The opposition Social Democrats held a one-day party conference in Prague on Saturday to discuss the party’s strategy in elections to the European Parliament, address economic problems relating to the financial crisis and approve a new way of electing the party leadership in March. In the wake of the party’s resounding success in Senate and regional elections last October no one has stepped forward to challenge Jiří Paroubek for the post of party leader. Since there is only one candidate for the top post the party has voted to abandon a direct vote in favour of a vote by party delegates which will save the party three to four million crowns. Mr. Paroubek told the conference his main ambition at present was to lead the party to a victory in the June elections to the European Parliament.
The Jeseníky Mountain rescue service has called a third-degree avalanche alert, warning skiers not to stray from marked ski-trails. The service said the strong wind and twenty five centimeters of fresh snow in the mountain’s five avalanche areas presented a serious danger and the weight of a single skier could set off an avalanche. An 18-year-old snowboarder died in the Jeseníky Mountains on Friday after he and a group of friends left the marked trail and were trapped in an avalanche.
Addressing the Social Democrat conference as a guest of honor, General Wesley Clark thanked the Czech Republic for accepting the US missile defense project and showing a high degree of solidarity with the US. He indicated that no matter how the project developed, Prague’s allegiance was much appreciated. Washington recently issued signals that it might be prepared to revise its missile defense plans to include Russia and there have been indications that the economic crisis could see them postponed by several years.
Petr Mach has been elected chairman of the Party of Free Citizens, a new eurosceptic party that aims to win over dissatisfied right-wing voters. The Party of Free Citizens is gearing up for the June elections to the European Parliament with a campaign directed against the Lisbon treaty. It is also in favour of a referendum on euro adoption. The party’s constituent assembly received greetings and good wishes from President Václav Klaus who indicated that some of its stated goals, were close to his own heart. President Klaus’ youngest son Jan is a member of the new party. The party’s founder and chairman Petr Mach is the executive director of the Centre of Economics and Politics. He has in the past worked closely with the Czech president who is known for his eurosceptic views.
Czech Šárka Záhrobská won the silver medal in the women's slalom at the Alpine Skiing World Championships in France on Saturday. The Czech defending champion lost to Germany’s Maria Riesch who clocked a combined total of 1min 51.80 sec to finish a massive 0.77 sec ahead of Zahrobska. Finn Tanja Poutiainen took the bronze, a further 0.32sec adrift.
The ruling Civic Democrats on Friday launched a web page ridiculing and criticizing the leading opposition party ahead of elections to the European Parliament. Civic Democrat election leader, MEP Jan Zahradil said the party had taken a beating in the Senate and regional elections by refusing to rise to the bait, but was now prepared to return the Social Democrats’ behaviour in kind. The webpage offers articles and video recordings ridiculing Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek, Central Bohemian regional governor David Rath and other senior party officials.
Eleven people, among them five children, were injured in Rokytnice nad Jizerou, in the Giant Mountains, when their snowcat passenger vehicle crashed on its way down a mountain slope. Several of the injured were airlifted to hospital by helicopter. The vehicle had collected holidaymakers from several mountain chalets and was taking them down the slopes to board their busses home when the accident happened. Early reports say the driver lost control of the vehicle and it turned several times over before crashing into a stream. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík is to join his foreign counterparts on a two-day trip to Antarctica organized by the Norwegian environment minister Eric Solheim. The ministers will set off for Antarctica from Nairobi, Kenya, where they will first attend a meeting of the UN Environment Programme council. In Antarctica they will visit the Troll research station and see with their own eyes the impact of climate change on the region.
The Supreme Audit Office filed several criminal complaints in connection
with the upcoming Nordic World Ski Championship, which will start in the
north-Bohemian town of Liberec next week. The auditors believe the
municipality of Liberec and the town’s Technical University broke
laws during preparations; they suspect that tens of millions of crowns
embezzled in the process.
Organizers as well as the municipality have rejected the accusations.
The Nordic Ski World Championship had already been criticized for relying too much on public finances; the Czech government has spent around 1.5 billion crowns, or more than 67 million US dollars, on the event.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, signed on Friday a controversial bill
barring the media from publishing or broadcasting police wiretaps.
After the law enters into force in May, any journalist who publishes
transcripts of phone calls intercepted by the police will face a fine of
five million crowns or five years in jail.
Last week MPs from most parties in the Chamber of Deputies voted to overturn a Senate veto on the law. A number of Czech and international journalists’ groups, including Reporters without Borders and European Newspaper Publishers’ Association, have called on Mr Klaus not to sign the bill, which they say is an infringement on the freedom of the press.
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