Police are investigating whether an advisor to Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič attempted to defraud the European Union, Czech Television reported. Petr Greger used EU funds to pay for two seminars for judges and other experts on public tenders and EU regulations last year. However, there are doubts about whether the second seminar actually took place. Some of those listed as having taken part say they were not there. For his part, Mr Greger said the second seminar was held, though some of the invited speakers may not have come.
Prime Minister Topolánek has said the leader of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek could become chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, a move which could facilitate the smoother running of the lower house during the Czech presidency of the EU, which begins on January 1. Mr Paroubek said on Thursday that his party would co-operate with the government on some matters during the presidency. The current chair of the Chamber of Deputies is Social Democrat MP Miloslav Vlček.
Barbora Špotáková was named Czech Athlete of the Year for the second time in a row at a ceremony in Prague on Saturday night. Špotáková had an incredible season this year, winning gold at the Olympics and setting a new women’s world record in the javelin. In two weeks’ time she will be in Monte Carlo when the world athlete of the year is being announced; Špotáková said she was curious to see if throwing disciplines really were less highly regarded than sprinting.
Former president Václav Havel has begun a year-long series of public
discussions about Czech society. The first debate in the Sunrise in the
Czech Republic series took place at Brno’s Divadlo Husa na provázku
theatre on Saturday. The discussions are intended as a forum for critical
reflection on the state of the country as the November 2009 20th
anniversary of the Velvet Revolution draws near. Mr Havel said he enjoyed
the first debate with Brno university students, who he said had not been
deformed by the communist system. The playwright and former dissident also
said he did not understand opposition to a planned US radar base; America
has selflessly helped the Czechs many times in the past, he said.
Divadlo Husa na provázku on Friday premiered a new show entitled Cirkus Havel, which features scenes from a number of Mr Havel’s plays, including his most recent, Leaving.
The minister of health, Tomáš Julínek, must gain support for reform of the health system if he is to remain in the cabinet, Prime Minister Topolánek said on Sunday. The unpopularity of health reforms – including fees for doctor’s visits and hospital stays – is believed to have cost the Civic Democrats support in the recent Senate and regional elections. The Czech Doctor’s Chamber, which was holding a national congress, called on Sunday for Mr Julínek to resign. The cabinet is scheduled to discuss further reforms proposed by the health minister on Wednesday. Mr Topolánek is planning a cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the debacle his party suffered in October’s votes.
Several popular rock bands from the 1960s are taking part in a one-day concert entitled Czechoslovak Beatfest at Prague’s Lucerna on Sunday. Among those performing at the sold-out event are Luboš Pospíšil & 5P, Radim Hladík & Blue Effect, Vladimír Mišík & ETC, Progres and Michal Prokop & Framus Five. Beat music festivals were held at Lucerna in 1967 and 1968.
Police have begun investigating the cause of a huge fire at Prague’s biggest market last week. Large parts of the Vietnamese-run Sapa market at Libuše in Prague 6 were destroyed in a blaze that at one point was fought by 350 fire officers. An estimated CZK 100 million worth of goods was destroyed in the fire, which broke out at a clothing and footwear warehouse on Wednesday night. Smoke could be smelled across large areas of Prague and people living near the market were told to keep their windows closed.
US president elect Barack Obama will only back a global missile defence
shield that would be part based in the Czech Republic when the technology
is proven to work. A senior aide of Mr Obama’s made the comments in
reaction to a statement from the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, who
said the next US president had assured him the project would be continued.
If it goes ahead, interceptor missiles will be based in Poland, linked to a
tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
Prague has already signed two treaties on the radar with Washington, though the deployment of US soldiers on Czech soil has not yet been ratified by the Czech Parliament. A vote is expected next year. Opinion polls have consistently suggested most Czechs are opposed to the radar.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s main rival for the leadership of the
Civic Democrats has come out strongly against ratifying the Lisbon treaty.
Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém said it was
not possible for the Czech Republic to hand over powers to Brussels without
receiving anything in return, and without even understanding why. Mr Bém
said that the Civic Democrats had adopted a resolution rejecting the
transferral of state or national powers to what he called “European
Brussels-ocracy”; he said he expected the party’s members to adhere to
that pledge. Prague’s mayor is close to President Václav Klaus, a strong
opponent of Lisbon. Prime Minister Topolánek, who is in favour of
ratification, said on Tuesday that the Czech Parliament would vote on the
matter in the first quarter of next year.
Meanwhile, the branch of the Civic Democrats in the rural area around Brno (Brno-venkov) has become the latest to give its backing to Mirek Topolánek ahead of a leadership vote four weeks from now. With a number of district branches around the country having expressed support for Mr Topolánek, he is in front of Pavel Bém, who enjoys strong backing in the capital. Mr Bém, currently first deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats, announced his candidature in the wake of poor results for the party in recent regional and Senate elections.
Prime Minister Topolánek is in favour of the current government with the Christian Democrats and the Greens seeing out its full term; Mr Bém has been critical of the coalition, and there has been speculation he would try to enter some form of power-sharing deal with the opposition Social Democrats.
The Czech ice hockey team were beaten 1:0 on penalties by Russia in their final game at the Karjala Cup in Helsinki on Sunday. Victory would have given the Czechs their first triumph in the opening event of the Euro Hockey Tour for the first time since 2002. In their previous two games they lost to the hosts Finland and beat Sweden.
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