Czech President Václav Klaus has published a letter to his Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, affirming the importance of the two countries' relations. Mr Klaus unsettled the leaders of Estonia and Lithuania at the weekend when he suggested the interests of Russia deserve greater attention than those of the two Baltic countries. The Estonian foreign ministry said it had summoned the Czech ambassador over the comments. On Wednesday the Czech president denied intending any categorisation of countries as more and less important and emphasised the two countries’ friendship. At the same time Mr Klaus reiterated that Russia is a large, strong and ambitious state warranting greater attention than smaller states including the Czech Republic.
Czech Television has reported that a Romani family was attacked by unknown arsonists, who threw incendiary devices at the family’s home outside of Prague. According to the Czech Television the victims of the attack were unharmed and the fire was extinguished. The Romani community in the Czech Republic remains tense after a similar attack in April, in which a two-year-old suffered severe burns to more than 80 percent of her body.
Two Czech men have been jailed for giving the Nazi salute on a home video shot at a birthday party two years ago, reported the Czech Press Agency on Tuesday. Jan Dufek was sentenced to 18 months in prison, while Petr Nikoluk was sentenced to half a year in jail for making the gesture and uttering Nazi slogans on the video. Mr Dufek’s prison sentence was longer as he had also bought a machine gun and committed benefit fraud, it was reported. The two men said that they had been drunk and that the video was not meant to be publicly distributed. The judge in the case said, however, that they were tried for what they did, not for having videoed their activities.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said that he thinks there are reasons to amend the controversial ‘muzzle law’ brought in by the last government and banning the disclosure of police wiretappings in the media. The law, which came into effect on April 1, has come under fire from both international press freedom watchdogs and those working in the Czech media itself. After meeting representatives of the Czech media on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said that a group of experts should be formed to draft an amendment to the law. He added, however, that it would be for the next government to make a final decision on any amendment.
Czechs’ biggest expense is their accommodation, an international study released on Tuesday suggests. Following accommodation, Czechs spend the most on groceries and transport, the Barometr Cetelem 2009 found. The results mirrored those of previous years, the head of Cetelem, Václav Horák said. Some 85 percent of respondents said that they expected their housing costs to rise over the coming year, while 75 percent said they expected price rises at supermarkets and 72 percent foresaw increased transport costs.
Finnish rock group Apocalyptica have threatened legal action against a fringe Czech party who set a call for a ‘final solution’ to Europe’s ‘gypsy question’ to their music in a European election campaign advert. On Monday, a spokesperson for the group’s record label said that Apocalyptica were considering filing a complaint in the next couple of days. The far-right National Party used one of the group’s songs without permission on an advert which was subsequently pulled from Czech public television last week. In a statement, the band stressed their support for ethnic minorities, human rights and the European Union.
The Social Democrats have asked interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer to provide their party with security on the campaign trail ahead of the European elections on June 5-6. The Social Democrats’ rallies have been disrupted over the past couple of weeks by protesters throwing eggs at party head Jiří Paroubek. On Tuesday, senior Social Democrat Lubomir Zaorálek said that his party had written to Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Interior Minister Martin Pecina asking for a security staff to ensure that this disruption stopped. Later on Tuesday afternoon, the Czech Police said that they would not intervene at Social Democrats’ rallies. The recent spate of egg-throwing attacks on Jiří Paroubek has become one of the most discussed issues in the run up to European elections in the Czech Republic. Mr Paroubek has accused his political rivals, the Civic Democrats, of being behind the attacks.
Czech President Václav Klaus is ready to support proposals for Czech troops’ foreign missions in 2010, a spokesperson from the presidential office told press on Tuesday. The announcement was made after the president met interim Defence Minister Martin Barták and head of the Czech army Vlastimil Picek on Tuesday morning. According to Prague Castle spokesman Radim Ochvat, in the course of the meeting, proposals for the Czech army’s foreign missions next year were outlined to the president, who found the draft ‘reasonable’ and was ready to support it. Defence Minister Martin Barták said last week that a vote should be taken on the Czech Republic’s foreign missions in the lower house in June.
Israeli police have arrested a man who, they believe, killed a Czech volunteer working in the Golan Heights in 2003. Advan Farhan was arrested on suspicion of four murders, one attempted murder, rape and two attempted kidnappings. He is thought to have killed the 27-year-old Czech with the help of his girlfriend when the volunteer hitched a lift with the couple in 2003. According to the Czech Consulate in Israel, the unnamed Czech was working in the country illegally and was identified by her boyfriend shortly after she was murdered six years ago. According to Israeli police, Mr Farhan has confessed to the murders though his motives remain unclear.
The Chamber of Deputies will hold a vote of confidence in Jan Fischer’s caretaker cabinet on Sunday June 7, it was announced on Tuesday. Mr Fischer made the announcement after meeting head of the Czech lower house Miloslav Vlček on Tuesday morning. According to the Czech Constitution, the interim prime minister’s cabinet has 30 days to secure a vote of confidence after being appointed. June 7 is the last day that Mr Fischer’s cabinet could, constitutionally, hold the vote. Speaking on Tuesday, Miloslav Vlček said that he was opposed to the idea of holding the vote before the European elections on June 5-6, as a vote of confidence in Mr Fischer’s cabinet could be misused in the election campaign. Mr Vlček added that he believed there would be ‘no obstruction’ to Mr Fischer’s cabinet surviving the vote.
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