The Czech Republic has backed a new US missile defence plan meant to defend against possible threats from Iran or other states. The move came as US Vice President Joe Biden wrapped-up his visit to Central Europe on Friday, which included a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer in the Czech capital. Following talks between the two, the Czech prime minister confirmed that the Czech Republic is ready to take part in the new project. The new programme will focus on short and medium-range rockets and replace an earlier proposal by the previous US administration to site a radar base in the Czech Republic and interceptor rockets in Poland.
In Prague on Friday, US Vice President Biden stressed that the new system will strengthen NATO’s defences against future missile threats. He confirmed that a high-level defence team will travel to Prague in November to discuss the terms of Czech participation.
In related news, the Czech prime minister has said that the Czech Republic needs greater diversification of energy sources for the sake of its energy security; he made the comment after talks with US Vice President Joe Biden on Friday. He also said that was necessary that more sources in the country be used in energy generation. That and other issues were on the table, along with the new US missile defence plan. But no details were later disclosed, for example, about whether the US firm Westinghouse might participate in the completion of a Czech nuclear power plant - a multi-billion deal to be decided next year.
The office of the Czech president has revealed that Václav Klaus is satisfied with a proposal by the Swedish EU presidency addressing his demands for modifications to the EU’s Lisbon treaty. In a statement released on Friday, the president’s office made clear the proposal met Mr Klaus’s expectations. In related news, the Czech EU Affairs Minister Stefan Fuele said, meanwhile, that the exemption Mr Klaus is seeking concerning the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, would be general - adding the words “Czech Republic” to opt-outs for Poland and Great Britain. Mr Klaus has sought the exemption to prevent any re-opening of property claims by ethnic Germans who were expelled from Czech soil after World War II; he has conditioned his signing of the Lisbon Treaty to the guarantee.
The Chamber of Deputies has passed the draft state budget for 2010 in a first reading. The draft proposes a deficit of 163 billion crowns, which is 5.3 percent of GDP. Now it will go the lower house committees for possible changes. The Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, for example, would like to preserve maternity leave allowances at their current level, as well as secure more funds for social services. Finance Minister Eduard Janota countered on Friday that cuts made in the social sphere had not been “radical”. He also warned against further increasing debt. A final draft is expected to be approved by the lower house in December.
Czech police from the specialised unit against organised crime have charged 18 people for allegedly supporting and promoting groups suppressing human rights and freedoms. The 18 were out of a group of 24 people arrested by police on Wednesday on suspicion of ties to right-wing extremism. Two of the charged remain in custody. The suspects are thought to be connected to a white supremacist movement known as White Justice, which itself has connections to the neo-Nazi Narodní odpor. Others are suspected of having distributed supremacist material or of having organised illegal concerts. Police said on Friday they originally suspected a number of those detained of trying to prepare a terrorist attack, something which was not confirmed.
The National Reference Laboratory has confirmed that a 31-year-old woman who died in hospital in Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia, on Thursday was suffering from swine flu. The woman also had a serious heart condition. Hers is the first swine flu death in the Czech Republic. Another man, 30 years of age, remains in serious condition. It is not clear where either patient contracted the disease; neither had travelled abroad recently.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a claim by a Romany woman, Helena Ferenčíková, who had been seeking one million crowns in compensation for having undergone forced sterilisation in hospital. Mrs Ferenčíková had succeeded earlier in receiving an apology from the institution when regional and high courts ruled that medical personnel had not acted within the law. But the courts also found her claim was statute-barred after 2004 - a decision upheld by the Constitutional Court on Friday. The hospital maintained Mrs Ferenčíková had agreed with the sterilisation procedure, while she has said she was in labour at the time and was unaware exactly what she was agreeing to.
The Czech Chamber of Deputies has passed a proposal put forward by senators for compensation to be provided for victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The bill on Friday was supported by deputies from all of the parliamentary parties, other than the Communists. If the bill is approved in the Senate and passed into law, the state will pay up to 30 million crowns to victims.
Former agriculture minister Petr Gandlovič has said he would like to run against Mirek Topolánek for the leadership of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, a regional daily in Ustí nad Labem reported on Friday. The party is to hold a congress this November, but it is not expected to be a leadership convention. Instead, the congress will focus on unifying the party ahead of next year’s election. Party leader Mirek Topolánek reacted to the news on Friday by saying Petr Gandalovič was not a new face in the party capable of re-invigorating the leadership. He also said he did not consider him a true challenger. The former prime minister has led the Civic Democrats since November 2002.
Hockey forward Aleš Hemský shined for the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday in the team’s match-up against Columbus in the NHL. The forward earned one goal and four assists. Edmonton took the victory by a score of 6:4. In other action, Aleš Kotalík scored once and got one assist for the Rangers against New Jersey to tie the game at two apiece after two periods. In the third period, though, the Devils struck back, scoring twice to take the game.
Sparta Prague defeated the Romanian side Cluj 2:0 in the Czech capital on Thursday night, increasing their chances of qualifying from the group stage of football’s Europa League. Sparta are now second in Group K with four points from three games. Slavia Prague, meanwhile, kept their hopes of reaching the knock-out stages alive with an impressive 1:1 draw away to Valencia, though with only one point so far those hopes are slim. There are two more rounds of the group stage of the Europa League.
Mostly cloudy conditions are expected into the weekend, with a chance of rain. Daytime temperatures on Saturday and Sunday should reach highs of around 13 degrees Celsius.
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