Daily news summary News

01-04-2007

Cunek apologies over Romany comments

Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek has apologised for remarks he made about Romanies. But, speaking on a TV debate programme, he also said Romanies who were offended by his comments had not understood what he was trying to say. Asked last week by a newspaper whether other people should receive state subsidies like Romanies, Mr Cunek said non-Roma would need to get a suntan, cause chaos with their families and light fires on town squares before politicians would regard them as badly off.

Jiri Cunek rose to national prominence last year after expelling Romany rent-defaulters from the centre of the town of Vsetin, where he was then mayor.

Mr Cunek, who is leader of the Christian Democrats and regional development minister, is currently under police investigation for alleged bribe-taking when he was mayor of Vsetin. He has resisted calls to resign from the government.

Top police job should be for limited period, says Minister Langer

The post of president of the Czech police force should be for a fixed period only, the minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, said on Sunday. Vladimir Husak recently resigned as police chief after media allegations that he was involved in a corruption scandal and the leak of information to a Russian agent. Mr Husak denied the allegations but said he did not wish to damage the reputation of the force. He has been appointed head of the foreigners' police. Jan Brazda became acting police president on Sunday.

No let-up until US grants visa-free travel, says Schwarzenberg

The Czech Republic and several other former communist states should keep pushing for visa-free travel to the United States until they have it "in black and white", the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said in Germany's Bremen on Saturday. Mr Schwarzenberg organised a discussion with colleagues from Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in the city. Afterwards the eastern European foreign ministers issued a statement praising the steps taken so far by Washington to broaden its visa-waiver programme.

Meanwhile, Canada is this month to begin considering whether to allow Czechs visa-free entrance, according to Prague's Canadian Embassy. A spokesperson said Canada would weigh a number of factors, including number of rejected visa applications, security in the Czech Republic and the country's observance of human rights.

Two arrested for wearing fascist symbols during march

Police arrested two people for wearing fascist symbols during a far-right march in the central Bohemian town of Neratovice on Saturday. Around 100 extremists took part in the march, which was organised by a group called National Corporativism. They said they were protesting against damage to the environment. The event was monitored by 300 policemen. Interior Ministry official Michal Mazel said Czech extremists were now holding public demonstrations, using the right of assembly, rather than private meetings. He said this reflected the trend in western Europe.

Police shelve investigation into National Security Office for lack of evidence

Czech police have failed to find evidence of fraud in security vetting at the National Security Office and have shelved an investigation into the matter after three years, Aktualne.cz reported. An internal audit at the National Security Office uncovered dubious practices in the granting of the security clearance needed by individuals and companies handling strategic data. This was confirmed by classified reports by the civilian counter intelligence service and former security office employees. However, police now say they lack the necessary evidence to file charges against any individual, Aktualne said.

American wins Sudoku World Championships in Prague

The Sudoku World Championships in Prague have been won by an American, Thomas Snyder. The final was attended by Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who said he completes a Sudoku puzzle every night before going to bed. No Czechs made it to the final, though the Czech Republic did come third in the team category. Some 140 contestants from 31 countries took part in the Sudoku championships, which were held for the second time this year.

Aktualne: Minister wants abolition of gift tax in case of family farms

Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic wants new tax and social welfare reforms to include the abolition of gift tax in the case that a farmer gives his property to his child, Aktualne.cz reported. The move would save young farmers hundreds of thousands or even millions of crowns. Minister Gandalovic said it could also help improve the age structure in Czech agriculture. The government is due to announce a raft of tax and welfare reforms this week.

Czechs doing relatively well in terms of trade marking traditional foods

The Czech Republic is the most successful of the ten states which joined the European Union in 2004 in terms of acquiring protected status for its traditional foodstuffs, the Czech Press Agency reported. Czechs now have six protected foods on the EU list, including Stramberk Ears and Pohorelice carp. Winning a place on the list means that such foods cannot be made anywhere else. Six products is some way behind France and Italy with around 150 trademarked foods each, but it is still more than the other nine countries which joined the EU three years ago.

Ministry creates database of graves around Czech Republic

The Regional Development Ministry has completed a digital database of graves in the Czech Republic, the website iDnes reported. It contains information on those buried in almost 6,000 cemeteries around the country. The ministry's website (www.mmr.cz) gives information on the land registry, graveyard operators, size, ownership rights and even GPS satellite coordinates. Fifty-six percent of graveyards are owned by municipalities, while 34 percent belong to religious groups.

Kraslice post office begins special Easter stamps

The post office in the west Bohemian town of Kraslice has begun stamping Easter postcards with a symbol of the Christian holiday, a week before it begins. Kraslice is the Czech word for Easter egg. To get the Easter stamp people must send a stamped addressed postcard in an envelope by April 13, a spokesperson for Czech Post told the Novinky news website. The Kraslice post office puts Easter symbols on tens of thousands of cards at this time every year. However, numbers have fallen somewhat, due to the popularity of email and mobile phone text-messaging.

Racing driver Enge in hospital after crash in US

The Czech racing driver Tomas Enge is in hospital after crashing during an American Le Mans Series race in the city of St Petersburg. Enge sustained broken ribs, a lung injury and a broken arm when his car hit a wall. His manager said he was in a stable condition and could communicate. In 2001 Enge became the first Czech driver to take part in Formula 1, when he completed three races as a substitute.

Prague Zoo begins 76th season

Prague Zoo has just begun its 76th season. Director Petr Fejk presented new hyena and crocodile expositions on Sunday and said there were plans to build a new enclosure for elephants and rhinos. Mr Fejk said 1,000 animals had been born in the zoo last year and he hoped there would be a similar "boom" in 2007.

Weather

Forecasters say it will remain quite sunny over the next few days. Temperatures should gradually drop, with maximum daytime highs of around 11 degrees Celsius later in the week. In the longer term, April is expected to be warm with relatively low rainfall.

01-04-2007