Trade union representatives stormed out of tripartite talks on Friday after coming under fire by the prime minister. Union, employers’, and government representatives were to discuss draft employment legislation, but union representatives walked out after Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek sharply criticised both employers and unions on the issue of meal tickets (a system subsidised by employers in return for tax relief by the state). The government had planned to abolish the system last year. The spokeswoman for the ČMKOS union called the prime minister’s words on Friday “vulgar” and the situation “unprecedented”. Mr Topolánek later issued a full apology, asking representatives to return to the negotiating table.
Traffic police have released the latest information on an unprecedented pileup on the Czech Republic’s D1 highway last week. Police official Petr Prokeš revealed on Friday that the investigation has so far determined 85 accidents took place on the D1 last Thursday involving 189 vehicles. 30 people were injured, six of them seriously. The pileup left thousands on the motorway stranded for hours. Drivers who failed to heed speed limits and worsening road conditions prior to the pileup could now be fined up to 5,000 crowns. Instigators in more serious incidents - such a truck’s crashing into a bus, injuring three - are likely to end up in court.
The financial daily Hospodářské noviny has reported that the US could help fund Czech scientific research as part of the fight against terrorism if an agreement is reached on the stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory. The newspaper has written that the US Missile Defense Agency has compiled a list of Czech researchers in high-tech fields such as cybernetics, information technology, and nanotechnology, while Prague’s technical university, ČVUT, is to assess what Czech specialists might offer. Miroslava Kopičová from the Government Council for Research & Development has stated that US funding represented a “big opportunity”.
Municipalities situated near existing NATO radars in Chlumec nad Cidlinou and Slavkov, south Moravia, will ask the government for financial compensation as well as information about the radars' possible impact on the public's health. The mayor of Chlumec nad Cidlinou announced the initiative on Friday but said that 14 municipalities in the vicinity of Chlumec and ten municipalities in the area of Slavkov had not yet agreed on specific financial demands. The construction of the NATO radar near Chlumec began in 2004, with the radar going into operation in 2007. The radar at Slavkov was completed at the end of 2007.
On Thursday the prime minister said that it will be up to his cabinet to decide whether or not he will attend this summer’s Olympic Games hosted by Beijing. Mirek Topolánek made clear the final decision would be taken after analysis of China's crackdown in Tibet, which has spurred calls for an Olympic boycott. The prime minister is next in line to represent the Czech Republic at the games after President Klaus made clear he would not be attending as the result of planned surgery. The prime minister said in a statement that he fully stood by the government’s declaration expressing deep unease over the situation in Tibet and calling for the repression to stop.
In related developments, Czech trade unions threatened on Friday to withdraw from the tripartite that comprises the government, employers' and employee representatives unless the government states clearly how it should function in the future. The statement was released by the Bohemian and Moravian Trade Union Confederation (ČMKOS). The umbrella organisation as well as the Association of Independent Unions were reacting to Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek's behaviour at the tripartite session on Friday. The tripartite was first established in the 1990s, following the fall of the Communist regime with the aim of maintaining social peace in the country during the “transformation period”.
The leader of the Christian Democratic Party Jiří Čunek has met with
the US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber to discuss the US State
Department’s annual report on human rights. The report for 2007 recently
named Mr Čunek in connection with the questionable treatment of ethnic
Roma when he was the mayor of the town of Vsetín and also mentioned a
well-publicised corruption case levelled against the politician last year.
Earlier, Mr Čunek received a written reply from the ambassador stating
that the annual report was compiled from various sources and would be
updated in a year’s time. After their meeting, Mr Čunek told reporters
he now considered the issue “resolved”.
Along with the report, the US visa-waiver programme and missile defense were also discussed in the meeting on Friday.
Forward Tomáš Fleischmann was named 1st star in a hockey match between
his Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay on Thursday. Fleischmann scored in
overtime to lift Washington over Tampa 4-3 keeping alive his team’s
playoff hopes. Washington have four more games left in the regular season
but trail the Philadelphia Flyers by 2 pts in the 8th and final spot of
In other action, Atlanta’s Robert Holík was also named 1st star, beating the Florida Panthers’ Tomáš Vokoun twice on the night to lift the Thrashers to the win. The final score was 3-2. The Thrashers are out of the upcoming playoffs, but the Panthers still hold a theoretical chance with four games left. Currently Florida is 7 pts off the final spot.
Czech police say they have begun investigating the posting of a controversial anti-Islamic film on a Czech website. The 15-minute film by ultra right-wing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders was posted on a Czech website by the extreme right National Party. The film, launched on Thursday, has stirred substantial controversy leading to protests in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Czech police are investigating to see whether the posting of the incendiary material on a Czech website is in keeping with the law. The extremist National Party is not a member of the country's Parliament; the posting of the Dutch film by its members is being seen largely as a publicity stunt.
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.
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