Top Czech figure skater Tomáš Verner missed an opportunity in Helsinki on Thursday to defend the title of European champion. The skater made several key mistakes in the free skate which saw him lose any chance for a medal. Verner had been in second place following the short programme but dropped to sixth place overall. The championship title was won by Brian Joubert of France.
The west Bohemian town of Plzeň has banned a march planned for February 21, allegedly protesting the occupation of the Palestinian territories, a city official said. The march is believed to have been planned by right-wing extremists, along a route that would have seen protestors march by a local synagogue. Some 400 protestors were expected. The same day the site of the synagogue will see an event organised by Jewish community leaders. Plzeň officials proposed the radicals march run along a different route, which was reportedly rejected by the organisers. They have 15 days to appeal the ban in court.
Serbia will officially apply for the membership of the European Union during the Czech EU presidency that lasts until June 30, the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs Bozidar Djelic said after meeting his Czech counterpart Alexandr Vondra on Friday. Serbia is expected to be able to become an EU member around 2015. Alexandr Vondra said on Friday that Serbia’s membership in the EU was the key to the stability in the Balkans. According to the latest assessment report by the European Commission, the country needs to resolve a number of outstanding issues, among them high corruption and the need for judicial reforms.
A 12-year-old boy, one of six people struck by a falling tree in the eastern town of Zlín on Thursday, has died in hospital, a spokesman for the regional emergency unit has said. The boy was one of two youngsters seriously injured when they were hit by the 20-metre tall falling tree. Four adults remain in hospital with less serious injuries. Officials say there were no clear signs of danger prior to the accident: rotted tree roots are thought to have led to the fall. The incident is being investigated.
The Czech presidency of the European Union has praised a decision by US President Barack Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year. On Thursday the new US president also banned torture in addition to his decision on the prison, a move seen as strong repudiation of the anti-terror policies of Mr Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush. In a statement, the Czech EU presidency expressed the hope that the move would strengthen transatlantic cooperation on security and counter-terrorism based on “the respect of international law and human rights”.
Former Czech president Václav Havel, in hospital for almost a fortnight, is in markedly better shape than just two days ago, a spokeswoman for Prague's Motol Hospital revealed on Friday. She made clear that if Mr Havel’s condition continues to improve, he could be discharged from the hospital late next week. Mr Havel, who is 72, was first admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties in mid-January. He underwent minor surgery to remove an abscess from his throat but there were complications following the operation due to congestion in his right lung.
A police representative on Friday revealed that officials have completed their investigation of former Civic Democrat deputy Jan Morava, but said no charges will be filed against him. The former deputy resigned last year after journalists uncovered an attempt by the politician to gather compromising material on a fellow MP. The authorities said earlier that they had found no evidence of blackmail or any other crime. According to TV Nova, Mr Morava tried to distribute compromising photos of Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlustý in the hope of hurting him politically. Unknown to Mr Morava, the material was fake, manufactured with Mr Tlustý’s consent. Mr Tlustý was heavily criticised by the prime minister and others for his role in the affair, an apparent attempt to expose corrupt practices among politicians.
At a session of the Czech Bishops’ Conference on Thursday, representatives of the Czech Catholic Church criticized the European Parliament for its Resolution on Human Rights. A spokesperson for the conference said that delegates did not agree with articles of the resolution which supported same-sex marriage and the creation of youth advisory centres where, the conference said, teenagers would be able to discuss abortion. The bishops wished the Czech government success in its efforts to promote peaceful cohabitation throughout Europe as part of the country’s EU presidency, and called on believers to pray for all those involved in the Czech presidency.
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said that when and how the Czech Republic ratifies the Lisbon Treaty is entirely up to Czechs to decide. Mr Vondra told MEPs that his government would not respond to European pressure by speeding up the process. The Czech Republic is the last country in Europe still to vote on the EU reform document. Following a ruling by the Constitutional Court in Brno last November, Czech MPs voted to postpone a decision on the treaty until February 2009. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has spoken out in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, while Czech president Václav Klaus is known to be a fierce opponent of the reform document.
Czech sound technician Petr Forejt has been nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film Wanted, which was shot on location in Prague. He was nominated alongside colleagues Chris Jenkins and Frank Montano for his work on the film. Mr Forejt was the only Czech to feature in this year’s Oscars nominations, last year Valašské Meziříčí’s own Markéta Irglová won a best-song Oscar alongside Ireland’s Glen Hansard for Falling Slowly from the film Once.
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