The Czech Republic and the United States have agreed on the final formulation of the Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA treaty - defining the conditions for US troops who will serve at a proposed US radar base on Czech territory. The Czech government is to deal with the treaty within two week’s time. A team of US specialists had been in the Czech Republic to continue negotiations, the Czech Defence Ministry said. On Friday the ministry revealed that only minor details, such as proofreading, now remained. The contents of the final text have not been released. The main treaty on the US radar base was signed back in July and will now have to be ratified by the country’s parliament.
A fire near Tachov close to the Czech-German border destroyed some 2,500 birds at a local pheasantry in the early hours of Saturday morning. Damages have been estimated at two million crowns. Police have not ruled out arson or technical malfunction as possible causes. Fire fighters were able to save roughly half of the animals in the building.
Martin Bursík, the head of the Green Party, will continue in his post as party leader. Early Saturday evening Mr Bursík was backed by a majority of delegates, defeating the former education minister Dana Kuchtová, his closest challenger. He was backed by roughly two-thirds of delegates, 227 votes, while Mrs Kuchtová received 109. Mr Bursík and Mrs Kuchtová and their supporters have been at odds over the course the party should take in the future: Mr Bursík, a moderate, had been criticised by a wing within the party for his positive stance on a US radar base proposal, as well as at odds with Mrs Kuchtová on other issues, such as nuclear energy. Saturday will also see the election of new deputy heads as well as discussion on proposed changes to the party’s organisation. Dana Kuchtová has already confirmed she will run for the post of first deputy leader.
An increasingly wealthy and confident Russia has been testing the West with its invasion of Georgia and it is likely there will be more such crises in the region, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar has said. On Friday. Mr Pojar met with senior US officials in Washington this week to discuss plans for a US radar base in the Czech Republic. Reuters reported that in an interview with reporters at the United Nations, Mr Pojar outlined that the Czech Republic did not think that the Russian invasion of Georgia was the last crisis that would pit the new bolder Russia against the West. Some analysts have suggested that the Crimea region in southern Ukraine could be used by Russia to destabilize the country. The region hosts Russia's Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol, and the majority of people living there are ethnic Russians.
Civic Democrat Vlastimil Tlustý has also come under fire from the Civic
Democrats for actively cooperating with investigative journalists in the
case: together with a female model he agreed to stage photographs to
fake compromising material, then used as bait by journalists trying to
uncover questionable practices in political circles. It was Jan Morava who
allegedly accepted the material as “real”. On Friday, Prime Minister
Mirek Topolánek railed against Vlastimil Tlustý, accusing him of
initiating the entire scandal.
In the case, he said that MP Jan Morava was “more a victim than a perpetrator”. But he also expressed disgust that anyone would target a politician’s family. In light of the developments, the Civic Democrats have apologised not only to Green Party MP Olga Zubová but also to Czech citizens.
Around 800 people in Toronto, Canada on Friday paid their final respects to the late Thomas J. Baťa, who died this week at the age of 93. Mr Baťa, born in Zlín in what is today’s Czech Republic, made Canada his permanent home after the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948. He oversaw a shoe-manufacturing empire that was first founded by his father. Attendees at the funeral service on Friday included not only family and friends but also political figures such as the Czech Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek and the former premier of Ontario, Bob Rae.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers into the weekend, addressed the conflict in Georgia on Friday by saying Russia needed to understand it had hurt its own interests by intervening militarily in the country. Mr Schwarzenberg said he discussed the issue with his French and Swedish counterparts, Bernard Kouchner and Carl Bildt ahead of further talks. France, the Czech Republic and Sweden follow each other in holding the EU presidency from now through 2009. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to go to Moscow on Monday and call on Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia, a move Mr Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic strongly supported. On Saturday, EU ministers have been scheduled to discuss a joint strategy in connection with the EU-Russia summit on November 14. The focus is also on humanitarian aid to Georgia and reconstruction.
The Civic Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, has distanced itself from two of its MPs – Jan Morava and Vlastimil Tlustý – in a breaking scandal. The party has subsequently called on both to give up their posts. Journalists have revealed that 29-year-old Jan Morava allegedly spent months plotting against fellow MPs – most notably rebel figures within the ruling coalition – for political purposes. Green Party MP Olga Zubová was the main figure targeted, TV Nova and Mladá fronta Dnes have reported. Mr Morava allegedly had her daughter monitored and secretly photographed to try and create material to scare and blackmail the rebel MP into voting well within coalition lines. Mr Morava expressed an interest, also, in attaining compromising material on others, journalists reported.
The Prague daily Právo has reported that Ostrava’s Transport Authority has been handed a 200,000 crown fine for failings related to a section of tramway track in the city that was the scene of a deadly collision between two trams in April, killing three people and badly injuring 11 others. The authority reportedly knew of close calls in the past, where collisions were narrowly averted on the piece of single-track, with the vehicles managing to stop and back-up in time. The fine, Právo writes, is the second the authority has been handed by the Rail Safety Inspection office. An official announcement is expected on Monday.
The Czech army said Friday it will buy 30 armoured vehicles for 998 million crowns (around 58 million US dollars) to protect its forces in Afghanistan from the rising risk of attack. Orders have been placed for 15 Iveco MLV light armoured vehicles and 15 Dingo-2 heavy armoured vehicles, manufactured by German-based Krauss Maffi Wegmann, the army revealed in a statement, acknowledging that conditions in Afghanistan were worsening with an increasing number of attacks on coalition forces, including Czech army personnel. The Czech army has around 500 troops serving in Afghanistan. The vehicles should be delivered by the end of November.