The post of US ambassador to Prague has been unoccupied for almost a year, longer than it has ever been vacant before. American media outlets have reported that a previously tipped candidate, billionaire Marc Nathanson, will not now be taking up the position. The Washington Post reported that Mr Nathanson, who is a media tycoon, had had problems passing a security screening.
The Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, says a new NATO strategic concept currently being prepared should strengthen security guarantees for the countries of central and eastern Europe. Mr Kohout made the comments after a conference at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended by the Prague-born former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright. She is heading a team sounding out opinion on the new strategic concept in various NATO member states. Minister Kohout said the alliance should maintain a balance between foreign missions and the traditional defence of its members.
After several days of heavy snowfall in the Czech Republic it is no longer snowing. Nevertheless, much of the country has been hit by freezing fog and the effects of the snowfall are still being felt. Fallen trees are still blocking some roads, while two trains were derailed by fallen trees on Tuesday, though there were no injuries. Since Friday, Prague has seen its heaviest snowfalls for 30 years.
The Czech Republic is hoping to buy four US Hercules military planes this year, the country’s minister of defence, Martin Barták, told reporters. Two of the planes would be flown while the other two would be used as a source of spare parts. Mr Barták refused to say how much the aircraft would cost, but said they would come at a good price. The idea of buying Hercules planes was floated in 2008 by a previous Czech defence minister, Vlasta Parkanová.
There is uncertainty over the whereabouts of the mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém. While Mr Bém’s office would only say that he was “in the mountains”, the news website aktualne.cz said it had information that he was climbing Mount Vinson, the highest peak in the Antarctic. In 2007 Prague’s mayor was criticised for taking two months off to climb Mount Everest.
Controls aimed at uncovering dishonest taxi drivers at Prague Airport were launched on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Police – who have undertaken the checks in conjunction with Prague City Police and city officials – said they would be repeated in the near future. Passengers have been complaining of problems with taxi drivers at the airport for some time, while there have also been incidences of drivers attacking one another, both verbally and physically, the spokesperson said. Three taxi companies currently have stands at the airport.
A Czech woman arrested by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday has been expelled. Eva Nováková, who has been described as a pro-Palestinian activist, arrived in Prague on Tuesday. A Czech diplomat said Miss Nováková had been arrested after overstaying her visa, a suggestion denied by her lawyer.
The Czech Republic’s candidate for the post of European commissioner, Štefan Füle, answered questions from MEPs at a hearing on Tuesday to decide whether he should actually get the job. Mr Füle, a career diplomat who was once a member of the Communist Party, is in line for the position of commissioner for enlargement. At the start of his appearance in Brussels, he said there should be no shortcuts to membership of the European Union. On the hot issue of whether Turkey should be allowed to join the EU, Mr Füle told members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that accession talks were the best way of helping bring about that country’s modernisation. Asked whether he believed Turkey could be a full member of the EU, the Czech nominee said it most certainly could. The MEPs made almost no reference to Mr Füle’s Communist past. Tuesday was the second of four days of interviews of candidates for European Commission posts.
Milan Knížák will next year step down as the head of the Czech National Gallery after over a decade in the job. He is leaving the post on agreement with the minister of culture, Václav Riedlbauch, a spokesperson for his ministry told reporters. Mr Knížák, who is himself a visual artist, is a controversial figure who has frequently been embroiled in disputes over his views on art and politics.
Police in the Czech capital discovered a man tied up in the boot of a car after being called out to deal with a traffic accident. A police spokesperson said kidnapping could not be ruled out. After a Škoda Fabia and a Citroen were involved in a collision in Prague 8 on Tuesday morning the former sped off. When the police apprehended the vehicle they found the man, who is reported to be a lawyer for a big company, in the trunk. He had not been injured.