The Canadian singer Celine Dion is appearing in the Czech Republic for the first time on Thursday night. The former winner of the Eurovision Song Contest will perform in the round at Prague’s O2 Arena on a special stage delivered by 21 trucks. The show will be part of Dion’s Taking Chances tour, supporting a CD of the same name.
The Czech leader Mirek Topolánek has presented a prime minister’s medal to Sir Nicholas Winton, an Englishman who saved the lives of hundreds of Czechoslovak Jewish children during World War II. Mr Topolánek said he hoped Czech children today would learn about Sir Nicholas’s story. Mr Winton, who is 99, told reporters in Prague he was moved to receive such an award. During the war he managed to get 669 Czechoslovak Jewish children to safety in the UK; today “Winton’s Children” have around 5,000 descendants.
The Czech footballer Petr Čech has reacted angrily to comments by the former business manager of the national team Vlastimil Košťál, who blamed the Czech Republic’s early exit from Euro 2008 on a mistake by the goalkeeper. Čech issued a statement saying Mr Košťál had been happy enough to take the glory whenever the Czech team was successful and had not behaved like a “team player”. Vlastimil Košťál is one of the most unpopular figures in Czech football. Respected coach Ivan Hašek recently turned down the chance to manage the national team because of Mr Košťál’s role as deputy chairman of the Czech football association.
One person was killed during violent storms which hit the Czech Republic on Wednesday night. A woman of 45 died a few hours after being hit by a falling tree at Svitavy in east Bohemia; she had apparently been sitting at a table in a beer garden, a rescue services spokesperson said. Fire brigades were called out to deal with fallen trees and other problems at hundreds of places around the country. Thousands of households were left without electricity, some trains were cancelled and some flights from Prague Airport were briefly delayed. The storms also interrupted some Radio Prague shortwave broadcasts.
Jana Hybášková, an MEP for the European Democrats, has been ordered by the Prague High Court to apologise to Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlustý for accusing him of corruption. Ms Hybášková also has to pay financial compensation of CZK 50,000 to Mr Tlustý. He had been demanding CZK one million, after the MEP accused him of seeking a bribe of that amount in exchange for support for a subsidy for her party.
President Klaus has granted pardon to a Czech found guilty of smuggling heroin in Thailand. Emil Novotny spent ten years in a Thai jail before being returned to the Czech Republic in 2004, where he was to remain in jail until 2038. On Wednesday, President Klaus pardoned Mr Novotny, saying he was very young when he committed the offence, and that the fact he had spent time in a Thai jail should be taken into consideration.
Brno authorities have banned two rallies intended to protest against the country’s first gay parade on Saturday. Requests by two right wing groups to hold rallies against the planned gay-rights march were turned down by the council, who feared clashes. The ‘Queer Parade’ will be the first march of its kind in the Czech Republic. Organisers predict around 300 people will take part. It is to be held in the Czech Republic’s second city on Saturday at 14:00.
The Czech Republic has become a member of the European Space Agency, it was announced on Wednesday. The move comes after 12 years of Czech cooperation with the intergovernmental organization. The European Space Agency now comprises of 17 of the European Union’s 27 member states, and is a partner of the American space agency NASA, as well as NASDA in Japan. Education Minister Ondřej Liška responded to the decision by saying that full membership of the organization would prove ‘massively signficant’ for Czech science.
Mr Klaus has made fresh comments about the European Union’s embattled Lisbon Treaty. In an interview with Spain’s El Pais newspaper, Mr Klaus warned against ignoring the Irish electorate’s rejection of the treaty two weeks’ ago. He warned of ‘catastrophic consequences for Europe’ should EU leaders exert pressure on Ireland to change its stance on the treaty. The Czech president chided EU leaders for ‘ignoring their own rules’ by continuing to ratify the treaty now that the document no longer had all member states’ support. In the interview, Mr Klaus called for a ‘new document, written by new people’ in order to take the EU forward.
The Czech Parliament has abolished healthcare fees for newborn babies. On Wednesday, deputies almost unanimously approved an amendment to the government’s healthcare reform package, exempting newborns, organ donors and those legally ordered to undergo treatment from paying healthcare fees. As part of the government’s healthcare reforms, patients have been obliged since January to pay 30 crowns (nearly 2 USD) per visit to the doctor, and 60 crowns per day spent in hospital. On Tuesday, thousands of healthcare workers went on strike in protest against the reforms.