Czech and United States defence ministers signed a bilateral agreement on military research in Brussels on Thursday. The agreement puts the Czech Republic among a small and select number of countries with whom the US has signed such agreements. The agreement stems from negotiations for the US to site part of its anti-missile defence shield in the Czech Republic, a step which President Barack Obama latter shelved as he re-set relations with Russia. The agreement, signed by Czech defence minister Martin Barták and his US counterpart, Robert Gates, in the margins of a NATO meeting, should allow Czech universities and institutes to seek grants and take part in primarily military, but also civil, research projects.
Negotiators from the three parties aiming to form a centre-right government have agreed to work on a proposal for the direct election of the head of state. The leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, said on Thursday that talks with the conservative party, TOP 09, and the Public Affairs party had resulted in agreement to draw up a proposal for citizens to elect the president in future. At the moment, the president is elected by members of both houses of parliament. Mr. Nečas said that he personally was in favour of safeguarding the current system but was prepared to accept a compromise proposal on direct elections. Party leaders have not agreed whether the president’s powers should be strengthened to accompany such a change. TOP 09 head Karel Schwarzenberg said the president’s powers should be revised but Mr. Nečas said he saw no need for such a change.
In football, veteran midfielder Lukáš Jarolím is to return to Slavia Prague after three years with Italian league club Sienna. The 33-year-old announced his return to the club being managed by his father, Karel, on Thursday. A return to Slavia had first been mooted in February but the Italian club created obstacles to the move then. Lukáš Jarolím’s contract with the Tuscan club expires at the end of June.
The European Union’s top court, the European Court of Justice, has ruled
that the Czech Republic failed to properly put into effect a directive
setting out the rules for the environmental evaluation of public and
private construction projects. The decision means that the country will
have to pay court costs but will not face any other penalties.
The long delayed rules were eventually passed by the Czech parliament in December 2009 after the court proceedings had already been launched. They should have been passed in 2005. Part of the delay was due to a veto on the proposed rules from President Václav Klaus. He said they amounted to a new weapon for environmental groups to block construction projects.
The outgoing governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma, has denied seeking or being offered a job on a newly created body tasked with spotting flaws and upcoming risks for the European economy. According to the Czech business paper E15, Mr. Tůma was offered the chance to head the European Board for Systemic Risk. The body was created last year to help the European Union strengthen its capacity to pinpoint and react to major economic crises. But in a statement, the Czech bank governor denied seeking or being offered the post. The board was initially supposed to be part of the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank but the European Parliament is seeking to make it an independent institution.
Flash floods hit the north of the country on Thursday night. The body of one man was found five kilometres downstream after he was carried off by a surging river near the city of Liberec. Police announced later that the body of a drowned elderly woman was found in a lake near Železný Brod. Rivers and streams in the area rose by up to two metres following heavy storms. Houses were also flooded near the town of Děčín where a children’s camp also had to be evacuated.
The city of Ostrava has earmarked 2.0 billion crowns for investment in its flagship project to be selected as one of the European capitals of culture in 2015. City leaders agreed to set aside the investment for plans to transform the Červená Louka area of the city through construction of a concert hall, art gallery, music pavilion and new flats. The city estimates total costs linked to the capital of culture plans at around 3.75 billion crowns. Ostrava is competing with the west Bohemian city of Pilsen to be selected for the designation.
Representatives from the three parties also said that they wanted to involve the left-wing Social Democrats in an agreement over future reform of the Czech pension system. A proposal to reform the current system, which is in danger of collapse because of a shrinking base of working people and growing number of claimants, has been tabled by a special commission. The main proposals count on cutting pension payments from 28 to 23 percent of average gross wages. Some of the difference would be made up by individuals contracting their own pension insurance with the backing of state incentives. The pension age would also be increased. Representatives of the three parties also agreed on creating a corps of anti-corruption officials and either anti-corruption courts or juries.
The Czech ice hockey club Hradec Králové will not join the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League next season, the league said in a statement on its website. The KHL’s leadership said they were sorry that the Czech ice hockey union had expressed opposition to Hradec joining the league; the KHL had previously said it would not go against the wishes of the Czech organisation. The KHL’s president said that politics had again won out over new trends and developments in sports and business. There are 20 Russian clubs in the KHL, alongside one each from Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
President Václav Klaus should declare the dates for Senate and local elections at the start of July, Senate leader Přemysl Sobotka said after a meeting with the head of state on Thursday. A third of the 81-seat upper house, the Senate, is renewed every two years. The next two-round Senate elections must take place at the latest in October. Mr. Sobotka said discussions with the president also centred on possible replacements for former ombudsman Otakar Motejl. Senators have until June 21 to make their recommendations to fill the vacant post.
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