Pope Benedict XVI is due to visit the Czech Republic in the second half of September. The pope informed representatives of the Czech Roman Catholic church of his plans to visit the country, a spokesperson for the Czech Bishops’ Conference said on Wednesday, adding that the pontiff’s stay was likely to last two or three days. The Vatican has not yet announced the exact dates; its policy is to do so only six months before a planned papal trip. Pope Benedict XVI’s predecessor John Paul II visited the Czech Republic three times.
The health of former Czech president Vaclav Havel has improved slightly, though he will remain in intensive care, a spokesperson for Motol hospital said on Wednesday. The playwright, who is 72, was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties a week and a half ago and underwent minor surgery to remove an abscess from his throat. There were complications following the operation due to congestion of the right lung. Much of Mr Havel’s right lung was removed when he was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1990s.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has congratulated Barrack Obama on being appointed president of the USA. In a letter published on his own website, Mr Klaus said for many Czechs the US was a symbol of freedom and optimism, democracy and economic success, patriotism and international solidarity. He also drew attention to the role played by America in the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. President Klaus invited President Obama to visit him at Prague Castle, and said he hoped relations between their states would develop dynamically during the latter’s term of office.
The Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has reached the third round of the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open. He beat Brian Dabul of Argentina 6-1 6-1 6-3 to set up a meeting with Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka. Berdych’s girlfriend Lucie Šafářová is also into round three in Melbourne, after beating Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 6-1 3-6 9-7; she now faces France’s Marion Bartoli.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, says he would welcome
Russian involvement in a planned US missile defence system that would be
part based in the Czech Republic. Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, he
also said he did not think America would drop the plan because of the
global financial crisis. On Tuesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said
Russia should be involved in the missile defence shield. Moscow has
frequently voiced opposition to the project, which the new American
president, Barrack Obama, has said will only be realised if it is proven to
work and is cost-effective.
Prague has signed treaties with Washington on the building of a radar base in central Bohemia. They have been approved by the Czech Senate but are yet to go before the Chamber of Deputies. Opinion polls suggest around two thirds of Czechs are against the plan.
The Czech tractor-maker Zetor is to cut production to four days a week in February and March, a spokesperson said on Wednesday. As well as producing fewer tractors, the Brno-based company is planning to lay off around 130 of its 1,100 employees as demand falls due to the financial crisis. Other large firms in the Czech Republic, including Škoda Auto and Hyundai, have also reduced production recently.
Natural gas supplies from Russia began arriving in the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening, said a spokesperson for the biggest Czech distributor RWE Transgas. Russia began pumping gas again after agreeing a new deal on the price of gas and transit with Ukraine, bringing to an end a two-week crisis that left hundreds of thousands of people without heat. The Czech Republic is normally around 75 percent dependent on Russian gas; however, it managed to increase supplies from northern Europe and did not experience a shortfall.
The Czech MEP Vladimír Železný has founded a new political party called Libertas.cz, the newspaper Lidové noviny reported. The party is linked to Libertas.eu, a Europe-wide group originally founded by euro-sceptic businessman Declan Ganley to campaign against the EU’s Lisbon treaty in Ireland. Mr Železný has not confirmed reports that he registered Libertas.cz with the Czech Interior Ministry last week; however, a representative of Libertas.eu said he had done so, with its knowledge. Mr Železný, who heads the small Independent Democrats in the Czech Republic, was formerly the boss of TV Nova.