News

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Deal on US radar base just needs signature, says Czech PM

Negotiations between the Czech Republic and the United States on US plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia have been concluded, Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said in an interview for the newspaper Hospodařské noviny. Mr Topolánek said it seemed the last remaining points of contention in the bilateral deal had been ironed out and all that remained was to arrange a signing ceremony. On Sunday the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said there was one outstanding issue – a Czech demand for a guarantee the US would clean up any potential environmental damage. Both Washington and Prague will be hoping to drum up support for the project – part of a US global anti missile defence system – at a NATO summit in Bucharest later this week. However, the Czech Parliament has yet to vote on whether to allow the US to build the base in Brdy, central Bohemia.

Government unveils plans to make roads safer

The government has unveiled plans to make Czech motorways safer. On Monday, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek unveiled a booklet of steps his government plans to take in order to lower fatalities on Czech roads. In first place is a preventative campaign, which will rely upon shocking ‘emotive’ adverts. The government also plans to make driving rules more understandable and increase the effectiveness of the country’s traffic police. Addressing journalists, Mr Topolánek also said that the situation on the country’s roads would be helped by the introduction of an electronic tagging device into driver’s vehicles. This device will replace the current system of buying year-long motorway passes which must be displayed on the driver’s windscreen. The device would get rid of the need for motorway tolls, and eradicate queues at such tolling points.

Poll suggests 42.5 believe Klaus’s re-election not completely fair

A new poll suggests 42.5 percent of Czechs believe Václav Klaus was not re-elected president in a completely fair manner. The survey, conducted by the Median agency and published in Monday’s Lidové noviny, indicates that people are bothered by the fact that Mr Klaus’s election was secured with the vote of a turn-coat opposition Social Democrat deputy and the absence of a member of the Greens, who supported the challenger Jan Švejnar. Thirty percent of respondents said they were not bothered by the election, while 27.5 percent had no opinion. Václav Klaus secured a second five-year term as Czech president by two votes in a joint session of Parliament in mid February.

Over two thirds of Czechs against tightening-up of abortion laws

Over two thirds of Czechs are against tightening up this country’s abortion laws. In a poll conducted by the GfK Praha agency for the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes, 71 percent of respondents said that they thought the Czech Republic’s abortion laws were sufficient, and that they were against any move to outlaw abortion in this country. Twenty-five percent of those polled said that they would like to see a clamp-down on abortion in this country, while eight percent said that they thought the practice should be outlawed completely. The poll comes in the light of fresh calls from the Christian Democrats to reopen the debate on whether abortion should be legal in this country. Neighbouring Slovakia has in recent years tightened its laws on abortion. Last week, government data was released which showed that the number of abortions in the Czech Republic had been falling for fifteen consecutive years.

Czech foreign debt nearly 85 billion dollars in 2007

The Czech Republic’s foreign debt amounted last year to 1,349 billion CZK (84.2 billion USD). This figure constitutes 37.9 percent of last year’s GDP. The announcement was made by the Czech National Bank on Monday, who added that, year-on-year, Czech foreign debt had risen by 151 billion crowns.

… And household debt up month on month by 9.3 billion crowns

In related news, the Czech National Bank announced on Monday that household debt in this country had risen by 9.3 billion CZK (581 million USD) month-on-month in February to 744.4 billion crowns (46.5 billion USD). The statistics were released as part of the central bank’s monthly monetary survey, based on balances supplied by commercial banks, money-market funds and credit unions.

HN: Residents of Prague 11 allegedly bribed to join Social Democrats

People living in Prague 11 are allegedly being bribed to join the opposition Social Democratic party, Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. According to the newspaper, those from a socially disadvantaged background are being targeted and offered 1500 CZK (94 USD) should they agree to sign up to the party. The head of the Social Democrats in Prague 11, Kosta Dimitrov, denies all allegations. The newspaper claims that those within the party have voiced their bafflement at the unusually high number of new party members within this one Prague district.

Interior Minister unveils new police car design

Interior Minister Ivan Langer unveiled the design of the Czech Republic’s new police cars on Monday, calling the image-change an ‘historic event in the Czech police’s history’. The new cars will hit the country’s roads as early as November 2008, and will be silver, yellow and blue instead of the current green and white. Around 1,400 vehicles have been commissioned by the Interior Ministry, in a deal worth nearly 1.5 billion crowns (94 million USD).

Schröder, Fico to visit Prague to mark anniversary of Social Democrat Party

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Slovak prime minister Robert Fico will be in Prague this Wednesday, to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Czech Social Democrat Party. The head of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, made the announcement on Monday, adding that the celebrations would offer a chance to reflect, as well as to look forward to the future. Celebrations will take place on Wednesday at Prague’s Žofin Palace. The Social Democrat Party has commissioned a special commemorative medal to mark the occasion.

Poll: most Czechs support smoking-ban in restaurants

More than 50 percent of Czechs support a smoking ban in restaurants, while 39 percent support such a ban in bars. The figures come from a poll conducted by the CVVM Agency released on Monday. An overwhelming majority of Czechs, some 95 percent, believe that there should be a ban on smoking in theatres, cinemas and public transport, while as few as 24 percent of those polled said that they would support such a ban in open public spaces. The Czech Chamber of Deputies has recently been discussing whether to change the anti-smoking law. A smoking-ban in restaurants could be introduced as part of the overhaul. The bill has, however, been returned to government health committees for further discussion, and thus its future remains unclear.

Weather

It will continue to feel rather summery over the next couple of days with sunshine (interrupted by the occasional shower) and temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.