Meanwhile, the country’s Defence and Security Industry Association has set up a new organisation to support the families of soldiers killed or injured while serving in the Czech army overseas. The We Support our Soldiers foundation will focus on providing study grants to the children of such soldiers. Lieutenant General Picek said he welcomed the establishment of the foundation, but pointed out that the army itself is legally bound to provide assistance to the families of troops who die or are injured.
Prime Minister Topolánek also commented on the issue of gas supply, saying that the crisis which arose because of a dispute between Russia and Ukraine at the start of the year could easily happen again tomorrow. He said while the short-term halt in supplies had been dealt with, the underlying causes of the dispute had not gone away, the news website novinky.cz reported.
Czech football manager Petr Rada has given Slavia Prague defender Marek Suchý his first call-up to the international squad, ahead of two World Cup qualifiers. The Czech captain Tomáš Rosický, meanwhile, is not in the squad; he sustained a groin injury in training while attempting to return to fitness after a layoff of over a year due to a persistent ligament problem. The Czechs face Slovenia away on March 28 and Slovakia at home four days later.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a special mandate preventing the government from transferring national powers to the European Union without the consent of the Czech Parliament. Senators from the right-of-centre Civic Democrats say they will only vote to ratify the EU’s Lisbon treaty if such a guarantee is in place. The matter will now go before the Senate, though it is unclear whether a vote on the mandate would take place at the same time as the actual vote on Lisbon.
The financial crisis has led to an increase in applications to join the Czech army, the chief-of-staff Vlastimil Picek said on Thursday. While the army had been planning to take in 1500 recruits this year, over 40 percent of those places were filled in January and February, and the intake is now likely to be higher than originally planned, Lieutenant General Picek told reporters. He also said that while the financial crisis was forcing the army to make cutbacks, it would not affect its foreign missions.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, has spoken out strongly against the idea of an EU financial rescue package for the central and eastern Europe region. Speaking to the newspaper E15 ahead of an EU summit he is currently chairing in Brussels as part of the Czech presidency, Mr Topolánek said it would be wrong to divide Europe into two blocs. Reacting to a Financial Times report that EU leaders wanted to increase aid to central and eastern Europe, the Czech leader said such suggestions added to previous negative portrayals of the eastern part of the EU in the media; he also reiterated Prague’s irritation with the fact European politicians and media outlets had bracketed the Czech Republic with states particularly hard hit by the financial crisis.
The renowned Czech writer Milan Kundera is set to bring out a new collection of essays next week. In Une rencontre the author, best known for titles such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, turns his attention to greats of world culture such as Francis Bacon, Dostoevsky and Rabelais. Kundera has been publishing in French since 1990, a decade and a half after he moved to Paris from Czechoslovakia. He turns 80 on April 1.
The Czech presidency of the EU has called for the establishment of a unified platform to co-ordinate the study of totalitarian regimes. Speaking at the European Parliament, the Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, said two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain a platform of memory and conscience should be set up, in order to increase public awareness of the causes and consequences of the totalitarian regimes that existed in some EU member states. One of the project’s initiators, Czech MEP Jana Hybášková, said it should at first be based on co-operation between existing institutions doing research into the crimes of Communism and Nazism. The platform is intended to facilitate the exchange of information, support international projects under a single grant policy and allow free access to archives within the EU.
An 87-year-old former state prosecutor has begun a jail term for the judicial killing of democratic politician Milada Horáková in a 1950s Communist show trial. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, who is reported to be almost blind, arrived at a jail in Plzeń on Thursday to begin serving a six-year term, a prison service spokesperson told reporters. She had fought a legal battle against being sent to prison, and her sentencing led to public debate on the ethics of punishing somebody so advanced in age.
Demand for residential property in the Czech Republic could fall by nearly 50 percent this year, according to a report from Deloitte. It said property prices would drop as the financial crisis eats into household incomes. The prices of existing flats could decrease by up to 20 percent, while the price of new flats could fall by 15 percent, Deloitte said, adding that the Czech mortgage market was relatively healthy because lending was mainly in the local currency the crown, redressing losses caused by foreign exchange fluctuations.
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