The 43rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival ends with an award ceremony on Saturday evening. Over the past eight days festival-goers could take their pick from 220 films and around 60 premieres. The biggest celebrity at this year’s festival was Robert De Niro who presented his new film ‘What Just Happened’. On the opening night Mr De Niro received a Crystal Globe for his outstanding contribution to world cinema.
Employment of people aged over 55 is reported to have improved in recent years and has now reached the EU average, according to the Czech Statistical Office. While in 2001 only 39 percent of people aged between 55 and 64 were employed, in 2007 it was 50 percent. Despite this favorable trend people over 55 still have the most difficulties finding jobs, especially women.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek says he has not been informed about the outcome of an investigation into his private finances and is refusing to speculate with regard to its possible impact. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg ordered and paid for the investigation by the private US detective agency Kroll in the wake of a drawn out corruption scandal surrounding Mr. Čunek. The deputy prime minister was accused of taking a one and a half million crown bribe while serving as mayor of Vsetín, but the state attorney concluded there was not enough evidence to press charges. Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg said that if the Kroll investigation did not clear the deputy prime minister then he himself would resign from office. Mr. Schwarzenberg received the results of the investigation a week ago but has not made any public announcement, fuelling speculation as to the audit’s outcome.
Most Czech ministers are well prepared for the country’s upcoming EU presidency both in terms of language skills and general know-how, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said at a press conference on Friday following two days of media training at the hands of media specialists and former EU commissioners in Prague. The prime minister added however that given the size of the EU in the present day and the problems surrounding the Lisbon Treaty he did not expect the Czech presidency to be easy. The opinion that the Czech Republic will take over the EU presidency at a difficult time was echoed by European Commission Secretary General Catherine Day who informed the ministers in detail about the functioning of the European Commission, focusing on what she said was “practical advice”.
Initial tests of a new Czech anti-cancer drug –known as GS-9219 – have proved highly successful on animals. The drug against lymphatic cancer has been tested on dogs with what doctors call startling results. The dogs were cured within five days of getting the first doze. Gilead Sciences, which will produce the medicine, is testing the product in five top institutes in the US and another five facilities in the Czech Republic. Still doctors have warned against premature optimism since it is not yet clear how humans will react to the drug. GS 92 19 kills tumour cells without harming healthy tissue. If tests on humans are successful the drug could be on the market within six to eight years.
A three-year-old boy miraculously escaped with light injuries after falling off a moving express train on Saturday. The incident happened near Lysá nad Labem and the child was flown to Prague’s Motol Hospital by helicopter. Rescue workers who found him said he had a head wound that required stitches and some bumps and bruises but appeared otherwise uninjured. He was conscious, communicating and his blood pressure was normal. The police are looking into why the child had been allowed to wonder up and down the train unattended. The train was an old model where the doors do not automatically safe-lock once the train is in motion.
The director of the Czech Prison Service Luděk Kula has been suspended pending a police investigation relating to breach of trust. Mr. Kula is believed to have mismanaged a large sum of money – approximately 120 million crowns – in dubious tenders. He maintains that he is innocent of ill-intent having been poorly advised in making important financial decisions. If found guilty he could face up to eight years in prison.
The head of the Green Party Martin Bursík told Friday’s edition of the daily Právo that other Green Party ministers may quit the cabinet if the audit fails to clear Mr. Čunek. The Greens have four ministers in the centre-right cabinet, including Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, an independent nominated by them. A departure of the coalition’s Green ministers would not automatically lead to the government's collapse, but would seriously weaken its position in Parliament.
A Czech professional soldier returning from a holiday in Croatia was fined for beating up his children and making them kneel at a petrol station where they had stopped for gas. Shocked by the brutality of the attack witnesses called the police and the man was questioned and eventually fined the equivalent of 11,000 Czech crowns (745 US dollars). Police said the children were unharmed but suffering from shock. His commander at the Časlaví military base said the incident had been resolved abroad and the case was thus considered closed. A spokeswoman for the base said the soldier had informed his superiors about the incident but that the matter would end there since he had violated Croatian not Czech laws.
The Czech Republic and the steel producer ArcelorMittal reached an agreement on Thursday which will bring an international arbitration against the country to an end. ArcelorMittal, which is the world’s largest producer of steel, launched arbitration proceedings against the Czech Republic in 2005 over the Czech government’s decision to exclude the company from the privatization of the steel works in Vítkovice, northern Moravia. The London-based steel giant sued the country for 26 billion crowns, or more than 1.7 billion US dollars. According to the agreement, the Czech Republic will sell 11 percent of shares in the steel works to ArcelorMittal; in return, the steel producer will drop all claims against the Czech Republic.