The head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, would like to meet with the Czech president-elect, Miloš Zeman, “as soon as possible, EU commissioner for enlargement, Štefan Fülle said following a meeting with Mr Zeman in Prague on Friday. Miloš Zeman invited Mr Barroso to Prague shortly after his victory in the first ever direct presidential election last month. The president-elect said both officials could fly the EU flag over Prague Castle, a gesture the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, consistently rejected.
Representatives of the Czech, US, Croatian and Slovak defence ministries signed on Friday a letter of intent on the establishment of an international military aviation training centre, known as MATC. The document was adopted on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels. The centre will provide training to helicopter pilots from air forces of NATO countries; it is expected that it will operate at several Czech air force bases as well as at those in other NATO member states.
Around one third of homeless people living in the Czech Republic seek assistance, according to a new survey by the Czech Statistical Office and social services providers which was released on Friday. About the same number of them also have jobs. The survey counted 11.500 homeless people; however, the real number of people living in the streets could be three times higher. The highest number of the homeless – 2,600 – was registered in the northern Moravian-Silesian region, followed by Prague and South Moravia.
Prague City Council plans to establish low-emissions zones by the year 2015, council member Radek Lohynský told the ČTK news agency on Friday. The zones should reduce air pollution in the centre of the capital by restricting the movement of older vehicles in the area. The planned zones would cover most of downtown Prague including Old Town, Hradčany, New Town, Holešovice, Smíchov and Nusle. Prague City Council has commissioned a feasibility study on the project which should be completed within two months, Mr Lohynský said,
In cooperation with their German colleagues, the Czech police and customs have arrested four men suspected of smuggling illicit drugs from the Czech Republic to Germany, a spokesman for the Czech customs said on Friday. The officers also confiscated marihuana and crystal meth worth around seven million crowns, and hundreds of thousands of crowns in cash. The police believe the men were in charge of an extensive drug smuggling network with links to Vietnam. If convicted, the men could face up to 18 years in prison.
Viktoria Plzeň have advanced in football’s Europa League after a 2:0 home win over Napoli which gave them a remarkable 5:0 aggregate victory over the Italian side. The goals in Thursday’s second leg came from Kovařík and Tecl. Sparta Prague, meanwhile, have exited the competition. Trailing 0:1 from the first leg in Prague, they gave Chelsea a scare when a goal from David Lafata put them ahead for a long period of the game; however, an equalizer in time added on killed the Czechs’ hopes of forcing the tie to extra time.
In a historic address to the Bavarian Parliament on Thursday Prime Minister Petr Nečas expressed regret over the post-war expulsion of millions of Sudeten Germans. He said the principle of collective guilt applied at the end of the war was an injustice that hurt thousands of innocent people, people who had significantly contributed to the economic and cultural development of the border region, but he made it clear that there could be no question of abolishing the Beneš decrees or making property claims relating to the expulsions. Very few wrongs of the past are ever corrected, the Czech prime minister noted. Mr. Nečas who is the first Czech prime minister ever to address the Bavarian Parliament, highlighted the common cultural heritage of Bavarians and Czechs expressing the hope that their common roots would help the two sides overcome the sensitive issues of the past and focus on their future in Europe.
The Czech Senate is holding a public hearing on the controversial amnesty declared by President Vaclav Klaus at the start of this year. The hearing is attended by the country’s leading experts on constitutional law and the debate centers on whether the amnesty, which concerns several cases of high-profile economic crime, may not be in violation of the constitution. There have also been proposals that the constitution should be amended to curb the president’s powers in this respect. President Klaus, who continues to defend the amnesty, refused to attend the hearing.
President-elect Miloš Zeman has slammed the Czech government for not doing enough to defend the position of the Czech power utility ČEZ in Bulgaria. Mr. Zeman said it was the duty of any government to defend its companies abroad and urged the Nečas administration to use all the means at its disposal – such as EU contacts, international arbitration mechanisms and negotiations with the outgoing Bulgarian government – to defend Czech national interests. The state-owned power utility may lose its license in Bulgaria following mass protests over electricity prices. President Václav Klaus has also criticized the Czech government for taking what he called “a passive stand” in the dispute, saying that ČEZ has been made a scapegoat for the growing social unrest in Bulgaria.
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