A new poll released by the CVVM agency has suggested that most Czechs are not interested in the Czech Republic's upcoming EU presidency. The Czech Republic will assume the six-month presidency, currently presided by France, on January 1, 2009 but three quarters of those queried showed little interest in the issue: just 22 percent seemingly regarded it as important. Most did agree they had scant information on the issue, with only 15 percent answering that current information levels were enough.
Negotiations between the US and the Czech Republic on the SOFA treaty, linked to the planned deployment of a US radar base on Czech soil, have not yet resolved, meaning that the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will sign only the main radar treaty during her visit to Prague next week. The main treaty, agreed some time ago, will enable the radar installation, while the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) deals with US soldiers' status on Czech territory. The taxation of US staff at the radar site is the one remaining issue in the SOFA agreement that remains unresolved. According to Czech sources, US negotiators are trying to see that as few staff as possible will come under Czech tax legislation.
Russian hockey team Avangard Omsk has reported it signed a two-year deal with a one-year option with Czech star Jaromír Jágr, a day after the NHL’s New York Rangers announced they had given up on the player and signed Markus Naslund in his stead. The departure marks the end of an era for Jágr: he spent 17 seasons in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He finished atop the player’s standings five times, and also won the Hart Trophy. Jágr has played for Russia’s Omsk before: he led the team to victory in the European Super Six in 2004/2005 during the NHL lockout.
The acting Czech consul in New Dehli has revealed that the future of two Czech researchers arrested not long ago in India could be decided in court on Monday. Emil Kučera, 52, and biologist Petr Švácha, 51, were arrested late last month for allegedly collecting rare insects, a serious offence under India’s wildlife protection act. The researchers are believed to have collected several hundred specimens and each faces up to seven years in prison. They defended their actions by saying they had no idea they had been within a national park. Czech officials have confirmed there is a good chance the researchers could now be released on bail. The Czech scientific community reacted to their case by circulating a petition of support of both suspects. It was signed by 525 people and presented to the Indian prime minister.
In related news, Social Democrat deputy chairman Lubomír Zaorálek has maintained the planned Czech-US agreement on a tracking radar base in the Czech Republic contradicts the Lisbon Treaty. Mr. Zaorálek said the planned agreement went against the idea of joint European security policy as defined by the stalled reform document. He made the comments earlier this week, maintaining that if the treaty were in force today, member states would have to consult bilateral security treaties together.
The prestigious 43rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival gets underway on Friday with a special screening of Barry Levinson’s “What Just Happened” which premiered at Cannes. On Friday evening American actor Robert De Niro, who stars in the film, will receive a Crystal Globe honouring his contribution to film. Mr De Niro is famous for having worked with some of the world’s best directors, including Martin Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino. Some of the best-known films in which the actor has starred include The Godfather - Part II, Raging Bull, The Deerhunter, and Taxi Driver.
The Canadian Embassy in Prague has reported a slight rise in the number of Czechs who have applied for asylum since visa requirements were lifted last year. The embassy’s spokeswoman revealed on Friday that an average of 53 people per month applied between last November and March, rising to 60 from April to June of this year. A high number of applications could force Canada to reassess visa-free relations with the Czech Republic, although the embassy stressed no such move was planned yet. Canada dropped visa requirements for Czechs last October and has made it known that if the number of those seeking asylum exceeded 580 cases this year (roughly 2 percent of all applications received by Canada) the country would reintroduce visa requirements. So far 267 Czechs, mostly ethnic Roma, have put forward applications.
The US State Department has confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Prague next week to sign an agreement with Czech representatives on the stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory. The base is meant to operate within a broader US defense shield in Europe. The State Department has confirmed that Mrs Rice will arrive on Tuesday morning. Following her arrival she will meet with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the signing ceremony itself has been slated for Tuesday afternoon. Once confirmed, the treaty will still have to be approved by Parliament and signed by the president. The United States wants to install its tracking radar in the Czech Republic in tandem with interceptor rockets in Poland to prevent potential attacks from so-called “rogue” states
The Premier League’s West Ham United have offered young Czech goalkeeper Marek Štech a five-year contract with the club. The 18-year-old, an Under-19 International, was voted the best Czech junior player in 2006, while at Sparta Prague. He is set miss the Under-19 European Championships having only just recovered from injury.
A comprehensive anthology on the Prague Spring of 1968 was presented at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna in Thursday. The two-volume anthology, with 2900 pages, was edited by Stefan Karner of the Boltzmann Institute in Graz, Austria. It contains articles, studies and documents on the 1968 reform movement in Czechoslovakia. The international team of authors was the first to be granted access to the Soviet-era archives in Moscow.