The Czech presidency of the European Union has expressed “deep concern” over the intentions of Israeli officials to evict several families from East Jerusalem. In a statement issued on Saturday, the presidency said the eviction notices issued to the al-Rawi and Hanoun families, combined with the increase in settlement activity in East Jerusalem, further threaten the chances of peace. The Czech EU presidency has called on Israel to immediately suspend these evictions.
Jiří Paroubek was re-elected the leader of the opposition Social Democrats at the party’s convention in Prague on Saturday. The former prime minister, who faced no other candidate, received 74 percent of votes. The three-day party congress also elected five deputy leaders, including shadow foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek and Brno mayor Roman Onderka.
One of the main speakers at the convention on Saturday was Slovak PM Robert Fico. He said that social democrats have to focus on defending the concept of social state and reject solutions offered by right wing parties. On Friday, Czech President Václav Klaus appeared at the Social Democrat congress for the first time ever. His speech was closely-watched, as it came days ahead of a key no-confidence vote on the current government. The president declined to comment the upcoming vote, but suggested that during the period of economic crisis political parties needed to display extra responsibility in the interests of the country.
In related news, Social Democrat leader Jiří Paboubek said on Saturday that Parliament would not approve treaties with the US on positioning an American radar base on Czech territory during the current electoral term. Mr Paroubek said that his party wanted to sweep the treaties off the table last week but the government pulled them out of the Chamber of Deputies. The stance of the Social Democrats was appreciated by the deputy speaker of the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, Alexander Babakov, who is a guest at the congress. Mr Babakov said that Czech-Russian relations had recently been very active, mainly thanks to the Czech Social Democrats.
The far-right Workers’ Party founded its youth group at a congress in Brno on Saturday. The aims of the group include the nationalization of the Czech education system, the support of traditional families and a general ban on drugs. The Workers’ Party youth group currently has around 100 members, most of them from Prague.
The small far- right Workers’ Party made headlines last year when its sympathizers attempted to march in a Romany ghetto in northern Bohemia. In January, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected the government’s petition to ban the party.
Czech financial group Unimex and charter airline Travel Service placed a joint bid for the state-owned Czech Airlines on Friday. The Czech government wants to privatize its 91.51 percent stake in the carrier, expecting to receive around 4.5 billion crowns, or nearly 230 million US dollars, in revenue. Other bidders that have expressed interest in the sale of Czech Airlines include Air France KLM (3112.FR) and Russian carrier Aeroflot. Czech officials hope to finalize the privatisation by the end of 2009.
Exports of Czech beer rose to 3.7 million hectolitres in 2008, which was some 100,000 hectolitres more than in the previous year, according to estimates by the Czech Beer and Malt Association. The total production in the same period decreased however by some 100,000 hectolitres to 19.8 million hectolitres. Exports of the largest Czech brewery, Pislner Urquell, were up by more than four percent last year.
A new bill on university education does not include student tuition fees, the Czech Education Ministry said on its website on Friday. Education Minister Ondřej Liška said if any government wanted to introduce tuition fees in the future, they could amend the law or come up with a new bill. The minister had suggested in the past that he would only approve of tuition fees provided that there is a functioning system of student loans.
The Czech Education Ministry has ordered six private Czech higher-education facilities to drop the word “university” from their English versions of their names and use the term “college” instead. A ministry spokesperson said legal action would be taken of necessary. According to the ministry, only facilities accredited as universities under the Czech law can use the term “university” in their English names. Some of the education facilities, including the Prague-based Anglo-American University, protest the order; Canadian and US embassies in Prague confirmed their claims.
The ice-hockey club of Karlovy Vary is ready to take part in the Kontinental Hockey League’s next season, the Russian daily Sports Express reported on Saturday. Officials of the Karlovy Vary hockey club, a participant of the Czech top hockey division, are reportedly scheduled for a final round of talks with the KHL’s directorate in Moscow on Wednesday.
The Kontinental Hockey League was founded in 2008 with participants from Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan. Czech Republic’s Jaromír Jágr currently plays for KHL’s Avantgard Omsk.
The first days of spring will see clear skies to be followed later by clouds and periods of drizzle. Highest day temperatures will range between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
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