Czech jockey Josef Váňa won the 121st edition of the Grand Pardubice steeplechase on Sunday for the eighth time. At the age of 58, Váňa was a strong favourite in the race that he won on ten-year-old Tiumen for the third time in a row. Second in the race came Josef Bartoš on Sixteen, followed by Dušan Andrés on Valldemoso. Nine out of fifteen horses finished the race, the continent’s oldest steeplechase cross-country run. Josef Váňa said Tiumen was said he would compete again next year if singer Karel Gott came and support him.
The 15th Forum 2000 conference, organized under the auspices of former president Václav Havel, begins in the Czech capital on Sunday. The theme of this year’s conference is democracy and the rule of law; around 140 guests including Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga, US economist Joseph Stiglitz will also be debating corruption, organized crime and other issues.
Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said on Sunday he wanted to discuss the issue of the country’s air defence with the opposition. The Czech military’s lease of six Saab Jas Grippen fighters will expire in 2015 and the Czech Republic will need to be able to protect its air space with supersonic fighters. Mr Vondra said he wanted to talk to the opposition Social Democrats about how to deal with the situation given the long-term nature of the problem and very high costs. For his part, the Social Democrat shadow defence minister, MP Jan Hamáček welcomed Mr Vondra’s stance.
In related news, the Defence Ministry has negotiated a six month guarantee extension on four CASA military aircraft the Czech military bought in 2009, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra told TV Prima on Sunday. The 3.5 billion deal, which the ministry concluded without a public tender, has been criticized as non-transparent and overpriced. The planes have failed to meet the required criteria and have not passed all army tests. Mr Vondra said he hoped all problems would be dealt with and the Czech Air Force would be able to use the planes. Cancelling the contract would only come as an extreme solution, the Czech Defence Minister said.
A delegation of Czech entrepreneurs, headed by the country’s Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kocourek, on Sunday set off on a five-day trip to India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Several Czech companies are expected to sing deals in the engineering and energy industries; a major Czech machinery firm, Vítkovické strojírny should sign a contract with India’s Heavy Engineering Corporation.
At a meeting on Sunday of Finance Ministry officials, employers’ representatives and union leaders, the Finance Ministry proposed an increase in tax breaks on individual pension savings. The respective deductible item should increase from 24,000 to 30,000 crowns a year, a labour union leader said. The ministry hopes this would make more people opt for early retirement. However, both the employers and union leaders disagree with the plan; they believe that people with demanding jobs should be primarily entitled to early retirement and their individual pension savings should be given even higher tax breaks.
Czech tennis player beat Croatia’s Marin Čilič 3:6, 6:4, 6:1 in the final of the China Open in Being on Sunday, claiming the his sixth ATP title of his career. The third seeded Czech lost the first set but took the second and third thanks to his strong serve and consistent play. The victory lifts him up two places to world’s number seven in the ATP ranking.
Czech international and Chelsea FC goalkeeper Petr Čech made his rock band debut in Prague’s Rock Café on Saturday night when he appeared on drums with the Czech band Eddie Stoilow. The 26-year-old athlete performed three songs with the band in front of hundreds of fans. After the concert, Petr Čech said his dream had come true; members of the band said the idea originated from their long friendship with the goalie. The concert took place during in between two games crucial for the national side’s bid for next year’s European championship. On Friday, the Czechs lost 2:0 to Spain and need at least a tie against Lithuania on Tuesday to keep their hope alive of advancing to the EURO 2012.
Czech President Václav Klaus on Saturday rejected calls by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, for further European integration as a way of dealing with the bloc’s debt crisis. Speaking at a meeting of the presidents of the Visegrad Group countries, Mr Klaus said Mr Barroso was ‘tragically wrong’ as accelerating European integration was behind Europe’s problem today, according to Mr Klaus. His idea was however not shared by other participants at the meeting, the presidents of Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
Hundreds of people gathered in Ústí nad Labem, in the north of the country, on Saturday for an anti-Romany rally. The participants, protesting against “parasitism of the inadaptables”, marched through the city, shouting nationalist and racist slogans; the crowd was headed by members of the extremist Workers’ Party of Social Justice, the news website idnes.cz reported. Some 500 police officers oversaw the event, the latest in a series of anti-Romany rallies held in north Bohemia towns in recent months amidst rising ethnic tensions between Romanies and ethnic Czechs.