The Czech president, Václav Klaus, says his life would have been simpler if he had not declared an amnesty on January 1. Mr. Klaus, who steps down on Thursday, made the comment in an interview in the newspaper Právo. The president’s poll ratings fell in the wake of the amnesty, the most controversial plank of which halted cases – several involving alleged massive corruption – running for eight years or more and carrying sentences of at least a decade. Mr. Klaus told Právo that while his life would “obviously have been simpler” without the amnesty, he would not take a different approach today. The head of state said he had personally authored it, adding that questions about who had drafted it represented a “stupid media or political game”.
Saturday is the 35th anniversary of the start of the first and to date only space flight by a Czech. Vladimír Remek was a member of the crew of the Soviet Soyuz 28 mission which took off on March 2 1978 and reentered Earth’s atmosphere almost eight days later. The Czech cosmonaut was the first man in space who was not a citizen of either the US or the USSR. Mr. Remek, who is 64, is today an MEP for the Communist Party and has been discussed as a possible future Czech ambassador to Moscow.
Mr. Zeman told a conference of his Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites on Saturday that his success in the Czech Republic’s first direct presidential election did not automatically mean that the party would be successful in next year’s parliamentary vote. He said the main tasks facing the party were to prepare a high-quality manifesto and to find good candidates. In the last general election, the Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites received 4.3 percent of the vote, falling short of the 5 percent threshold required to enter the lower house.
The Czech Republic’s postal service, Česká pošta, is looking to expand into other areas, including running a radar system to measure the speed of vehicles on the country’s roads, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Česká pošta has entered tender processes to operate radar speed systems in several municipalities, the newspaper said, adding that the company hopes to profile itself as a provider of IT and communications technology. The Czech postal service has in recent years seen a fall in the volume of mail it delivers and this year will lose its monopoly on mail weighing less than 50 grammes.
Mr. Klaus’s successor, Miloš Zeman, said on Saturday that the amnesty had also pardoned the incompetence of judges and state prosecutors, who had proven incapable of concluding cases in a timely manner. He repeated, however, that he was opposed to the amnesty. Mr. Zeman, who will be sworn in as president next Friday morning, also revealed that he had refused to sign the oath of allegiance with a gold-plated pen valued at CZK 1 million. It was offered to him by the South Bohemian firm Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth, which prior to its nationalisation provided pens to Czechoslovakia’s presidents. The president-elect said the company should donate the money to schools in its region.
The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has been beaten in the final of the Dubai Championships. Berdych, ranked sixth, lost 7-5 6-3 to top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Saturday in what was his second final of the season; last week Berdych failed to take the ninth ATP title of his career after losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Marseille Open.
The police have begun investigating 10 people in connection with a suspicious contract for IT services at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, a spokesperson said on Saturday. The story was reported in the newspaper Lidove noviny, which said that the supreme state attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, had said the suspects included both present and former employees of the ministry. Jaromír Drábek resigned as labour minister in October after a close associate, who was had been his deputy, was accused of corruption.
A police chase on the D1 highway resulted in a mass collision involving at least 8 vehicles on Friday. Police were chasing a driver who had refused to stop. The Audi eventually crashed into a road block set up by the police and burst into flames. The 17-year-old driver died on the spot. At least seven other cars got involved in the accident. At least two people were injured, one of them seriously. The incident is being investigated.
IKEA stores in the Czech Republic have halted the sale of all minced meat products after inspectors found horsemeat in their meatballs and traces of horsemeat in sausages used for hot-dogs. A company spokesman said IKEA planned to test all its meat products both from local and international suppliers before resuming sales.
Doctors around the Czech Republic held a symbolic protest on Friday against what they perceive as a threat to funding for clinics and hospitals this year. For the most part patients were not affected by the protest; they received flyers outlining the medics’ concerns and were asked to sign a petition entitled Let’s Save our Health System. The Ministry of Health says the protest was uncalled for and insists the healthcare system will receive more money this year than in 2012.
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