News

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PM begins tour outlining priorities of Czech EU presidency

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has begun a tour of European capitals to outline priorities when the Czech Republic assumes the European Union’s rotating presidency in less than a year’s time. On Friday Mr Topolánek met with the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens. He stressed the focus would be to remove barriers to labour mobility as well as to lift bureaucratic obstacles. He also said under the Czechs’ presidency the EU would hold energy talks with Russia, address budget reform and oversee EP elections. During its term, Prague will also oversee the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, set to replace the EU constitution rejected in 2005 referenda in France and the Netherlands.

The treaty streamlines EU operations by cutting the size of the European Parliament, limiting the use of national vetoes and creating the post of president as well as European foreign policy head.

Customs seizes millions of fake brand cigarettes

Customs officers have revealed they uncovered around 3 million crowns worth of fake brand cigarettes on a shipment from China to the Czech Republic. The discovery was made during a random check on a transport truck from Hamburg, one of the biggest busts this year. The load is said to represent roughly 25 million crowns in unpaid taxes. Two people driving the transport vehicle as well as an addressee in the Czech Republic were arrested; if found guilty in the case each could face up to 12 years in prison.

Two sentenced in sex abuse case

A Prague court has sentenced two men for the sexual abuse of children – one to four-and-a-half years in prison. The other received a three-year suspended sentence with an order to receive psychiatric treatment. Almost 20 boys, the youngest who was just seven, were abused by Ondřej Martínek while David Lein was found guilty of abusing one child and shooting child porn. Both were former organisers for a civic association focusing on helping children from poor homes. The organisation, called Malý princ (Little Prince), has distanced itself from the criminal events, saying it had had no knowledge of the duo’s activities. Mr Martínek and Mr Lein were first arrested in 2006 on suspicion of what police described as “dangerous, deviant behaviour”. Both men can appeal Friday’s verdicts.

Demonstrators protest in Liberec against possible uranium mining

Almost 100 people demonstrated in Liberec, north Bohemia, on Friday against possible uranium mining in the region. It is the third such protest the area has seen in the last four months. Demonstrators launched the event in front of the local branch of the ministry for regional development, pending a decision on whether a uranium deposit in the area could be slated for eventual mining. Five local towns have opposed the idea, with some officials pointing to the Podještědí region as an important source of drinking water which could be threatened. Green Party member Josef Jadrný has said that, if necessary, organisers will pursue legal action.

Daily: former PM, wife, buy luxury apartment in Florida

The Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has reported that former prime minister Stanislav Gross and his wife Šárka Grossová have bought a luxury flat in the US state of Florida. The paper reported on Friday that the couple paid 13 million crowns (the equivalent of roughly 800,000 US dollars) for an apartment in a residential complex known as Hidden Bay. The paper speculates that the former prime minister bought the flat from proceeds from a controversial sale of shares in the power company Moravia Energo. Mr Gross made an estimated 80 million crowns in the deal. In April three years ago Mr Gross was forced to step down as prime minister following a scandal related to his personal finances.

Klaus signs bill on new passports for next year

Passports bearing their holders' fingerprints will only be issued as of April 1, 2009, under a bill signed by Václav Klaus on Friday. Originally passports containing the data were to have been issued as of this May, but the EU has not yet approved technical guidelines. Fingerprints are to be included in passports under an EU directive from 2004. New Czech passports, featuring machine readable information and a chip with biometric data have been issued since September 1, 2006. The chip contains only a digital photograph for the time being.

Davis Cup: Russia’s Safin beats Berdych in opening singles match

Russia’s Marat Safin overcame a two-set deficit Friday to give his country a 1-0 lead over the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup tennis quarterfinals. Safin rallied to defeat Berdych 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Later on Friday Radek Štepánek defeated Igor Andreev later in the 2nd singles match of the best-of-five series to level the series 1-1. He beat his opponent in straight sets 6:3, 6:2, 6:4 .

Hockey: Hašek’s Red Wings win Game 1 in series against Nashville

In the NHL on Thursday the Detroit Red Wings with goalie Dominik Hašek got off to a winning start in their best-of-seven series against the Nashville Predators. Hašek stopped 19 shots on the night, while Jiří Hudler scored the Red Wings’ opener. The final score was 3-1.

In other action in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens downed traditional rivals the Boston Bruins 4-1 in the first game of their series. Tomáš Plekanec notched up one assist on the night.

Football: Čech shows up for training just days after operation

Star keeper Petr Čech surprisingly showed up for training with football club Chelsea just days after undergoing surgery. Earlier, the keeper needed fifty stitches and corrective surgery to prevent scarring after a collision with a fellow team mate left deep cuts to his face. Čech said that he could not risk physical contact yet but could otherwise prepare for his return. Chelsea faces the close of the English football season as well as a semi-final match-up against Liverpool in the Champions League.

Weather

Partly cloudy skies with sunny periods but also a chance of rain are expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of around 19 degrees Celsius.