The Czech Constitutional Court has started its assessment of the Lisbon Treaty, Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said on Wednesday. The deputy prime minister said that he expected the court to make its final decision on the constitutionality of the treaty by this autumn. According to Mr Vondra, the Czech government supports the Lisbon Treaty, which sets down a new framework for the European Union and the way it is run. But, he said, the cabinet is not ruling out the possibility that the treaty will not be ratified by the end of the year. All EU member states must ratify the treaty for it to take effect. According to factions within the government, the Czech Republic’s delayed ratification of the treaty could lead to it being viewed as a ‘problem-state’ by other EU members.
Thirty-four-year-old former Czech international Patrik Berger is to return to the Czech Republic next season, to play for his very first club, Sparta Prague. The footballer made the statement at a press conference on Thursday, adding that he had signed a two-year contract with this year’s runners-up in the Gambrinus Liga. Berger has been playing club football abroad now for 17 years, the last ten of which he has spent in England. The player said he was leaving Aston Villa and the English Premier League for family reasons.
The king of Czech pop, Karel Gott, has just become a father for the fourth time. On Thursday afternoon, his wife Ivana gave birth to a healthy baby girl, which the couple named Nelly Sofia Gottová. Nelly Sofia weighed 3.16 kg at birth and measured 49 centimeters, a spokesperson for the couple said. The baby girl is the couple’s second – her older sister Charlotte Ella is now two years of age. This is Gott’s fourth daughter, Nelly Sofia joins not only Charlotte Ella, but also Dominika and Lucie, children from previous relationships who are now both grown up.
Head of the Greens Martin Bursík has said that his party has drafted plans for a referendum which would allow Czechs to decide on how their president should be elected. Currently the president is elected indirectly – by lawmakers in the Czech Senate and Lower House. According to Mr Bursík, the majority of lawmakers favour switching to direct presidential election, which would leave the decision up to the electorate. Mr Bursík said, however, that up until now, parliamentarians have been unable to agree on how to switch from indirect to direct presidential elections. He said that he was raising the issue now so that something could potentially be done before the end of the government’s term in office in 2010.
A special police centre is to be established in the Czech Republic to protect the country against terrorism. Police president Oldřich Martinů told the daily Právo on Thursday that he was in talks with the Czech Interior Ministry about the exact form that the new police department would take. The newspaper writes that Interior Minister Ivan Langer made the decision to found such a centre in response to the US lifting visa-requirements for Czech citizens traveling to the States. The centre is expected to open this summer, and will be fully staffed by the end of this year. It will function as the central point of contact for all foreign partners in the fight against terrorism, says Právo.
The Czech Football Association has fired two press officers for confusing Lithuania with Latvia during a Czech-Lithuania friendly in Prague on Tuesday. The match organizers played the Latvian national anthem and flew the Lithuanian flag upside down. In the programme, the organizers printed the Latvian flag instead of the Lithuanian one. The Czechs went on to win the match 2-0.
Czechs spent some 108.3 billion CZK (6.7 billion USD) on the lottery and other forms of gambling last year, suggest statistics released by the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday. This figure was 10.2 billion crowns (635 million USD) higher than that of 2006. According to the ministry, the amount Czechs spend on gambling has more than quadrupled in the last 15 years. Each Czech flutters on average some 12,900 CZK (802 USD) a year. According to analysts, the sharp rise in the amount wagered can be attributed to a rise in living standards and income in the Czech Republic over the last couple of years.
A meeting of Prague councilors was disrupted on Thursday when artists, unhappy with the way that culture is funded in the Czech capital, stormed Prague City Hall. The protest marks the end of a week of events titled ‘Dny neklidu’ (‘The Days of Unrest’), during which hundreds of artists demonstrated against what they considered to be flaws in the current arts’ funding system. Protesters were particularly unhappy with the way Prague’s theatres are funded, and the blanket ticket subsidies currently in place. In light of today’s upheaval at City Hall, councilors said that they were unwilling to change their stance on culture funding.
AC Milan defender Marek Jankulovski was named Czech Footballer of the Year for the first time on Wednesday. The 31-year-old won the Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup with his Italian side last year and was a pillar of the Czech national team in their successful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Jankulovski, who is the first defender to win the award in 17 years, beat Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Čech, who won the award in 2005. Arsenal midfielder Tomáš Rosický was third.
Czech scriptwriter and film director Ivan Passer will chair the main jury at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival this year, it was announced on Thursday. A spokesperson for the festival said that both Petr Zelenka’s film The Karamazovs, and Michaela Pavlatová’s Children of the Night would be representing the Czech Republic in the feature-film competition. The competition jury will also include British actress Brenda Blethyn, Isreali film-maker Ari Folman and US producer Ted Hope.