The Czech Foreign Ministry says it is prepared to open talks with Russia on reciprocal inspection missions to military bases in the two countries. The offer comes in response to Moscow’s demand for a permanent Russian military presence at a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic, which would be part of the US missile defense shield. Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalová said on Thursday that any agreement regarding inspection missions to the radar base would have to be reached with Prague and that there was no support whatsoever for the idea of a permanent Russian military presence in the country. Czech and American government officials are expected to sign an agreement on the radar base in early May but it will still have to be approved by Parliament.
The Christian Democrats of the governing coalition have not found wider support for their drive to restrict abortions in the Czech Republic and allow the father of an unborn baby to have a say on whether the mother should be allowed to undergo an abortion. The Christian Democrats also proposed that abortions should not be performed after the 18th week of pregnancy and that they should never be performed on girls under 18 years of age. Their partners in government - the Civic Democrats and the Greens - have said they find these proposals unacceptable. Public opinion is also against restricting abortions.
Miluše Netolická has become the first Czech woman to conquer the North Pole. The 34-year old CEO of a Prague-based developer’s corporation was part of a small expedition which reached the North Pole on Wednesday night. A blizzard and freezing temperatures of minus forty degrees Celsius have prevented them from setting out on their return journey. A helicopter is expected to pick them up and take them to the Russian Polar station Barneo as soon as weather conditions allow. The first Czech man to conquer the North Pole was Miroslav Jakeš, who reached it in 1993; he is planning to return there for the sixth time.
A new opera about Milada Horáková, the only women executed by the communist regime, has opened in Prague. Wednesday night’s premiere at National Theatre’s Kolowrat Theatre has been judged a resounding success, with many plaudits going to actress Soňa Červená, who is 82. Milada Horáková, who resigned her seat in parliament after the communist takeover of 1948, was executed after a show trial in June 1950 after being forced to confess to false charges of conspiracy and treason.
The majority of Czech cabinet ministers are prepared to advise Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek not to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing, according to the news website Aktualne.cz. The prime minister has said he would let the cabinet decide whether or not it would be appropriate for him to go. According to aktualne.cz the vast majority of ministers would vote against such a move. Education Minister Ondřej Liška is refusing to attend the games in protest of human rights abuse in China and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has appealed to Czech politicians to boycott the games, saying that their presence at the Olympics would represent support for a Chinese regime which has shown itself to be a dictatorship.
Bulgarian workers for Czech electricity supplier CEZ, which serves Sofia and western Bulgaria, went on strike Thursday demanding higher wages and protesting planned lay-offs. Unions and the company agreed late Wednesday to a 23-percent raise in salaries but talks broke down over additional bonuses and planned personnel cuts. CEZ is legally obliged to continue supplying electricity during strikes and minimum-requirement emergency teams are on stand-by to restore power in case of major blackouts. The Czech utility holds a 67-percent stake in the power grid in western Bulgaria where it has 1.9 million customers.
A plane carrying the chairman of the Czech Senate was forced to make an emergency landing in Prague on Thursday due to a technical problem. The executive jet was carrying a delegation of top officials including Deputy Defence Minister Martin Barták, as well as senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka, to Paris for talks with French parliamentarians. All the officials were unharmed in the incident, and were due to fly to the French capital later in the day for the unveiling of an exhibition on the Czech Republic between the wars. The plane had taken off from Prague's smaller Kbely airport, before diverting and being forced to land at the international Prague-Ruzyně airport. The nature of the fault has not been disclosed.
The ombudsman says asylum seekers should not have to pay charges when they visit a doctor. Otakar Motejl said asylum applicants did not have the money to pay the fees, which were introduced at the start of this year. Mr Motejl said it was unethical for the state to ask them to pay. The Interior Ministry failed in a bid to introduce an exemption for asylum seekers, while the Health Ministry has called for another system of helping refugees pay for health care. Around 2,000 people apply for asylum in the Czech Republic every year.
Czech and American negotiators have begun another round of talks on a
treaty defining conditions under which US soldiers will be deployed at a
planned US radar base in central Bohemia. Issues to be resolved before the
signing of a status of forces agreement include the legal status of US
personnel at the base, income tax payment and the insurance of US
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said there was at least one issue on
which the Czech Republic would not back down. However, he said he believed
a deal would be reached within the next two weeks, allowing the status of
forces agreement to be signed in May at the same time as the already
published main agreement on the building of the radar. The Czech
still has to vote on the matter.
Russia, which has expressed strong reservations about the planned radar base and a linked missile base in Poland, wants to hold talks with Prague, Warsaw and Washington on allowing its experts to inspect the sites, ITAR-TASS reported. Both the Czech Republic and Poland are opposed to allowing Russian military personnel on their soil.
Meanwhile, the Czech Defence Ministry has refused the Communist Party permission to hold an anti-radar demonstration at the proposed site of the US base on the Brdy military grounds in central Bohemia. The radar would be part of a US global missile defence shield.
Václav Havel’s new play Leaving is to be performed at London’s Orange Tree Theatre in September, Lidové noviny reported. The play is currently in rehearsal in Prague ahead of its world, Czech-language premiere on May 22. The London premiere will mark the beginning of a season of plays by Mr Havel which will run until December. Václav Havel was a noted playwright and dissident before becoming president of Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution. Leaving is his first new play in two decades.
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