News

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Court hears testimony in Čunek case

A court in the Czech Republic has been hearing testimony in a case surrounding Czech Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek. The court is seeking to determine if the Justice Ministry, including former state representative and current Social Democrat shadow Justice Minister Marie Benešová, pressurized those investigating Mr Čunek’s alleged bribery case. Zlatuše Andělová, a state representative from Ostrava gave testimony today, which suggested that the Justice Ministry exerted political pressure on investigators in the hope of assisting the position of Mr Čunek, who temporarily resigned due to allegations of bribery.

Student Agency considering abandoning train project

A planned high-speed luxury rail link between the Czech cities of Prague and Ostrava has been thrown into uncertainty as its backer considers shifting the project to Slovakia. The company behind the project, Student Agency, which has hitherto specialised in coach travel, is reportedly considering the shift abroad because of a controversial decision by the government to funnel transport investment financing through a state owned company known as the Rail and Transport Authority or SŽDC. Specifically, a 12 billion crown government investment into the Czech rail network has bought harsh protests from Student Agency, which has threatened to make a complaint at the European Court, stating that this form of government support is harming the private sector.

Opposition to radar growing

A new poll for Czech Television suggests that almost two-thirds of Czechs are opposed to the placement of a US anti-missile radar system on Czech soil, with only 18 percent in favour and 17 percent undecided. According to the poll, Czechs also expressed strong opposition to international observers in the country, with most opposed to a Russian presence linked to the radar. Polls consistently show most Czechs are against the proposal, albeit the figures in this poll suggest the trend is increasing. Conversely, a new poll by the agency STEM suggests that most Czechs support the idea of some kind of missile defence shield in Europe. The Czech government expects to formally sign a treaty on the radar base this summer.

Prague Spring international music festival begins Monday

The 63rd Prague Spring international music festival gets underway in the Czech capital on Monday evening. As is traditional, the opening concert will feature Má vlast by the great Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. Five prestigious foreign orchestras are taking part, including the BBC Symphonic Orchestra led by the Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek and Britain’s longest-established professional symphony orchestra, Manchester’s Halle Orchestra. This year’s Prague Spring features 50 concerts and seven theatre performances and runs until June 4.

Figures reveal traffic accidents down

Newly released figures from the Czech traffic police suggest that the number of fatalities on Czech roads has fallen. The figures for the first quarter of 2008 reveal 264 deaths on the roads, a figure which is 43 less than 2007 first-quarter figures. The numbers of accidents, serious injuries and material damages from car accidents have also all decreased. Further, the figures for serious injuries are at their sixth lowest since 1990. The numbers are believed to represent a modest improvement in Czech efforts to decrease high levels of traffic accidents.

Documents could lead to Communist Party being outlawed

Documents prepared by the Czech Communist Party ahead of its conference on the 17 May, could get the party into serious trouble, according to media reports. The controversy surrounds revolutionary statements which are similar in nature to that proclaimed by the Communist Youth Union, which was outlawed by a Czech court in October 2006. Both organisations proclaim that capitalism must be overturned to make way for socialism or communism. The Communist Youth Union was outlawed because of the seemingly revolutionary and violent methods it was advocating in order to achieve this goal - which the court ruled were unconstitutional. However, the Czech Communist Party is more cautious, insisting that its path towards this stated goal remains peaceful and democratic. However, observers note that the communists could ultimately end up before a court tasked with determining whether the party should be outlawed.

Metro extension towards airport to commence next year

A new extension to the Prague metro, which will take trains all the way to the city’s airport should begin construction late next year. The Prague Transport Authority announced the proposals on Monday, detailing total costs of around 40 billion crowns. The “A” metro line will be extended in several stages, the first of which is expected to be complete by 2014. However, the metro is not expected to reach the airport until 2018. The first extension is being financed with the help of EU development grants.

Czechs lose to Sweden at Ice Hockey World Championships

The Czech Republic lost 3:5 to Sweden at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Quebec on Sunday, failing to score any points in a game for the first time. The defeat cost the Czechs the chance of first place in Group E, though they had already qualified for the next stage of the competition.

Czech president appoints new spokesperson

Czech president Václav Klaus has appointed a new spokesperson to replace the outgoing Petr Hájek. Radim Ochvat, a former assistant to PM Mirek Topolánek will assume his post on June 1.

Weather:

Warm weather and mostly sunny skies are expected, although some showers are forecast for later in the week. Temperatures should be around 22 degrees Celsius.