Speaking in Baghdad at the end of his two-day visit to Iraq, the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, promised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the Czech Republic would send observers to Iraq to monitor the course of general elections scheduled for January 2010. Commenting on business relations, Mr Kohout said that agreements on investment protection and double taxation avoidance between the two countries needed to be signed to promote the interest of Czech companies on the Iraqi market. In Baghdad, Mr Kohout also launched an exhibition titled “1989 through the eyes of photographers”.
Seven people have died of the swine flu in the Czech Republic to date. The country’s chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít confirmed the number on Wednesday after tests showed that a 42-year old man who died in a hospital in Plzeň, western Bohemia was infected with the H1N1 virus.
Mr Vít said that three out the country’s 14 regions have reached epidemic levels, with more than 2000 patients per 100,000 inhabitants. Vaccination against the swine flu began earlier this week. Health authorities are now distributing some 95,000 vaccines, while another 90,000 vaccines should be delivered in early December.
In related news, health workers of the Central Bohemian region temporarily ceased on Wednesday vaccinating people against the H1N1 virus over irregularities in vaccine identification. The authorities said that the numbers on the vaccines differed from those on their delivery certificates. The distributing company dismissed the claims, saying that all the vaccines delivered had been properly labelled.
Two new sections of the D1 motorway opened on Wednesday, connecting the city of Ostrava, in north Moravia, with the Czech capital. The construction of the new 12- and 18 -km-long stretches cost 7.6 billion crowns, or more than 440 million US dollars, the Czech road authority said. The completion of the two motorway sections is expected to improve the overall traffic situation in the region. The final section of the motorway, leading up to the Polish border, should be completed by 2012.
Just hours before the new sections opened, an Indian national crashed his car after driving onto the new road. He drove through a large tent put up for Wednesday’s official opening, and ended up in the ditch. No one was hurt in the accident, the news agency ČTK reported.
Three new cabinet ministers will be appointed at the start of next week, Prime Minister Jan Fischer told reporters on Wednesday. The names of the new ministers of environment and European affairs, together with the new head of the cabinet’s legislative council, will be announced later this week, the prime minister added. The current minister for European affairs, Štefan Füle, has been nominated the Czech candidate for Eurocommissioner, while the environment minister Ladislav Miko is set to return to his position in the European Commission. The post of the legislative council chair has been temporarily taken over by the justice minister.
Anti-trust officials from the European Commission continued on Wednesday with inspections at the Czech energy giant ČEZ and the EPH firm over allegations of anti-competitive behaviour. A ČEZ spokeswoman said the inspections are expected to last several days. The European Commission officials are looking into whether ČEZ had worked to block competitors in order to boost its own position as the country’s dominant wholesale power supplier, either acting alone or in conjunction with other firms.
A court in Prague dismissed on Wednesday a lawsuit against the singer Marta Kubišová, filed by her colleague Helena Vondráčková over an allegedly breached contract. The two singers, who were part of the popular Golden Kids trio in the late 1960s, were planning an anniversary tour. Ms Kubišová later backed out of the plans, and her colleague demanded 1.3 million crowns from her in damages. The court said there was no proof that a contract had been concluded between the two parties.
Helena Vondráčková successfully pursued her career in the 1970s and 80s after the Golden Kids split in 1970. However, Marta Kubišová was banned by communist authorities over her disapproval of the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia, and only returned to performing after the fall of communism.
The organizers of a Prague lecture to be delivered by the Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders are having trouble finding a venue for the event. Mr Wilders’ planned appearance at the Czech Senate was banned, and efforts to set up the lecture at Prague’s Aventin Palace have also come to nothing after the palace management distanced itself from the event. Mr Wilders has been invited to present his views and screen his controversial movie, Fitna, by a Czech anti-Islamist website and Civic Democrat senator, Jiří Oberfalzer. On Monday, a Czech Muslim organization also invited Mr Wilders to a debate on the subject.
The law school of the West Bohemian University in Plzeň was ordered on Wednesday to temporarily stop accepting graduate students for PhD programmes. The school, which was recently entangled in a fast-track degree scandal, is however allowed to continue its undergraduate programmes. The Czech Education Ministry’s Accreditation Committee said the ban would be lifted as soon as the situation “consolidates”. Both the university’s officials and students’ representatives have welcomed the decision.
Several temperature records were broken on Wednesday, and the current fine conditions are expected to last for a few more days. Highest daytime temperatures should range between 7 and 11 degrees Celsius.