News

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Anti-radar protesters suspend hunger strike

Activists Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář will suspend their three week hunger strike in protest against a plan to build a U.S. tracking radar base in the Czech Republic. Last week, the protesters met with the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek who suggested a chain hunger strike of various public figures opposing the plan be held instead. President Václav Klaus, on the other hand, refused to meet with the protestors, calling the hunger strike a form of blackmail that is appropriate in totalitarian regimes but not in a democracy.

Czechs send two EU presidency plans to Brussels

The Czech government sent two versions of its EU presidency programme to Brussels on Monday. European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra said one of the versions envisaged the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty by all EU member states, whereas the other allows for the contrary. The Czech Republic will assume the EU presidency in January 2009 under the motto “Europe without Barriers”.

Opposition Social Democrats call for early elections in 2009

The opposition Social Democrats would like an early general election to be held in the spring of 2009, the party’s vice-chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists on Monday, noting that the early election could be held simultaneously with elections to the European Parliament. Mr Sobotka said the current coalition government was on the verge of disintegration. The centre-right government of Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens has recently been dealing with a number of controversial issues including fiscal reform and the plan to site a U.S. radar base on Czech territory. Its regular mandate will expire in the middle of 2010.

Czech doctors against lifting of medical fees

Five Czech doctors’ associations with about 17,000 members have called on the five parliamentary political parties not to abolish medical fees, introduced early this year as part of the government’s fiscal reforms. The doctors say the fees have been successful in limiting the numbers of patients seeking medical help, which allows the medics more time for treating each patient. They also claim that hardly any patients complain about the amount they have to pay per visit, which is 30 crowns, or less than two U.S. dollars.

The fees have been criticized by the opposition Social Democrats and Communists as well as by some MPs of the coalition Christian Democrats and Greens. Last week, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that the fees do not contradict the Czech Constitution.

Czech Muslims denounce caricatures of Prophet Mohammed

The Association of Czech Muslim Communities denounced on Monday caricatures of Prophet Mohammad which recently appeared in Prague and Brno. Leaders of the Czech Muslim community Vladimír Sáňka and Muníb Hasan said the authors of the caricatures abused freedom of speech and wanted to incite civic intolerance; Mr Sáňka and Mr Hasan also called on Czech Muslims to keep “behaving in the Islamic way” and protecting public order in the Czech Republic.

Prague airport to be sold directly

The Czech government decided on Monday that Prague’s Ruzyně airport will be sold directly to a strategic partner. The Finance Ministry expects the state to cash in more than 100 billion crowns, or 6.2 billion U.S. dollars, for the air hub. So far, the Vienna airport operator, two German firms and French, Australian and Spanish companies have expressed interest in investing into one of Central Europe’s largest airports.

Havel: Europe has particular responsibility for Nazism and communism

Europe has a particular responsibility for the two totalitarian regimes that originated on the Old Continent, Nazism and communism, as well as for their consequences, former Czech president Václav Havel said Monday at a conference on communism held at the Czech Senate. Mr Havel also said that the European Union should provide greater support to those who strive for freedom in countries such as Cuba, Burma and Belarus.

30,000 visit art festival in Prague’s mental hospital

The 17th year of the Mezi Ploty, or “Within the Fences” arts festival, held inside Prague’s Bohnice mental hospital over the weekend, attracted over 30,000 visitors. The festival featured around 160 bands and theatre ensembles on nine stages and it is aimed at bringing together people from inside and outside the mental institution. The proceeds from the festival, estimated at one million crowns, or nearly 62,000 dollars, will be donated to the hospital.

Average salary up by 10%

The average monthly salary in the Czech Republic has risen to 22.531 crowns, or almost 1.400 U.S. dollars, in the first three months of 2008, the Czech Statistical Office reported on Monday. While the average gross monthly salary has increased by more than 10 percent, the real wage, which that includes inflation, has risen by 2.8 percent.

Policeman accused of hemp growing

A police officer in Cheb, western Bohemia, has been accused of illegal cultivation and sale of marihuana. The policeman allegedly grew plants of marihuana in his home for his own use as well as for other people. He even sent dried cannabis to his girlfriend in Ireland. The police said that the accused officer possessed 126 grams of the illicit drug.

Weather

The start of the week should see clear skies with some rain showers and storms, especially in the Southwest. Highest day temperatures are expected to reach 28 degrees Celsius.