The Status of Forces agreement setting the conditions under which US soldiers would operate a planned US radar base on Czech soil should be ready by the end of next week, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview for Czech public television on Sunday. An agreement on the siting of a US tracking radar on Czech territory was signed by Washington and Prague in July, leaving the two sides to conclude the so-called SOFA deal on the status of an estimated 250 US soldiers who would man the base. The tracking radar in the Czech Republic and ten interceptor rockets in neighboring Poland are to form the European part of a global system Washington says it is assembling to shoot down ballistic missiles it fears could be launched by "rogue" states or militant groups such as al-Qaeda. Although both the Czech and Polish governments have signed agreements with the United States on missile defense the deals still need to be approved by the two countries’ parliaments.
Czech Lucie Šafářová, ranked just 82nd in the world, beat China's Peng Shuai 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the US Open warm-up event at Forest Hills on Saturday. The 21-year-old Šafářová, who won this event in 2005 when she won the first of two tournament wins at Estoril, Portugal, had lost to Peng on clay in 2004 in the Czech Republic in their only other meeting.
Coast guards in Croatia have retrieved the dead bodies of two Czech divers who failed to return from their diving expedition off the Croat coast on Friday. The bodies were found 45 meters underwater almost two days after their families reported them missing. The rescue team found them not far from the holiday resort of Podgora, where another Czech diver lost his life last Tuesday. The Croat coast is a popular holiday destination with Czechs, but many of them suffer serious injuries or lose their lives after misjudging their strength and capabilities. Eleven Czech tourists have died on holiday in Croatia this summer alone. The Croat authorities have issued repeated warnings for Czech holiday-makers to exercise greater caution.
The Czech Republic is interested in holding a donors’ conference in aid of war-torn Georgia. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Sunday that such a conference should take place as soon as possible, ideally by the end of the year. Minister Schwarzenberg said he hoped it would take place in Prague but that several countries had expressed interest in hosting it, in which case the Czech Republic would be happy to cooperate with any of them. The Czech government recently earmarked 150 million crowns in aid to Georgia.
The Czech Republic won three gold and three silver medals at the Olympics in Beijing and placed 24th in the medals table. The country’s three gold medal winners are Barbora Špotáková in the women’s javelin and shooters Kateřina Emmons and David Kostelecký. Kateřina Emmons also won a silver medal as did rower Ondřej Synek and Jaroslav Volf and Ondřej Štěpánek in the double canoe.
Municipalities in the Brdy area south-west of Prague, the site selected for the US tracking radar, have received a financial injection from the government, the first of an estimated 1,2 billion crowns. The money is to boost the region’s infrastructure and Prime Minister Topolánek has promised to make it available whether or not the planned US military base is built there. However the inhabitants of some forty towns and villages in the vicinity remain vehemently opposed to the radar base. The locals fear not only environmental damage but also the possibility that the tracking radar would make the country a target for attacks by America's enemies. Many people claim that a radar in their vicinity would drastically lower the value of their property.
The former Czech president Václav Havel has denounced what he called Moscow’s “imperial ambitions”. Speaking at the Trutnov Open Air Music Festival over the weekend, Mr. Havel noted that while the Putin regime was more sophisticated than its predecessors of the communist era, present-day Russia still appeared not to know “where it begins and where it ends”. The former Czech president said the international community should make its position on Georgia and other matters quite clear and stop treating Russia with restraint and caution. He received loud applause from the hundreds of young festival-goers who attended this year’s Trutnov festival, originally known as “the Woodstock of the East".
Arable land area in the Czech Republic has decreased in the last two years, as has cattle and pig stock, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office. The Czech Republic's farmland area is nearly 130,000 hectares smaller than it was four years ago, but still covers nearly 45 percent of the country's territory. Farmers focus more on rape seed and oats, while areas planted with rye and wheat have diminished. The figures indicate that number of private farms has dropped and people working in the sector are getting older. The land used for organic farming has grown by 18 percent in the last two years.
A search is on for two Czech divers who failed to return from their diving expedition along the Croat coast on Friday. Two coast guard vessels, professional divers and a helicopter searched the water for several hours on Friday without success. The search was resumed at daybreak on Saturday. The Croat coast is a popular holiday destination with Czechs, but many of them suffer serious injuries or lose their lives after misjudging their strength and capabilities. Eleven Czech tourists have died on holiday in Croatia this summer alone. The Croat authorities have issued repeated warnings for Czech holiday-makers to exercise greater caution.
The inhabitants of a small Bohemian village have been asked to vote in a referendum on whether they want the mayor to introduce a ban on the use of lawnmowers over the weekend. Němčovice has close to a hundred inhabitants and this is the first referendum of its kind. Mayor Karel Ferschmann says it is an attempt to get people to be more active in local politics and let them know that their views count.
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