President Vaclav Klaus attended a ceremony during an EU summit in the
German capital on Saturday evening for the ratification of the
so-called "Declaration of Berlin." The declaration is intended to mark
the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome - the document that
paved the way for the establishment of the European Union.
Speaking in Berlin, President Klaus said that European integration had brought many benefits and he would not be opposing the declaration. Nevertheless, he did warn that the EU should not evolve in the wrong direction. Shortly before the summit Mr Klaus had criticised the "secretive" way in which the text of the document had been prepared, saying it was a "classic example of the democratic deficit" that existed in the EU. After reservations were expressed by the Czech Republic, Britain and Poland the declaration itself makes no specific reference to divisive issues like the Union's future enlargement or the EU constitution, but instead emphasises the idea of European unity.
The election of a new party leadership has been completed at the Social Democrats' annual conference in Brno. As expected, its composition is exactly that which was desired by party chairman Jiri Paroubek. Zdenek Skromach, Petr Vicha and Jana Vanhova were re-elected as party vice-chairman while Bohuslav Sobotka had earlier been elected as first vice-chairman and deputy leader of the party. The only new member in the party leadership is former industry and trade minister Milan Urban, who defeated Petr Hulinsky, the chairman of the party's Prague branch and a well-known critic of Jiri Paroubek. Mr Paroubek himself was re-elected as party leader on Friday evening.
Czech police arrested more than 20 people on Saturday evening following violent clashes between hundreds of Czech and German football fans ahead of a Euro 2008 qualifying match between the two countries. Around 600 Czech and German fans began fighting on Na Prikope Street in the centre of Prague before police intervened. Nobody was hurt in the incident. Earlier, police stopped nearly two hundred suspected hooligans at the border between the two countries. An estimated 3000 German fans travelled to the Czech capital to see the game.
Former police chief Vladislav Husak has denied that he had any specific information about the murder of entrepreneur Frantisek Mrazek. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, Mr Husak described media reports that he had been informed of the threat to Mr Mrazek's life three months before he was murdered as "rubbish". He did not rule out that the reports were part of a wider plot to discredit him. Mr Husak resigned on Friday after weeks of intense media pressure following accusations that he warned key suspects in a number of corruption cases ahead of their planned arrest. This included the so-called "bio-fuel" case, in which many public officials are said to have offered or accepted bribes to influence the outcome of public bio-fuel tenders. Controversial businessman Frantisek Mrazek had been one of the people implicated in the case. He was murdered in January 2006 by a gunman using a telescopic sight.
Kenyan runner Patrick Ivuti won the ninth Prague half-marathon on Saturday with a course record of one hour and one minute. The women's race was won by Russian Lilya Shobukhova, who was a silver medallist in the 5000 m at last year's European Championships. Just under 6000 people participated in the race, the highest number in the event's history. Former Czech prime minister and current European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla also took part.
Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said he was thankful for the criticism he received during the party's annual conference in Brno, which ended on Sunday, and added that he was definitely "not without certain faults." One of the criticisms aimed at Mr Paroubek during the conference was poor communication in the party. Mr Paroubek also welcomed the fact that the party's leadership, which was elected on Saturday evening, represented all strands of opinion within the Social Democrats. Besides being re-elected as leader at the conference, Mr Paroubek also succeeded in having a resolution passed, which called on the Social Democrat deputies and senators not to vote for Mr Klaus in the next presidential elections. He failed, however, to introduce quotas for women on the party's list of candidates, which he sees as a sign of the Social Democrats' commitment to modernisation
The president of the Czech Agrarian Chamber Jan Veleba has told the Czech Press Agency that some retail chains in the Czech Republic are selling meat under false pretences. Mr Veleba said his organisation had carried out an inspection of several supermarkets selling imported meat in the Czech Republic and found that a number of them sold meat with false labelling. As an example, he said many labels described meat which originally came from cows as bull's meat so that they could charge a higher price for it. Mr Veleba did not mention any specific retailers but said the results of the Agrarian Chamber's inspection would be made public on Tuesday.
Green Party leader Martin Bursik has said that the Czech Republic's response to an American request to build an anti-missile radar base in the country should contain a proviso that the facility will become part of NATO's common defence system in the future. Speaking during a discussion programme on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Bursik said that his party's support for the base was contingent on its being implemented within a NATO framework. The government is to send an official response to Washington's request to build a radar base in the Czech Republic by the end of March.
The match itself was won 2-1 by Germany. Two headed goals by Kevin Kuranyi either side of half time were enough to give the Germans all three points despite a late goal by Milan Baros. The result leaves the Czechs three points behind the Germans at the top of their qualifying group, level with Ireland but with a game in hand.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said that some institutional changes that aren't covered in the Nice Treaty need to be made in the EU by 2009 when the next European parliamentary elections will be held and the Czech Republic will hold the EU presidency. Mr Topolanek made his comments after meeting in Prague with Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who wants to resolve the issue of the European constitution as soon as possible. The two men also discussed the proposed construction of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, President Vaclav Klaus was in Berlin on Saturday to an EU summit, where the Declaration of Berlin will be ratified.
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