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22-03-2010 19:59 | Chris Johnstone

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Senate head calls for ODS leader to consider stepping down

The head of the Czech upper house, the Senate, has called for the leader of the centre-right Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek not to stand in upcoming elections and to consider his post as party leader after insulting comments about gays and the Church. Senate head, Přemysl Sobotka, who is a leading member of the Civic Democrats, made the call in a short statement, adding that the comments were inflammatory and conflicted with basic ODS ideas.

Former prime minister Mr Topolánek said in an interview with a gay magazine that Transport Minister Gustav Slamečka would back down if the going got tough. He said the same applied to Prime Minister Jan Fischer because of his Jewish origins. In separate comments, Mr Topolánek said the Church had brainwashed people and made idiots of the masses. Mr Fischer described the comments as “insulting, stupid and devious” and said he would curb future contacts with Mr Topolánek.

Mr Topolánek said on Monday that reaction within the Civic Democrat party was artificially inflated.

President Klaus approves agriculture Minister Šebesta to head Environment Ministry

Czech President Václav Klaus on Monday approved agriculture minister Jakub Šebesta taking over the vacant post of environment minister in the caretaker government. Prime Minister Jan Fischer said Mr Šebesta had the skills to handle two ministries until the cabinet’s mandate comes to an end after general elections in May. Mr Fischer said he wanted to fill the post quickly so as to avoid a political wrangle in the pre-election period. Former environment minister Jan Dusík quit as environment minister last week in a row over the modernisation of a controversial power plant. He said the prime minister wanted an immediate decision over whether to give the go-ahead for modernisation of the Prunéřov II plant but he wanted to negotiate environment and efficiency improvements to make it less polluting.

Green Party leaders to meet over appointment of environment minister

Top Green Party members were due to meet on Monday evening to discuss the prime minister’s choice of the new environment minister. The post had been occupied by a Green Party nominee. Party leader Ondřej Liška said Monday that Mr. Šebesta has already marked himself out in office for his anti-environmental decisions. He added that the country now appeared to have a Social Democrat dominated government on the eve of elections. Mr Šebesta was originally nominated by the left of centre party. The right of centre Civic Democrat Party said it hoped Mr Šebesta’s appointment to head two ministries was just a temporary solution.

Greenpeace activists occupy Prunéřov II site

A group of Greenpeace activists have climbed to the top of a 300-metre chimney at the coal-fired power plant at the centre of the row which caused Jan Dusík to quit as environment minister. A spokesman for state electricity producer ČEZ said around 12 activists forced their way onto the Prunéřov site in north-west Bohemia. Greenpeace leaders say they will stay up the chimney for several nights. Greenpeace accuses the company of responsibility for Dusík’s resignation and say the new Minister of Environment can only banish suspicions he is a ČEZ placeman by blocking its plans. A report by Norwegian organisation DNV for the environment ministry last week said ČEZ had not used the best available technology for the proposed modernisation with higher pollution a result.

Two Czechs reported dead in Slovak avalanche

Two Czechs were killed on Monday after an avalanche in the Velká Fatřa mountains in northern Slovakia, according to the local mountain rescue service cited by the Czech Press Agency. A third reported missing earlier was able to free herself, it added. Earlier details said six Czechs were caught by the avalanche but details diverged. Around 80 centimetres of snow are still lying in some parts of the mountains. A Czech snowboarder was killed by an avalanche in Slovakia last week. His partner was dug free with minor injuries.

President Klaus vetoes proposal cutting tax on employee benefits

President Václav Klaus vetoed a proposed law aimed at cutting Value Added Tax on employee benefits. The proposed law was passed in a hurry at the start of March by the lower house to avert a threatened strike by transport workers. The president said that the step favoured a certain group of employees at the expense of the tax payer. The upper house, the Senate, has already voted against the new law. Unions expect lower house lawmakers will put the proposed law back on track by voting in its favour when they meet in mid-April.

Škoda Auto 2009 profit falls by more than two-thirds

Net profit last year at the Czech Republic’s biggest car producer Škoda Auto fell by 68 percent to 3.46 billion crowns, or around 183 million dollars. Turnover at the Volkswagen Group car maker dropped by 6.2 percent to 188 billion crowns. Car deliveries actually rose slightly to a record 684,200 vehicles. Sales in China doubled during the year to reach almost 123,000 cars. Demand in the single biggest market, Germany, rose 44 percent with just over 162,000 cars delivered there thanks to local scrap car incentives. Company bosses predict a new sales record could be reached this year.

River levels rise sharply as warm weather melts snow

River levels have risen sharply across the country after warm weather began to melt winter snow. River levels rose to level two, emergency situation, at around half a dozen spots around the country, mostly in southern Moravia. Level three, danger level, was reached at the small border town of Podhradi u Znojma, on Monday afternoon. No damage was reported. The water level of the river Dyje there has tripled over the last days. Forecasters say the warm weather will cause snow on higher ground to melt over the next days with rain expected by the end of the week.

Prince Charles visits eco-friendly Moravian village

Britain’s Prince Charles visited one of the country’s most ecological villages on the last full day of his visit to the Czech Republic. The keen ecologist and environment campaigner visited the small village of Hostětín in the south-eastern Moravia, which is the home of a series of model eco projects. The Prince inspected a biomass heating plant, ecological water purifying facility, apple juice producer and heat saving house. The village’s normal population of 240 swelled to around 1,500 for the visit. He later travelled to Brno’s Masaryk University for a debate with students and to receive the university’s gold medal for his charity work and promotion of sustainable development. Earlier Monday, Prince Charles met with Prime Minister Jan Fischer. The four day visit with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, ends on Tuesday.

Slalom skier Šárka Záhrobská says father no longer her manager

Czech slalom skier Šárka Záhrobská announced on Monday that her father, Petr, would no longer act as her manager from the spring. Her father ceased to be her main trainer a year ago after refusing to take part in a team of specialists that Šárka Záhrobska was building up around her. She added that she was now looking for a specialist trainer with foreign experience. The 25-year-old skier won a bronze medal in the recent Vancouver Winter Olympics. She already has a full collection of slalom World Championship medals. Záhrobská’s clarification follows critical comments after Vancouver from her father.

Weather

The weather should stay sunny in the coming days. Daytime temperatures should rise to 16 degrees Celsius by Thursday.

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