EU regulators approved on Friday 111 million euros (151 million dollars) in aid from the Czech government to help South Korean car maker Hyundai Motor build a new factory in North Moravia. The European Commission said that the aid consisted of direct cash grant and the sale of land at a reduced price. The European Union's top antitrust watchdog said that the aid met EU competition rules because it would create 4,400 new jobs by 2011 in Nosovice, in the North Moravian region hit by high unemployment. Along with another factory in neighbouring Slovakia, Hyundai aims to use the plant to gain a stronger foothold in Europe, where it is still struggling to win a substantial share of the market and develop a dealership network.
Czech and German foreign ministers, Karel Schwarzenberg and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have said they believe that the European Union will reach an agreement on its institutional reform. Speaking at a news conference after their meeting in Berlin of Friday, Mr Schwarzenberg and Mr Steinmeier also appreciated the fact that the possible stationing of elements of the US missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland is being discussed multilaterally. Mr Steinmeier's Social Democrats have challenged the missile defence system, while the Christian Democrats of Prime Minister Angela Merkel are more open on the issue. Germany, which is now presiding over the EU, wants to submit the draft of a new European treaty at an EU summit in June. The Czech Republic is one of the opponents of the EU constitution.
A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency suggests that three-fifths of Czechs are against the construction of a US defence radar on Czech territory, but almost the same number believe that the country should protect itself against possible missile attacks. The poll, commissioned by the Czech Foreign Ministry, has shown that 61 percent of Czechs are opposed to the radar project, while 30 percent support it. According to 56 percent of respondents, the Czech Republic should protect itself against a missile threat. Almost a half of Czechs want guarantees that the radar base would not threaten the environment. Official negotiations between the United States and the Czech Republic on the radar project were launched on Thursday and are to last for several months.
The Labour Ministry says that more than 198,700 foreigners legally worked in the Czech Republic in April, almost 14,000 more than at the end of 2006. It is estimated that further tens of thousands of foreigners work in the Czech Republic illegally. The number of foreign workers increases every month. The figure is believed to be rising not only because of the Czech Republic's EU membership but also thanks to the improving working and living conditions and the country's economic growth. The strongest group of foreign workers are Slovaks, followed by Ukrainians and Poles.
The number of HIV-positive people has risen in the Czech Republic in the past months, Miroslav Hlavaty the director of "Dum svetla", a Prague centre for people with HIV/AIDS, said on Friday, adding that nine new HIV-positive patients were registered in March and data for April will probably show a further increase. He said that Czechs are well aware of the risk of HIV, but they underestimate it and do not protect themselves. The total number of HIV-positive people in the Czech Republic reached 949 in March. The most frequent way of transmission is unprotected sex, which is behind 83 percent of all cases.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who is on a three-day official visit to Georgia, has said the Czech Republic supports the country's effort to join the European Union and NATO. Speaking after a meeting with his Georgian counterpart Zurab Noghaideli on Friday, Mr Topolanek said that other topics discussed included trade relations and energy issues. Mirek Topolanek is the first Czech prime minister to visit independent Georgia.
A 30-year old woman from the town of Kurim has been taken into custody after a neighbour discovered by accident she had tortured her 8-year old son for months. The boy, who was found naked with his arms and legs bound with adhesive tape, has been placed in a children's home, along with his 10-year-old brother and 13-year old sister. The case only came to light by chance when a neighbour's domestic camera picked up images from a similar device used by the mother to keep tabs on her imprisoned son. Police said the boy, found in a state of dehydration, was shut up for days at a time as a punishment for the most banal naughtiness. His divorced mother, a student of pedagogy, deprived him of regular food and contact with other children and because of his hearing problems kept his way from school, maintaining that she taught him herself, the police said. The mother could face a jail sentence of up to eight years.
President Vaclav Klaus and other state officials have paid tribute to the thousands of Russian and Ukrainian émigrés who found refuge in Czechoslovakia after 1917 but were abducted by the Soviet secret police and imprisoned in Soviet labour camps in the 1940s. The short ceremony held at an orthodox Christian cemetery in Prague on Friday morning was also attended by the victims' descendants. The illegal abductions of the Russian émigrés - who were Czechoslovak citizens - began as soon as the Red Army began to liberate Czechoslovakia in 1944, and continued long after the Soviets arrived in Prague in May 1945.
Anti-nuclear activists from neighbouring Austria again blocked 12 out of
the 16 border crossings between the Czech Republic and Austria for two
hours on Friday afternoon. The protesters want the Austrian government to
file an international lawsuit against the Czech Republic over an alleged
breach of agreements on the safety of the Czech nuclear power station
Temelin. The last such protests took place two weeks ago when the
activists blocked 10 border crossings.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Thursday he would discuss the matter with his Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik, most likely at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. Czech officials have repeatedly said the blockades amount to breach free movement of persons - one of the fundamental freedoms granted by the EU.
The controversial exhibition "Bodies" will remain on show in Prague despite growing protests. The Prague city authorities who received an official complaint about it from a Prague resident referred the matter to the police who concluded that it did not violate any laws or regulations. The exhibition of human cadavers, their parts and internal organs has come under fire from some politicians, Catholic priest Tomas Halik as well as the Czech Anatomical Society. Critics say that this treatment of human remains is deeply degrading. The exhibition will remain on show at Prague's Lucerna Palace until October.