Czech President Václav Klaus has outlined his stance on a number of issues ahead of a three-day visit to Austria next week, discussing nuclear energy policy, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after WWII, and EU integration. In an interview for Kronen Zeitung, the Czech head-of-state said he could not understand sharp Austrian opposition to nuclear power, saying he believed it was a political game between politicians and activists rather than the real opinion of the public. Nuclear-free Austria has for years protested against the Czech Temelín nuclear power plant, situated 60 kilometres from the borders of Austria and Bavaria, challenging its safety. Two new blocs are to be built in Temelín in future. The third and fourth blocs are to be completed in 2025. When asked about his rejection of possible demands of Germans and Austrians forced to leave their homes in Czech border regions after WWII, Mr Klaus said the past could not be changed nor should it be turned into a political issue. The Czech president also repeated his longstanding view of the EU, saying the present model of European integration was a mistake.
Barbora Špotáková, specialist in the javelin, has been named Czech Athlete of the Year for the sixth year running, recognition for her gold medal win at the London Olympics this summer as well as her top finish in the Diamond League. The award, in its 50th year, is decided by athletics officials, trainers and sports journalists. Athletes Zuzana Hejnová and Vítězslav Veselý came in 2nd and 3rd.
A 63-year-old man who was hospitalized a month ago in Frydek-Mistek in the east of the country after drinking alcohol containing wood spirits died on Sunday. The man is the thirty-third person killed by methanol, in an outbreak of poisoning tied to bootleg liquor that was illegally released on the market in mid-September. Twenty of the deaths were in the region of Moravia-Silesia. More than 60 people face charges over the methanol affair; roughly half of them have been remanded in custody.
In related news, the two racers whose Mitsubishi Lancer flew off the road, causing the tragedy, said strong winds had contributed to the accident. Michael Bartoníček and his brother Josef, well-known lawyers by profession who have been racing ten years, ruled out technical failure. Mr Bartoníček also said in an interview for idnes that they were traveling at a speed of 150 kilometres an hour when they left the road. He said that words could not express what they felt after they learned those killed had been a little girl and three young women. He added that he and his brother would try and contact their families at a later date. The families, meanwhile, are reportedly considering legal action against the race organizers, saying the area where the accident happened was in no way marked off as dangerous.
The Czech national hockey team racked up three wins in three matches to win the Euro Hockey Tour’s Karjala Cup for the first time in the competition’s 16-year history. The Czechs won the first match against Sweden 3-1, then downed Finland 1:0, with goalie Ondrej Pavelec earning the shutout, and won their final game on Saturday against Russia. The Czechs scored two on the powerplay in the first period, Russia was able to pull within one in the second, but 2:1 it remained until the final buzzer. The Kajala Cup was the only remaining trophy the national squad had never won.
The head of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka has said that his party will not block the government’s tax package in the Senate, which will boost the country’s two VAT rates and income tax for high earners. He made the statement on a Sunday debate programme, making clear that blocking the legislation now would lead to chaos in taxes next year, something the Social Democrats wanted no responsibility for. The Senate, where the Social Democrats have a majority, has until December 10 to discuss the bill, leaving precious time for the bill to pass. A filibuster at this time would only hurt, the opposition leader made clear.
Members of the Rally Commission of the Czech Motorsport Federation have scheduled a meeting next week to discuss safety measures and possible restrictions. The move was prompted by a tragic crash on Saturday which claimed the lives of four people (a little girl and three young women) aged seven to 20. The accident happened during an amateur event in southern Moravia called the RallyShow Uherský Brod (not part of Czech championship). One of the cars flew off the road and grazed a concrete post before barreling into the onlookers. No one in the vehicle was hurt. Police are investigating whether the driver was at fault or if there was technical failure. Along with the four killed, two others were injured and had to be taken to hospital; their injuries are not life-threatening. At the scene, police psychologists attempted to console relatives and friends of the victims. Since 2002, at least 14 onlookers have died in similar incidents in the Czech Republic. In September of this year, a fan at the Barum Czech Rally was also hit by a race car and killed.
Fire fighters in the region of Moravia-Silesia responded in roughly 35 incidents related to strong winds in the area late Saturday and early Sunday which brought down branches, trees and phone lines in places. In several cases, they also secured sheet metal loosened from roofs. Nobody was hurt from falling trees or branches; no cars, had been damaged, officials said.
The militaries of NATO member countries should cooperate more after the ISAF mission ends in Afghanistan in 2014, Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague on Saturday. He stressed that member countries must not give up their own defence at the time of financial cuts. Deeper cooperation would help NATO members retain their military capabilities, he added. The three-day session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which is a counselling body, began Friday. Committees consisting of delegates from the parliaments of allied countries are discussing current security challenges and international affairs.
Fire fighters are keeping a close eye on a blaze that broke out at a dumpsite in the region of Liberec, north Bohemia, preventing it from spreading to similar nearby facilities. Burning in a sheet metal hall are between 2,500 to 3,000 tonnes of textiles thought to originally have been from Germany. Experts estimate that it will take two or three days for the fire to run its course. The fire broke out on Friday afternoon and spread rapidly throughout the hall, the mayor of Bulovka, the village hosting the dumpsite, confirmed. The mayor refused to speculate whether the fire had been set intentionally. The hall is 60 by 20 metres; textiles inside are piled five or six metres high. According to experts the temperature inside is over 1000 degrees Celsius.
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