President Klaus had a meeting with the Russian chess champion and opposition figure Garry Kasparov in Hluboká nad Vltavou, south Bohemia on Sunday. Speaking afterwards, Mr Kasparov said the Czech president had expressed interest in the situation in Russia, adding that the two men had discussed United States plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia; Russia is steadfastly opposed to the idea.
The chairman of the Czech Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský says he has considered quitting due to the threat of excessive politicisation of the court, which has failed to agree on several issues in recent months. Speaking on Czech Television, he said even thought the court itself was not involved in politics, it had been influenced by an increase in confrontation and unfriendliness between the country’s political parties.
Speaking on a TV debate programme, Mr Schwarzenberg also said there was no need for Mr Topolánek to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing in August. On Thursday the prime minister said he would ask the cabinet to vote on the issue; following a Chinese crackdown on protesters in Tibet, the question of whether leaders should attend the ceremony has been debated internationally. The Czech minister of education and sport, Ondřej Liška, has said he will not go to Beijing. The Czech president, Václav Klaus, will miss the opening ceremony for health reasons.
Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, said on a visit to Prague on
Sunday that his country was also against the planned US radar. He said the
project was causing a split in NATO. Mr Fico also said America’s anti
missile defence shield was not sufficiently developed and that some of its
elements were unreliable.
The Czech Parliament has yet to vote on whether to allow the US to build the base in Brdy, central Bohemia. Minister Schwarzenberg said on Sunday the only outstanding issue in talks with Washington was a Czech demand for a guarantee the US would clean up any potential environmental damage.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says he will push for the
government to recognise the independence of Kosovo this Wednesday, before
he leaves for a NATO summit in Bucharest. In an interview for
noviny, he said there was no alternative to recognising the breakaway
province now, adding that it would be better to do so before elections in
Serbia. However, Mr Topolánek was critical of Kosovo, describing it as a
boil on the western Balkans for which there was no good solution. He said
the Serbs were traditional partners of the Czechs, and if the Czech
Republic did not grant recognition of Kosovo’s independence Czech
soldiers there would in effect become an occupying army. He said the only
reason Prague would recognise Kosovo was so as not to tarnish relations
with partners in the European Union and NATO.
Meanwhile, the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said he would not insist on a decision being reached on the matter this Wednesday. He said he would like to give ministers time to consider such an important matter.
Paris Hilton is in Prague, where her boyfriend Benji Madden is playing a concert with his rock band Good Charlotte on Sunday night. Journalists and photographers had been expecting the American celebrity to arrive by plane, and were surprised when she arrived on the band’s tour bus. Hilton later fell and hurt her chin after being pursued by the press in the city centre.
The Brno-based Islamic Foundation says hatred and intolerance towards Muslims has increased in the Czech Republic in recent years. The group said the blame lay with the media, politicians and some interest groups, though it said some Muslims themselves were also responsible. In a statement dubbed a call to Czech society, the Islamic Foundation said it feared the day when anti-Islamic feeling escalated into physical attacks on members of the Muslim community. Around 120 Muslims attend a mosque which opened in the Moravian capital a decade ago.
The Schengen border free system comes into effect at the Czech Republic’s airports from midnight on Saturday. The country’s border posts were abolished just before Christmas, when the Czech Republic became part of the Europe-wide system. Passengers flying to the 24 states which are members of the Schengen zone will no longer need to show their passports, though they will be required to carry some form of identification.
The Czech football coach Karel Bruckner will be out of action for at least five weeks after undergoing a successful operation on his upper spine. Bruckner, who is 68, will remain in hospital for almost two weeks before a period of recuperation at home. Last week he revealed plans to step down as national team manager after the European Championship this summer. The Czechs will take part in the opening game at Euro 2008 when they take on Switzerland, which is hosting the tournament with Austria.
Between two and three hundred people took part in a demonstration against abortion on Prague’s Old Town Square on Saturday. The protest was linked to the March 25 Day of the Unborn Child and came days after the second biggest party in the governing coalition the Christian Democrats expressed disagreement with an amendment proposed by the Health Ministry, which they say would make abortion policy more liberal. The number of pregnancies terminated in the Czech Republic has fallen significantly; while almost 150,000 abortions were carried out in 1970, last year that figure was down to 25,000.