The government has launched an advertising campaign aimed at preparing
Czech citizens for the country’s first presidency of the European Union
next year. The first part of the campaign, which is intended to be
humorous, features a number of leading Czech personalities, including
scientist Antonín Holý, architect Eva Jiřičná and soccer star Petr
Čech. Part two, due to follow in November, will focus on explaining the
presidency, and will coincide with the unveiling of the Czech
presidency’s official logo. The Czech Republic will hold the rotating EU
presidency between the beginning of January and the end of June.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Government is preparing to open a new press centre in connection with the presidency. It will be based at the Office of the Government itself, a stone’s throw from Prague’s Malostranská metro station, and will have room for 70 print journalists.
A court in India is due to deliver on Monday its verdict on two Czech scientists accused of illegally catching rare insects in a national park. One of the two, Emil Kučera, told a member of the Czech Entomology Society that the ruling had been made and could have been announced already, but for the fact the court’s stenographer was slow and could not keep up with proceedings, the news website novinky.cz reported. Mr Kučera and Petr Švácha were arrested in Singalila National Park in the north-east of India towards the end of June.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, is preparing for his first overseas trip since undergoing a hip operation in June. On Saturday, Mr Klaus will leave for the Japanese city of Tokyo, where he is due to deliver a speech on global warming at an economics conference. The president, who has published a book entitled Blue Planet in Green Shackles, questions received wisdom on climate change; he has described global warming as both a false myth and nonsensical fiction, and compared Green politics to communism.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says the best advertising campaign for a planned US radar base has been the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia. He made the comment in response to a question about the effectiveness of an official government campaign to win support for the radar, which the Americans plan to build in central Bohemia. Mr Topolánek’s words seem to contradict official Czech policy that the building of the radar base – part of a US global anti-missile defence system – is not linked to Russia, but to states such as Iran. Prague has signed the main treaty on the base with Washington and is expected to conclude a supplementary treaty this month. The Czech Parliament is then expected to vote on the matter later this year.
More Czechs are buying beer in cans, according to figures released by the group Beverage Can Makers Europe on Thursday. In the first half of this year the percentage of beer sold in cans doubled from 1.7 to 3.5. Forty-eight percent of all beer sold was on draught, with 46 percent sold in bottles. Beverage Can Makers Europe said they were optimistic there would be a significant increase in the amount of beer sold in cans, pointing out that the Czech Republic is some way behind most other countries in this respect. In neighbouring Slovakia, for instance, the percentage of beer sold in cans is four times as high as here.
The Czech Republic has appealed an arbitration ruling under which it was ordered to pay nearly CZK 9 billion (over USD 500 million) to the company Diag Human for harming its blood plasma business, Czech Television reported. The Czech state is demanding that the decision be reassessed by new arbitrators. Meanwhile, the firm says it also wants a new hearing under new, non-Czech arbitrators; it argues that the compensation ordered is too low. The case began in the early 1990s when the then Czech health minister sent a letter to Danish company Novo Nordisk, after which it ceased doing business with Diag Human. In 1998 an arbitration panel recognised the latter’s right to compensation; the wrangling since then has been about how much.
The number of people in the Czech Republic infected by ticks is at its highest in a decade, according to figures just released by the State Health Institute. Over 350 people caught tick-borne encephalitis while nearly 2,300 got Lime disease between the start of January and the end of August. An elderly man died recently of tick-borne encephalitis, the first such fatality of 2008. However, number affected could rise soon, with evidence of infection often being felt in the autumn.
A policeman and a Vietnamese citizen were killed in a shootout in a bar in the north-west Bohemian town of Chomutov early on Wednesday evening. The Vietnamese man was shot first and the police officer, who was 30, was killed when he arrived at the scene. A man has been arrested in connection with the killings.
The minister for human rights and minorities, Džamila Stehlíková, has proposed giving people the right to vote in local elections from 16, instead of the current 18. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, the minister said such a change would involve young people more in public life. She said she wished to begin a debate on the subject and would put it to cabinet if it gains support. Sixteen-year-olds can vote in local elections in some German and Austrian regions.
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.
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