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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Four people were killed in an amateur automobile race in the Slovácko area in the Czech Republic on Saturday. At around two pm near the village of Lopeník – in a race known as RallyShow Uherský Brod – one of the cars in the race flew off the road and hit a tree before being deflected into onlookers. One of those killed was a child. Police and fire fighters have sent experts to the scene to provide post-trauma counselling. The tragedy, which echoes a similar incident in the Barum Rally at the beginning of September which saw one fatality, is being investigated.
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.
Lawyers for Czech lobbyist and businessman Roman Janoušek say they have signed a settlement with the victim of a hit-and-run caused by their client in March. Although no amount has been disclosed, the settlement is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of crowns: several times more the damages assessed by the victim’s physicians. In March, Mr Janoušek struck the victim – a 51-year-old woman – in Prague as he attempted to drive away from the scene of a minor accident he had caused moments earlier. Police determined he had been drinking behind the wheel. If found guilty, Mr Janoušek faces up to 10 years in jail; the settlement could influence the severity of the sentence.
Customs officials have revealed they arrested two 18-year-old foreigners this week attempting to smuggle roughly eight kilos of cocaine into the Czech Republic. Jiří Barták, the spokesman for the Customs Administration’s central office, revealed the amount the young women were smuggling had been estimated at around 12 million crowns in street value, with one gram selling for 1,500. The suspects, from Iceland, flew from Brazil through Germany and hid the cocaine in hollow parts of their luggage and smaller cases, the spokesman confirmed.