News

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Education Ministry officials won’t visit China

The Chinese government cancelled a planned visit to China by Czech Education Ministry officials over hoisting the Tibetan flag at the ministry building, the news website Aktuálně.cz reported on Friday. Education Minister Ondřej Liška, of the Green Party, had the Tibetan flag put up on his ministry’s building on March 10 to commemorate a Tibetan uprising against China. The Chinese embassy in Prague said that hoisting the flag represented direct support of Tibetan independence, and a gross interference with internal Chinese matters. During the planned visit, Education Ministry officials were going to sign an extended agreement on cooperation between the two countries in university education.

Social Democrats want to link vote on radar with vote on confidence

The opposition Social Democrats have called on the government to link the vote on the planned U.S. radar base with a vote on confidence. The Czech Republic and the United States reached agreement at the NATO summit in Bucharest concerning the siting of a U.S. tracking radar base in the Czech Republic as part of the American missile defence shield. The treaty between the two countries is expected to be signed at the beginning of May in Prague; both chambers of the Czech Parliament will then vote on the document. The demand by the opposition Social Democrats has been rejected by Deputy Prime Minister Petr Nečas who said the government would not listen to such extremist proposals.

In related news, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek confirmed that next Tuesday the country’s National Security Council would discuss the Czech-U.S. Status of Forces agreement, defining the status of U.S. troops on Czech soil in connection with the planned radar base. A new round of bilateral talks between the US and the Czech Republic is then to continue on Wednesday, with a final agreement expected by April 11. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkánová said on Thursday that the Security Council should now decide whether to preserve the mandate of Czech negotiators or make modifications. Besides covering the legal status of US soldiers, the SOFA also deals with environmental and transport issues as well as other factors including controls by authorities over construction and taxation.

Police seize paintings of runaway businessman

The police seized eight paintings on Friday belonging to the fugitive businessman Radovan Křejčíř which were to be sold at an auction. If sold, the eight works by renowned Czech modernist painters Jan Zrzavý and Václav Špála could go at an estimated 80 million crowns, or more than 5 million U.S. dollars. Fugitive Radovan Křejčíř is wanted in the Czech Republic for a number of crimes including conspiracy to murder, counterfeiting and extortion. Mr Křejčíř ran away in 2005 and is currently living in South Africa with his family.

Communist leader: country in political, economic crisis

Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip said on Saturday that the Czech Republic undergoing deep political and economic crisis. Speaking a party conference, the communist politician said the government was based on treason by two opposition MPs and it defied public opinion concerning the possible siting of a U.S. radar base in the country. Mr Filip also noted that about 100 billion crowns, or more than 6.2 billion U.S. dollars, of economic profits leave the country each year.

New documents on Mašíns found

The head of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Pavel Žáček, revealed the finding of new documents pertaining to the Mašín brothers - members of an anti-communist resistance group who shot their way out of Communist Czechoslovakia. The documents reportedly date to the interrogation of family member Ctibor Novák, later executed by the regime. The documents suggest that under questioning Mr Novák admitted that the Mašíns had planned to abduct Communist Defence Minister Alexej Čepicka as well to conduct acts of sabotage. It is plausible the statements were made under the threat of violence by the secret police. Not long ago the Mašíns, along with resistance group member Milan Paumer, were recognised by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek for their willingness to fight against the Communist regime in the 1950s.

Police break-up British-led gang

Czech police broke up a British-led gang producing the methamphetamine pervetin for the British black market. Police said on Friday the gang’s lab was one of the largest uncovered in recent years, producing an estimated half-kilo of the drug per week. Five were arrested in the round up, there of them Czechs; if found guilty they could face up to 15 years in prison. According to officials, the pervetin was produced using store-bought medicines; the lab itself was uncovered in a Prague garage. Last year more than 2,000 individuals were reportedly arrested in the Czech Republic for involvement in drug-related crimes – the vast majority of them Czech nationals. Some 130 were foreigners, officials say.

Hamé and Nordic merge

The biggest Czech canned food manufacturer Hamé merged with the Icelandic investor Nordic Partners. Financial details of the merger have not been disclosed. Nordic Partners currently runs food producing companies in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland; the board chairman of the Icelandic company Leo Gunnarsson said his company was not considering closing down any of Hamé’s plants. After the merger with Hamé, the group will be producing 170,000 tonnes of food products and 100 million litres of beverages annually. Its annual sales are estimated at 10 billion crowns, or more than 626 million U.S. dollars.

Weather

The weekend is expected to be partly cloudy, with some rain showers. Highest day temperatures will range between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius.