cities of Prague and Brno, detected that 65% of trucks were exceeding the speed limit, despite icy conditions and limited visibility. Around thirty people were injured in last Thursday’s accident in which more than a hundred cars slammed into each other with costs estimated to run into tens of millions of crowns.
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