The Czech government agreed on Wednesday to extend a lorry ban, ending a 15-month dispute which has threatened to topple the government coalition. The issue provoked the Greens’ leader Martin Bursík to threaten to walk out of the cabinet in July, when he accused PM Mirek Topolánek of backing down on a promise. The Green Party has long wanted to widen the lorry ban, which they say lessens air and noise pollution and dramatically cuts accidents. The proposed new law agreed upon on Wednesday extends the current Friday summertime ban on lorries between 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm to a year-round one and widens an existing Sunday ban to cover almost the whole day. The move will help bring the Czech ban into line with countries such as Germany, Austria and Slovakia, Environment Minister Martin Bursík said.
The Czech Republic is one of five candidates for the World Ice Hockey Championships in 2014, it was announced on Wednesday. The Czechs, who unsuccessfully applied to hold the contest in 2013, are up against Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary and Latvia for 2014’s championships. The Czech Republic last hosted the tournament in 2004, and should the 2014 bid succeed, then the competition would be staged in Prague for the 10th time in history. The host of the 2014 championships will be announced next year in Switzerland.
Two couples at the centre of a baby mix-up have insisted upon six million CZK (350,000 USD) in damages each from the hospital at fault. Třebič hospital offered the Čermák and Broža families 300,000 CZK (17,500 USD) each after nurses at the facility accidentally swapped the couple’s babies at birth. The accident was discovered late last year and the children in question were swapped back shortly before their first birthdays. After no out of court settlement could be reached, the damages case will begin on September 10. On Wednesday, the parents involved said that they would stand firm on the sum of money they were seeking to claim.
Škoda Power has gained a contract worth nearly half a billion crowns (30 million USD) to upgrade a power plant in Cuba, it was revealed on Wednesday. The plant is situated around 150 kilometers from Havana, and is expected to be back in operation after its facelift in May 2011. According to a spokesperson for Škoda Power, which is based in Plzeň, the firm has an excellent reputation in Cuba, where it has already upgraded several power stations in the last decade. The firm has been making turbines for power stations since 1911.
Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra has said that Croatia should enter into the final round of EU membership negotiations during the Czech Republic’s presidency in 2009. The Czech Republic has already listed further EU enlargement as one of the priorities of its EU presidency which will span the first six months of next year. On Tuesday, Mr Vondra said that he expected Croatia to complete accession talks in 2009. The European Commission has said it expects Croatia to complete EU negotiations by November next year, but Zagreb has pushed to conclude talks earlier. Speaking to journalists in Brussels on Tuesday, Deputy PM Vondra stated the Czech Republic’s other priorities at the helm of the EU as being energy security and diversification of imports, in the face of the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
In related news, South Korean auto giant Hyundai said this Wednesday that it was expecting to open its first European plant sited in the Czech Republic earlier than expected, perhaps in December this year. The Nošovice plant, near Ostrava, will produce 200,000 cars a year in its first phase, rising to 300,000 cars by 2011. It was originally expected to go into operation in March 2009.
A Czech military vehicle has been attacked in Afghanistan, but none of the three soldiers on board were seriously injured, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday evening. The Czechs were returning from a patrol when their vehicle was struck by a bomb in the country’s Logar province. This year has been one of the bloodiest in Afghanistan since the US invasion of the country in 2001. Over 150 troops have died, including two Czechs, so far in 2008. The Czech Republic currently has 400 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, 200 of whom are in Logar province.
Fugitive businessman Radovan Krejčíř has been acquitted of loan fraud by an Ostrava Court. Mr Krejčíř, alongside business partner Miroslav Řehounek, was charged with acquiring a 20-million-crown loan illegally, and with no intention of repaying it, some 13 years ago. But on Wednesday, the judge presiding over the trial said that the two men were innocent, and that the case was a matter of business law, not criminal law. Mr Krejčíř was tried in absentia, as he currently lives in South Africa. The Czech government is seeking to have him extradited back to Prague, where he awaits prosecution in a string of other fraud cases.
Senior politicians have paid their respects to former president Edvard Beneš on the 60th anniversary of his death. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and President Václav Klaus laid wreaths on the statesman’s grave in Sezimovo Ústí, South Bohemia on Wednesday morning. President Klaus also traveled to nearby Tábor to unveil an exhibition dedicated to Beneš’s life and work. The exhibition is titled ‘Dr Edvard Beneš: Czechoslovak diplomat, politician and president’, and lasts until October 4 at the town’s Husitské Muzeum.
In more business news, Czech car exports to outside the European Union were up last year by 25 percent. The amount generated by Czech car sales outside the EU was a whopping 21.5 billion crowns (1.23 billion USD). Germany topped the list of countries exporting cars outside of the EU, with the United Kingdom coming in second. The biggest car exporter in the Czech Republic last year was Mladá Boleslav’s Škoda Auto. TPCA in Kolín came second.
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