The meeting of the EU education and industry ministers in May 2009 within the Czech EU presidency will probably not be held in Ostrava as it was originally planned, Czech deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra said. The informal meeting of the ministers from the 27 EU states is likely to move in Prague. The north Moravian town of Ostrava is allegedly not able to provide suitable conditions for such an event. The Czech Republic will preside the EU as of January 1, 2009.
The delegates to a two-day national congress of the Christian Democratic Party that got underway in Pardubice on Saturday rejected the proposal to elect a new party chairman. The proposal was supported by only five of nearly 300 delegates. Jiří Čunek, who is leading the party since December 2006, will remain at the head of the party. President Václav Klaus attended the congress on Saturday to thank Christian Democrats for their support in the February presidential election.
The crime rate in German border regions has increased after the enlargement of the Schengen area by the Czech Republic and Poland in December. According to the police in Zittau, a town situated near the Czech border, the number of thefts has increased by nearly two thirds and the number of stolen cars has risen more than ten times. Czech police, on the contrary, have registered a decrease in the crime rate after border checks were lifted.
Around 2,500 people have come to see the Czech crown jewels that were put on display in the Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall. The crown jewels are only displayed publicly on special occasions; in the last century, they were exhibited nine times. This time they were brought out to mark the 90th anniversary of an independent Czech state, as well as President Václav Klaus’s reelection. They will be on display for the general public for the next 10 days.
Czech tennis player Iveta Benešová has reached the Estoril Open final after beating Maret Ani of Estonia 6-2, 6-1. The 132nd ranked player has reached her third straight final with the victory. Benešová will meet Maria Kirilenko of Russia, who advanced to the finals after defeating Czech Republic’s Klára Zakopalová.
Around two thousand people have gathered to protest against the planned US radar base in Míšov near the Brdy military zone, where the base is to be built. The rally, which was organized by the Communist party, was one of the largest protests against the planned stationing of a US radar base on Czech soil. The protesters, carrying banners and flags, marched from Míšov to the border of the military grounds. Police were on hand to prevent any incidents, but they didn’t interfere.
Most Czechs support further restrictions of smoking in public places, according to a survey conducted by the STEM agency in April. Two thirds of respondents believe restaurants should be required to provide non-smoking areas; 57 percent of respondents are in favour of a complete ban of smoking in public spaces, including restaurants, cafés and night clubs. The lower chamber debated an amendment to the anti-smoking law in March under which an absolute ban on smoking at restaurants could be introduced, but the bill was returned to the committees for further discussion.
Chairman of the Christian Democrats Jiří Čunek delivered a speech at the congress, in which he apologised for mistakes that accompanied the case of his alleged corruption. Mr Čunek was forced to resign from his government posts late last year following a series of bribery allegations; he reassumed his posts in April. He said he was sorry that his party colleagues had to deal with “brutal campaign” that was lead against him. At the same he sharply criticised the situation in the party, which he said was disunited and was losing the voters trust, adding that his case wasn’t the main cause of the party’s disintegration.
Czech ice hockey keeper Tomáš Vokoun has been forbideen by his club, Florida Panthers, to take part in next month’s World Championships in Canada, the Czech national coach Alois Hadamczik said on Saturday. Vokoun has been suffering from a strain hernia since the end of the regular NHL season. He wanted to play in spite of the injury but doctors have recommended an immediate operation.
Education Minister Ondrej Liška has said he will press for an increase in wages for teachers; he made the statement at a national meeting of education workers' unions on Friday. Teachers’ unions are considering taking steps to try and push through pay demands, but are likely to wait and see whether the education minister will be able to argue for an increase at the government. As a result of high inflation, educational workers' real wages have decreased, the unions say; they have also argued that in some regions school budgets are lower than the 2.8 percent increase the government previously promised. The education minister has expressed the hope that the situation could be solved this year.
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