The Social Democrats have admonished senior party member Miloslav Vlček for his links to a businessman suspected of misusing state grants. Mr Vlček, who is chairman of the lower house, lobbied on behalf of businessman Petr Vrtal for funding for a sports centre. However, Mr Vrtal is accused of putting the money into a large hotel owned by his company. The Social Democrats on Wednesday called on the minister of finance, Eduard Janota, to file charges if wrongdoing is confirmed. A party spokesperson said ultimate responsibility lay with the Finance Ministry for okaying the grant, but said Mr Vlček had made a mistake in becoming involved with the hotel owner.
Tomáš Berdych has reached the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters after beating Richard Gasquet of France 6-2 6-0 in just 57 minutes on Tuesday. Berdych next faces Fernando Verdasco, making it three clashes between the two players in three tournaments. The Czech, who is 24, has won six out of a total of nine matches against the Spaniard. Berdych recently became Czech men’s number one after reaching the final of the Miami Masters.
A long running legal battle over an Ostrava pub’s refusal to serve Romany customers has been settled out of court. Bar owner Jiří Ozdinec agreed to pay the three Romanies CZK 20,000 (just over USD 1,000) each, as well as covering their legal costs. Jaroslav Drobek, Roman Dubnický and Soňa Horvátová first launched legal proceedings on the grounds of discrimination nine years ago after staff at Mr Ozdinec’s pub refused to serve them on the grounds they were not members; soon afterwards they did serve customers who also were not members.
A 24-year-old man is in a serious condition after falling from the statue of St Wenceslas on Prague’s Wenceslas Square in the early hours of Wednesday. The man, who is not Czech, was drunk at the time. He is reported to have broken several bones and sustained other injuries in the fall, which took place around 3:30 am. The man refused to comply with police calls for him to get down for a period of half an hour. When he did decide to dismount the statue he slipped when half-way down and plunged several metres to the ground. The man could now also face a fine.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has vetoed a government-sponsored bill that would force airlines operating in the Czech Republic to buy emissions permits, thereby paying for the damage planes do to the environment. Mr Klaus, who denies mankind is responsible for global warming, rejected the legislation on the grounds that it was based on a directive from the European Union, adding that it could have a negative impact on the economy. The Czech president said such schemes interfered with economic freedom. The bill, which was due to come into effect in 2012, now returns to the lower house for further consideration.
Beroun in central Bohemia has been named the Czech Republic’s “historic town of the year” for 2009. The award goes for care of historical sites and comes with a cash prize of CZK 1 million (nearly USD 55,000). Accepting the honour at a ceremony at Prague Castle on Wednesday, Beroun’s mayor Jiří Besser thanked the team who had contributed to its rebirth after what he called “socialist devastation” and severe flooding in 2002. The runners-up spots in the competition went to Jilemnice and Uherské Hradiště.
The leader of the new party TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, and the new leader of the Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, are the most popular choices to be Czech prime minister, suggests a poll conducted by the Median agency published in Wednesday’s Lidové noviny. Both men received the backing of nearly 31 percent of respondents. Around a fifth of those polled said they would like to see Social Democrats chairman Jiří Paroubek head the next government. His party has been in front in polls of support for individual parties for some time. Czechs will cast their ballots in general elections on the last weekend of May.
The management of a plant producing Toyota, Peugeot and Citroen cars in Kolín have agreed a new collective pay agreement with union leaders. Workers at the central Bohemian factory will receive a 2.5 percent pay rise this year, along with a one-off bonus of CZK 4500 (around USD 250). Overtime payments will also increase at the plant, which was opened in 2005 and last year rolled out over 300,000 cars.
A new documentary about thwarted plans to build a futuristic National Library building in Prague premieres in the city on Wednesday night. Entitled Oko nad Prahou (The Eye above Prague), the film records the victory of Jan Kaplický in the Czech Republic’s first international architecture tender with an ultra-modern design nicknamed the “Blob”, and the subsequent shelving of the plan following opposition from President Václav Klaus and others. The Czech-born Mr Kaplický, who was 71, died in January last year on the day his wife gave birth to their first child.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has rejected a plan to build a new university in the central Bohemian town of Kutná Hora. The idea had been put forward by the regional governor David Rath. Only MPs from his party the Social Democrats gave their support to the project in a vote on Wednesday, along with about half of the Communists present. Meanwhile, the university in Ostrava is to get a medical school after five decades of pushing for one, a spokesperson said. The current faculty of medical studies is being transformed into a full medicine faculty, with the first intake due this autumn.