Czech and American delegates have embarked upon what they hope will be a final round of talks on the SOFA agreement, which will provide a legal framework for American troops living and working on Czech soil. The agreement is being discussed in connection with US plans to build an anti-missile radar base in Brdy, Central Bohemia. According to a Czech defence ministry spokesperson, it is still to be resolved whether American troops will have to pay income tax in the Czech Republic. Another issue which both parties have failed to agree upon up until now is the criminal jurisdiction of American troops on Czech soil. Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek has said that he hopes the agreement will be ready for signing by early May, at the same time as a Czech-American treaty paving the way for a US radar base to be stationed on Czech soil.
More than 50 percent of Czechs are unhappy with the way democracy is working in the Czech Republic, found a poll conducted by the CVVM agency and released on Tuesday. Fifty-one percent of those polled said that they were unhappy with the way they see democracy as operating in the Czech Republic, a six-percent rise on last year’s figures. Forty-nine percent of those polled said that they thought democracy was the best form of government, a figure which equaled last year’s result.
Prague Green Party councilors have said that they are strongly opposed to the idea of building a tunnel under the river Vltava to help ease the capital’s congestion woes. According to the Greens, the project is too expensive and would only create traffic jams in other areas of the city, namely Letná and Holešovice. Councilors for Prague 1 who came up with the idea have reacted by saying that the financial viability of the project will have to be looked into further, but that they believe the tunnel is the best solution to Prague’s traffic problems. Prague Town Hall will decide on the matter by 2010.
The Czech government wants to send as many as 100 troops to Afghanistan in May to serve under US command. The cabinet drafted a resolution to send the troops at a closed session on April 9, but the news became public when a bill was submitted to parliament for approval on Tuesday. If approved, soldiers from the Southern Moravian special forces unit would be sent to serve under US command as part of the American ‘Enduring Freedom’ operation in the Central Asian state. They would not be in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission. The mission is expected to cost the Czech Republic somewhere in the region of 210 million CZK (13.4 million USD).
Czech police have recovered all of the bronze name plaques which were stolen from the graves of Holocaust victims in Northern Bohemia two weeks ago. Tuesday’s edition of Mladá fronta Dnes reports that thieves stole more than 800 name plates from the national cemetery in Terezín, which they then sold for scrap. A suspect has been arrested in connection with the incident, and if found guilty, could face up to eight years in prison. The scrap-yard owner who bought the plates, however, is unlikely to be prosecuted, a police spokesperson told the daily. The damage that the Holocaust memorial suffered is thought to have run into millions of crowns, all of the bronze plates were found broken into pieces. A private security firm has been guarding the graveyard from any further thefts since the beginning of this week.
The Czech beer Gambrinus has come third in the Brewers Association World Beer Cup in San Diego, it was announced on Tuesday. Gambrinus, the most popular beer in the Czech Republic, brewed by Plzeňský Prazdroj, won a bronze in the pilsner beer category of the competition. Over 2800 different beers brewed by nearly 650 different breweries were entered into the competition. The winners were decided by a jury of 129 judges from 21 countries.
The Czech Senate’s immunity committee ruled on Tuesday that independent senator Liana Janáčková should not be handed over for criminal prosecution. Mrs Janáčková was wanted on charges of defamation based upon ethnic origin and race after making comments about the country’s Roma minority, suggesting they should be ‘blown up’. Mrs Janáčková has apologised for her comments, saying they were ‘silly’ and ‘unfortunate’. The Senate will cast the final vote on whether Mrs Janáčková should be stripped of her immunity, but on Tuesday, the immunity committee recommended by seven votes to two that she should not.
The Czech Republic, alongside France and Sweden, pledged on Tuesday to make real progress on combating global warming during its EU presidency, paving the way for a worldwide deal to fight climate change. The three countries, which will steer EU policy each for a six-month stint starting with France’s tenure in July, face the challenge of sealing an agreement on the Commission’s climate-energy package. They also aim to launch talks with a new US administration over global warming and prepare for the Copenhagen UN summit in December 2009, which should hammer out a successor to the Kyoto climate change agreement. Czech deputy prime minister Martin Bursík underlined Prague’s priority of sounding out a new US administration for the EU-US summit in spring next year.
Czech car giant Škoda Auto announced a 15.7 percent jump in first quarter car sales on Monday, largely thanks to strong demand from Eastern Europe and China. The manufacturer, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, said sales in Eastern Europe climbed 38.6 percent to 27,461 cars from January to March. In China, where Škoda cars are produced under licence and the dealership network is developing rapidly, 16,212 cars were sold. The Škoda Octavia was the most sought-after model, followed by the Fabia. The new Škoda Fabia Combi made a successful sales debut with 19,503 cars sold, the company added.
Talks with European aircraft manufacturer EADS over swapping Czech-made light combat aircraft for mid-range tactical transport planes have been cleared by the Czech government, the Czech ministry of defence said on Monday. The deal, if it goes ahead, would see the Czech Republic acquiring one new transporter plane in return for five light combat aircraft that it no longer needs. Talks to work out the details of the deal should take place over the next few months. The first transport aircraft could be delivered within a year. It is thought that Prague has already entered into talks with Washington over the acquisition of US Hercules cargo planes.