Two Czech soldiers are among a group of international peace forces that have been circled by armed Bedouin fighters on the Egyptian peninsula of Sinai. According to reports from Czech Radio, the two Czechs are in contact with their native country’s military headquarters. The Bedouin fighters, who have been circling the camp where the peace forces are stationed for two days, are demanding the release of five persons imprisoned on charges of terrorism. No crossfire has been opened yet; but soldiers are on increased alert and have heightened security measures. Aside from the two Czechs, hundreds of Columbian, American and Uruguayan soldiers are currently trapped in the camp.
The lower house of Parliament on Thursday approved a draft of a treaty on
Croatia’s EU accession in the first reading. The draft is set to be
discussed by the lower house’s foreign affairs committee before being
to the final vote. A majority of three fifths is required for the
ratification of the treaty by the Czech parliament and is expected to be
reached. It then will have to be signed into law by Czech President
Klaus. All 27 EU members have to ratify Croatia’s accession treaty prior
to the country joining the union.
Originally, the Czech government had planned to link the vote on the treaty with a vote on the Czech opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Freedoms. However, the opposition opposes the opt-out and putting both issues to a combined vote could have jeopardized the treaty. Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003. Accession talks closed last June.
The opposition Social Democrats have slammed the fact that EU subsidies to the Czech Republic were suspended, labeling it “an embarrassment” for the country and a serious problem for the state budget as well as municipal budgets. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka and deputy leader Lubomír Zaorálek said at a news conference on Thursday that due to the suspension of EU subsidies, the government was forced to take greater austerity measures than had been planned. The government needed to make the process of applying for EU funds more transparent and take more responsibility, they added.
The country’s chief medical officer and health ministry deputy Michael Vít has requested long-term unpaid leave until a verdict is reached in his corruption case. Prime Minister Petr Nečas announced the decision, saying it had his support. Mr. Vít will be replaced by Viera Šedivá. According to the police, Mr. Vít manipulated a tender for consultancy services for the Interior Ministry, allegedly giving the commission to the husband of his subordinate at the Health Ministry. He has rejected the accusations. If proven guilty he could face up to ten years in prison.
Deputy prime minister Karolína Peake, who is also the deputy leader of the Public Affairs party, met with President Václav Klaus on Thursday. According to information from the Czech News Agency ČTK, the meeting “was partially of social and partially of informative nature”. The president refused to comment on the reason for the meeting. Karolína Peake may have been priming Mr. Klaus on the situation within her party, which is a junior member of the government coalition. A corruption trial involving its de-facto leader and former transport minister Vít Bárta opened at a Prague court last week. Mr. Klaus had labeled the trial, which has received intense media attention, an “absurd reality show” which was damaging Czech politics.
Thousands of people have gathered at Wenceslas Square for a demonstration against the government, calling for the resignation of the current coalition. Some participants called on demonstrators to follow them to the headquarters of Czech TV, which they claim has not been paying enough attention to the protest. Among the demonstrators are supporters of the Anonymous hacker group.
A new agreement between South Korea and the Czech Republic will facilitate travel and work stays for Czechs in South Korea and vice versa. The bilateral agreement introduces one-year visas that will give young people the option to work during their stay in the foreign country. Previously, a visa was required even for stays shorter than three months. Czech diplomats believe that these new visas will be in demand and that citizens of both countries will take advantage of this new option. In addition, the number of Czech students in South Korea and South Korean students in the Czech Republic is expected to grow from the current several dozen as a consequence of the improved work possibilities.
The Bavarian daily Süddeutsche Zeitung has warned German consumers of a possible egg shortage ahead of Easter due to Czech “egg tourism”. Many Czech consumers are travelling to Bavaria to purchase eggs, which have seen a sharp increase in prices in the Czech Republic. A number of German media have reported on the rise in demand for eggs in the country’s border regions. As a result, egg prices in Germany are growing. However, retailers do not expect an egg shortage in the weeks before Easter.In the Czech Republic as well as in other EU countries, the price of eggs has gone up due to a new EU directive on laying hen farms that went into effect this year.
Two Czech NHL players, Jaromír Jágr and Petr Sýkora, have been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by their clubs. Jágr, who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, may have a good shot at making it into the final three for the prize, a prestigious award given to those NFL players who best exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey. Sýkora was put forward by his club, the New Jersey Devils.
Record temperatures are expected on the weekend. Meteorologists have forecast daytime highs of up to 20 degrees Celsius. A record from 1882, when 18.1 degrees were measured at Prague’s Klementinum, may well be broken on Friday. The warm and clear weather is expected to last until Sunday, when temperatures will drop to between 15 and 19 degrees and skies are expected to be cloudy.