The Czech media reported on Saturday that the Czech government has decided the European Union's embattled Lisbon Treaty does not clash with the Czech constitution, in an assessment that will be sent to the country's highest court. The centre-right coalition government, led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, reached the conclusion at a cabinet meeting on Friday, Lidové noviny reported. At last week's EU summit, the Czech government was seen as a potential threat to the treaty’s ratification, after Irish voters rejected it in a referendum. All 27 EU member states must approve the document for it to enter into force. The media has reported that Alexandr Vondra, the European affairs minister and deputy prime minister, has confirmed the government’s conclusion.
Czech star Jaromír Jágr is reportedly weighing his options on his hockey future, although where he will play is undecided yet. He could continue with the New York Rangers in the NHL or play in the Russian Super League for Omsk, a team where he spent much of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, or elsewhere. The New York Post reported on Friday that Jágr had been offered 35 million dollars for a three-year-contract. While not making a decision yet, the 36-year-old player, who can become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday, has indicated he would like to play at last two more years abroad before returning to his original team Kladno in the Czech Republic.
The Czech government has approved a state budget deficit of 38.1 billion crowns (for an overall fiscal gap of 1.5 percent of GDP) for 2009, as it attempts to reign in spending and push further reforms. On Friday the Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek called the proposal, which is the equivalent of around 2.5 billion US dollars, “ambitious”, stressing the proposed fiscal trajectory was a return to “civilised levels”. According to the minister, savings cuts across government ministries will be required, although spending in some sectors – such as education – is expected to go up. The 2009 budget plans on spending to drop to 1,053 billion crowns, down from 1,107.3 billion this year.
While police were able to prevent violence during the parade itself, chaos followed shortly after it ended, when an unidentified perpetrator threw a tear gas grenade into a local restaurant. According to public broadcaster Czech TV and other sources, at least 20 people were affected. Two had to be treated by ambulance services, while a police officer collapsed under strain and had to be taken to hospital. The police pursued an estimated 100 right-wing extremists through the city streets. The situation has since calmed, but police will not be able to rule out additional incidents on Saturday evening, when other gay pride events have been planned.
Gerard Houllier, former Liverpool coach in the English Premiership, has reacted angrily to reports he had approached the Czech Football Association over the post of national side manager. On Friday association representatives claimed they had received an email from Mr Houllier expressing apparent interest, but that turned out to be fraudulent say sources including the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. A Czech Football Association representative has since apologised to Mr Houllier for the mistake. The Czech Republic’s national squad is without a manager since Karel Bruckner stepped down, following the Czechs’ defeat in the group stage of Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. The association is aiming tol find a successor to Mr Bruckner by next month.
Ivana Tigridová, the widow of the late Pavel Tigrid - a prominent representative of the Czechoslovak anti-Communist movement in exile - has died at the age of 82. She passed away at her home France on Saturday, the Czech ambassador to Paris, Pavel Fischer said. Mrs Tigridová had reportedly been ill for some time. Her funeral, to be attended by a small circle of family and friends, will take place on Tuesday. Ivana Tigridová and her husband moved to France in the 1960s, with Pavel Tigrid heading the exile journal Svědectví (Testimony). She worked together with her husband in publishing the magazine which opposed Czechoslovakia’s communist regime.
Around 500 gays and lesbians took part in a gay pride parade in the Czech Republic’s second largest city, Brno on Saturday. The Queer Parade, as it is known, is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic. The start of the event saw speeches by gay rights activist Jiří Hromada as well as by Džamila Stehlíková, the government minister for minorities and human rights. The parade itself was delayed by at least half an hour and was almost called off under the threat of clashes from dozens of right-wing extremists in the area. Around 200 police officers were out in force and detained three in minor incidents shortly ahead of the event.
Nicole Vaidišová has made it to through to the final 16 in the women’s competition at Wimbledon. On Friday the young Czech player downed Australian opponent Casey Dellaqua in straight sets, with a score of 6:2, 6:4. Compatriot Záhlavová-Strýcová did not make it into the next round, losing to Russian player Svetlana Kuzněcová. In men’s tennis, Tomáš Berdych was also defeated, losing in straight sets to Spain’s Fernando Verdasko.
The head of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, has revealed that Wednesday’s storms that buffeted parts of the Czech Republic led to extensive damages in agriculture: farmers will see an estimated 300 thousand tons less grain harvested in 2008, a loss of around 1 billion crowns. Storms on Wednesday evening also caused extensive damage to power lines throughout much of the country. Prague’s airport also saw delays. The power utility CEZ has estimated that some 750,000 customers were affected; almost 30,000 remained without power on Friday, although the utility said that for most the situation would return to normal by the end of the day.
The Czech branch of Transparency International has called on the finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, to prevent what the corruption watchdog sees as billions of crowns in potential damages related to a controversial government tender. The tender is aimed at cleaning up damages to the environment dating back to the communist era, but the government is planning on commissioning just a single firm to oversee the project, an order estimated as worth 115 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 7.5 billion US dollars). Critics have charged that the government has approached the issue carelessly and also suggested that analysis in the tender’s preparation was faulty. Others fear that the mammoth deal – dubbed the “deal of a century” by Hospodářské noviny - could invite influence peddling and corruption.
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