News

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NATO, Czech Republic express concern over Russian overtures to breakaway regions

NATO has expressed support to Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze in reaction to Russian moves to boost ties with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Earlier this week, Russia made overtures saying it was in favour of strengthening cooperation in trade and culture with the regions, as well as providing protection for Russians. NATO spokesman James Appathurai confirmed on Friday that NATO is in favour of Russia reversing its position. NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressed what he called “deep concern” over Russia trying to establish legal links with the regions, earlier this week. On Friday the Czech Foreign Ministry added its voice in a statement making clear the Czech Republic fully backed Georgia and Georgian sovereignty.

Prime Minister on official visit to Albania

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is on an official visit to Albania to meet with his counterpart Sali Berisha as well as other officials. The prime minister is currently touring a series of European capitals to outline priorities of the Czech EU presidency in 2009. Items on the agenda for discussion include Albanian integration within NATO and the EU, the situation in the western Balkans, and trade.

Private firm to guard cemetery at Terezin memorial

Police have been posted at the National Cemetery outside the Terezín Memorial after extensive thefts at the site. Culture Ministry spokesman Jan Cieslar said on Friday that a private security agency – which offered its services free of charge – would begin guarding the area next week. The firm will do so until May 18, when a ceremony honouring Holocaust victims will be held at the cemetery. By then, bronze plaques stolen from the site by unknown perpetrators will have been replaced, the Memorial’s director Jan Munk has said. The culture minister has stressed that a project including a camera-monitoring system was being put together, with the Culture Ministry ready to set aside funds. Hundreds of bronze plaques were stolen from the National Cemetery in Terezín in recent days: damages have been estimated at 2.5 million crowns.

Former diplomat loses case against Foreign Ministry

A Prague court has ruled in favour of the Foreign Ministry in a case involving a female employee over alleged discrimination. The decision comes after a lower-instance court awarded former diplomat Adriana Bašovská one million crowns compensation for unequal treatment at the ministry last year. In the case, she was stripped of authorisation in handling classified data by a superior. The ministry appealed the decision and the Prague municipal court found evidence that the steps taken were the same in the case of a male colleague. Mrs Bašovská worked at the Czech embassy in Libya; in 2002 she was recalled by the Foreign Ministry in Prague. Her superior claimed that she had breached security principles.

Education minister for increase in teachers’ wages

Education Minister Ondrej Liška has said he will press for an increase in wages for teachers; he made the statement at a national meeting of education workers' unions on Friday. Teachers’ unions are considering taking steps to try and push through pay demands, but are likely to wait and see whether the education minister will be able to argue for an increase at the government. As a result of high inflation, educational workers' real wages have decreased, the unions say; they have also argued that in some regions school budgets are lower than the 2.8 percent increase the government previously promised. The education minister has expressed the hope that the situation could be solved this year.

Government considers ban on physical punishment of children

Czech parents might be banned from physically punishing their children, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes has written, after a bill by the government committee for children's rights was approved on Thursday. Under the bill, corporal punishment would be banned, but would not include sanctions for the time being. A recent public opinion poll showed that three-fifths of Czechs disagree with such restrictions. But specialists say legislation banning physical punishment in the home and in schools is needed to protect children from potential abuse. Under the planned bill, parents or teachers would break the law if they slapped a child on the hand or face.

A poll conducted by the Median agency, whose results were released by the daily Lidové noviny recently suggested that one quarter of Czech parents use physical punishment on occasion, while 31 percent of respondent said they never used physical punishment as a method.

“Pressure” increases for Nedvěd return

Several members of the Czech national football squad have added their voices to those expressing support for midfielder Pavel Nedvěd, who plays for Italy’s Juventus, to come out of international retirement. The calls come less than two months ahead of the Czechs’ start at the European football championship, EURO 2008. In the past, Nedvěd, 35, was a key player in 91 caps for the Czech side, including the World Cup in Germany in 2006. On Thursday, star keeper Petr Čech said the team was in real need of a player with similar “abilities and skills”. It is hoped that a Nedvěd return would add spark to a side currently missing its captain, Tomáš Rosický, out with injury.

AFP has cited a top Czech football official as saying he “believed” that talks between Nedvěd and the national team coach had already begun but there has been no official confirmation yet .

Sobotka, Krejčí help Bruins upset Canadiens on Montreal ice

The Montreal Canadiens missed an opportunity to knock the Boston Bruins out of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday. The game was tied a goal apiece after two periods but the Bruins exploded on the offense in the 3rd, adding four goals for a final score of 5-1. David Krejčí racked up two assists, while forward Vladimir Sobotka scored the final goal of the game – his first in the playoffs – with around two minutes remaining. Montreal still leads the series 3-2 but Boston will hope to win at home on Saturday to force Game 7.

Weather

Mostly cloudy skies with a chance of rain are expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures are likely to reach highs of around 12 degrees Celsius.