Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has rejected accusations that he was abusing his position by ordering government planes for his private trips. The last in a series of such accusations concerned the fact that the prime minister used a government plane to fly to Vienna for the final match of the Euro 2008 championship. Mr. Topolánek said that as prime minister he was entitled to use government planes at any time and accused the media of harassment. He said the visit to Vienna was approved by the Cabinet, otherwise he would have flown charter and paid for the trip out of his own wallet. Mr. Topolánek said he used barely a third of the perks to which he was entitled as prime minister.
Czech doctors and nurses say they are preparing further protest actions against Health Minister Tomáš Julínek’s reforms. The minister has come under fire from both health workers and the opposition ever since introducing radical reforms at the start of this year. In the wake of a warning strike on June 24th he agreed to postpone some of his plans for the second wave of reforms and put them up for further debate. Even so many of his steps remain highly controversial, including the introduction of medical fees for all citizens.
The government is debating a possible change of legislation which would allow for direct presidential elections. The three parties of the governing coalition are not yet in complete agreement on what such a change of legislation should entail and whether a president elected in a direct ballot should have more powers. The Christian Democrats are against changing the powers of the president, while the Civic Democrats would like to see them broadened. The Justice Ministry has been asked to draft a proposal. Opinion surveys suggest that 90 percent of Czechs would like to elect their head of state in a direct vote.
Czech international defender Tomas Zápotočný has signed a three year contract with Besiktas, the Turkish club announced on its Internet site on Wednesday. Details of the transfer were not revealed but daily newspaper Hurriyet suggested Zápotočný, who did not figure in the Czech squad for Euro 2008, will earn 750,000 euros a year.
US actor Robert De Niro will take center stage at the 43rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival which opens in the West Bohemian spa town on Friday. De Niro is expected to receive an award for lifetime achievement. The latest film produced and directed by De Niro, "What Just Happened," will be screened at the festival's opening with a total of 220 films and documentaries crammed in before the event closes on July 12.
The police have busted a crime ring believed to be behind thirty robberies of banks, casinos and nightclubs in Prague. The police have been after this particular gang for the past ten years. Last year a member of the gang shot himself in the car park of a large shopping centre when surrounded by police. It is not yet clear how many people have been charged.
Czech midfielder Daniel Pudil will join Belgian club Genk from Slovan Liberec following agreement between the two clubs, the Czech first division outfit announced on Wednesday. Italian clubs Reggina and Lecce have also been in the hunt for the player. Pudil was loaned to league champions Slavia Prague from Liberec in the spring following disciplinary problems with his home club. The Czech champions did not take up an option to retain his services sending him back to the northern Czech club.
The oldest Czech, Marie Kráslová from the town of Hluboká, has died at the age of 109. During her 109th birthday celebration last November the old lady was in good health and even sang with her birthday guests. She spent her last years in an old age home visited by her many children and grand-children. There are over 500 centenarians living in the Czech Republic today.
Despite the fact the Czech government has no target date for adoption of the common European currency, some big companies are already conducting most transactions in euros, Hospodařské noviny reported. Car makers in particular have switched to the euro, the newspaper said, giving the example of Škoda Auto, which does 80 percent of its business in the currency. Some suppliers of car parts are also conducting most of their dealings in euros. Using the euro protects exporters from losses causes by the marked firming of the Czech crown; on Tuesday it set a new record of 23.77 to the common European currency.