Britain's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott held talks with the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda during a brief visit to Prague on Wednesday. The ailing EU budget for 2007-2013 and the need for a re-evaluation of spending priorities were the main topics of discussion. All three politicians also agreed that the European integration and enlargement processes must continue despite the rejections of the EU constitution by France and the Netherlands. Britain takes over the EU presidency from Luxembourg this Friday.
A new campaign called "Czechs against Poverty" was launched in Prague on Tuesday. Organised by fifteen NGOs (non-governmental organisations), it aims to show ordinary citizens and politicians how they can help reduce poverty in developing countries. While the goal is not to collect money for charity, it is to make Czechs take the initiative themselves and seek ways of helping citizens of poorer countries.
Leading Czech politicians paid tribute to Milada Horakova on Monday, 55
years after Mrs Horakova, a democratic opposition leader, was executed
by the Communists on trumped-up charges. The commemoration ceremony
took place at Prague's Memorial for the Victims of Communism, at the
foot of Petrin Hill. Among those to speak were Defence Minister Karel
Kuhnl and Senator Martin Mejstrik, the latter heavily criticising the
leadership of the communist party under Miroslav Grebenicek, suggesting
the party leader should "beg for forgiveness". Prague's Lord Mayor also
spoke saying there were still "many" who "despised democracy".
President Vaclav Klaus, who did not attend, sent a wreath that was laid at the memorial by the president's secretary. A minute of silence was held.
On this note, the Czech Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl told the CTK news agency on Tuesday that Estonia has bought the Czech Vera radar system for some 100 million crowns (a little over 4 million US dollars). The only other foreign country that has purchased the system so far is the United States. The mobile system is able to discover the presence of a different radar system and determine its type without being revealed. It can monitor up to 200 planes simultaneously and is able to define the distance and altitude of any target with great accuracy.
Renowned Czech choirmaster Bohumil Kulinsky is to remain in police
custody, where he has been since November on suspicion of sexually
abusing underage girls. Mr Kulinsky hoped he would be released after
the Constitutional Court ruled that the two extensions of custody were
in breech of the constitution and a Prague district court decided to
release him. But the state prosecution appealed the verdict, arguing
that he would influence witnesses and could even continue with the
sexual abuse. Mr Kulinsky now has to wait for the court to make a
ruling in a process that could take several weeks.
Mr Kulinsky is the director of the prestigious Bambini di Praga girls' choir. Since his arrest, over one hundred current and former choir members have come forward with accusations of sexual abuse.
The Czech Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, said on Tuesday that he discussed
the sensitive issue of China's human rights violations with his Chinese
counterpart Wen Jiabao. Mr Paroubek refused to disclose any details but
said the topic came up during talks on the EU arms embargo on China, an
embargo that the Czech Prime Minister stressed was an issue between
Beijing and Brussels that Prague could not influence.
Mr Paroubek, who is currently on an official visit to China, also said three agreements in the fields of the automobile industry, the environment, and finance are currently being drafted that would improve economic bilateral cooperation. According to the internet news agency Euro OnLine, Mr Paroubek declined offers by Chinese politicians to buy Czech 'Vera' radar systems.
Several thousand Czech children fail at least one subject at the end of each school year and have to resit their exams in the summer, the Institute for Information on Education said on Monday. Those who fail again, have to repeat the whole year. There are around one percent of such children at primary schools every year, the institute said. Those children most often repeat the first, sixth and seventh grades. The system is opposed by some experts who say it is outdated and discouraging for children with learning difficulties.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the extension of custody of Bohumil Kulinsky, the leader of the world-famous Bambini di Praga children's choir was in breech of the Czech Constitution. Mr Kulinsky was charged with sexual abuse of underage girls last autumn and he has been in custody since November 25. A Prague district court ordered an extension of Mr Kulinsky's custody in February to prevent him from influencing witnesses. The court pointed to his attempt to contact certain girls before the charges were announced. According to the Constitutional Court Mr Kulinsky will probably be able to seek compensation for his detention as of February.
A Czech lorry driver has been arrested in Hungary on suspicion of drug trafficking after Hungarian customs officers uncovered heroin worth about 7.5 million US dollars in his lorry. The drugs were reportedly being transported from Turkey to the Czech Republic. Almost a hundred kilograms of heroin was found in packets hidden in a shipment of clothes, a spokesman for the Hungarian customs authority said. The officers uncovered the drugs using an X-ray scanner at a Romanian-Hungarian border crossing, 240 km south-west of Budapest.
The Spanish telecoms company Telefonica which took over the Czech dominant landline operator Cesky Telecom this month says it will focus on data services and introducing new services and products to boost growth at Cesky Telecom. The company's new CEO Jaime Smith said after his appointment was announced on Thursday that his aim was to increase the growth and vitality of this group and to become more customer-oriented, introduce innovation and improve efficiency. Telefonica says it wants to speed up the integration of Cesky Telecom into the Spanish group. The outgoing CEO of Cesky Telecom, Gabriel Berdar admitted last week that there was more still to be done on the customer care side.
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