Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkánová and her Slovak counterpart Jaroslav Baška signed an agreement on Friday towards founding a joint military unit - one of the biggest joint defence projects since Czechoslovakia's Velvet Divorce in 1993. The unit will start operating in 2009 and will be made up of 1,500 soldiers, the ministers told journalists after a Visegrad Four meeting on Friday with Ukraine. Of that, 300 soldiers and 100-member strong support team will be Slovak nationals. EU members pledged back in 2004 to form 13 battlegroups to be on alert for defence missions, with soldiers being ready for deployment to emergency areas ten days after a decision is taken. The Czech Republic is to provide a mechanised battalion, artillery systems and combat helicopters.
The Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office has concluded that the Ostrava Transport Authority should have alerted it to previous near-misses on a local tram route which saw a deadly collision this month. Three people died when two trams crashed head-on two weeks ago. Last week the Ostrava Transport Authority hinted there had been close calls in the past along the area of track in question. The recent tragedy happened after a tram driver failed to wait along a loop of track before heading out. The spokesman for the Rail Safety Inspection Office said on Friday that if authorities had been aware of the problem, preventative measures might have been taken. The Ostrava Transport Authority could now be fined tens of millions of crowns.
Five time Ice Hockey world champion David Výborný is headed for Prague’s Sparta hockey team next season. The player, who was signed with Columbus in the NHL, agreed to a three-year contract. Výborný was part of the national team which won the world championship gold in Vienna in 1996 as well as in 2005.
Police have charged 12 individuals for alleged activities in a prostitution ring targeting young women from former Soviet bloc countries. The 12, four men and 8 women (11 of whom are from former Soviet bloc) ran a dozen prostitution sites. Police are now investigating whether girls working for the ring did so of their own volition or were forced. The gang is suspected of having made several million crowns in profits over a number of years: all of the foreign nationals in the gang were in the country legally.
Police have shelved their investigation into a widely-publicised case of death threats against a number of MPs and senators. The threats took place during the presidential election in February. According to internet news site aktualne.cz, investigators failed to uncover any perpetrators. After a first attempt to elect the country’s president failed, lawmakers such as Social Democrat MP Evžen Snítilý and Senator Liana Janáčková received envelopes containing bullets – an apparent attempt at intimidation. As a result Mr Snítilý and family members for a time were provided police protection.
Hockey forward Tomáš Plekanec earned an assist in the Montreal
Canadiens’ dramatic win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup
playoffs on Thursday. The Canadiens twice rallied from behind, tying the
game with only seconds remaining. Montreal then scored in the first minute
of overtime to win 3-2.
In other action, Milan Hejduk scored for the Colorado Avalanche against Detroit – but his goal, while enough to put his team within distance, but not enough for a win. The Red Wings – with Chris Osgood in net, not Dominik Hašek – edged Colorado by a score of 4-3.
The Czech daily E15 has reported that a Raytheon, a US defence firm, has become the first to win a contract in connection with a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic. According to the daily’s website, a contract worth five million US dollars was awarded last week. Under the agreement the firm will reportedly gauge planning and demands surrounding the radar system, which could one day be located in the Brdy military zone. Raytheon spokeswoman Maureen Heard confirmed for the daily the signing of the contract; Raytheon is the world’s fifth biggest arms producer as well as a producer of missile defence systems.
The opposition Social Democrats have confirmed they will call a vote of no confidence on the coalition government next week. The date has been set for April 30. For the motion to succeed, the opposition requires at least 101 votes in the 200-member Parliament, but the opposition can only effectively rely on 97 MPs. Former Social Democrat lawmakers Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka confirmed on Friday they would continue to back the government. The opposition Social Democrats along with the Communist Party have tried to topple the coalition twice before. On Friday the Social Democrats stepped up their rhetoric, accusing the government of corruption and criticising steps taken in health care and other sectors.
Deputy transport minister Jiří Hodač has been named the winner of the
2007 “Ropák" or Oil Guzzler, awarded for the worst environmental
policies. Winners of the anti-award are chosen each year by Czech
environmentalists Děti Země. Mr Hodač was chosen for supposedly
threatening to sue a number of civic associations in a dispute last year.
The award is named after a fictional creature that lives off of industrial
waste; it was invented by director Jan Svěrák in a mock-documentary.
Another to receive an anti-prize on Friday was President Václav Klaus. He was named as this year’s holder of the Green Pearl – given for worst environment-related statement in the media. The president, well-known for scepticism on the issue of global warming, questioned ecological devastation on the planet by reportedly telling Hospodárské noviny he’d “never seen any in [his] life”.
Czechs could catch up with West European levels of prosperity within a decade if strong economic growth continues, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) said in a report assessing the country’s progress on Thursday. Assuming real GDP-per capita growth of 2.0 percent in the euro area and 5.0 percent in the Czech Republic, the gap could close within a decade," the report said. Czech gross domestic product per person is currently about 75 percent of the euro-zone based on a comparison of the goods and services that can be purchased locally.
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