News

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New round of U.S. radar talks underway in Prague

A new round of Czech-U.S. talks on siting an American radar base on Czech territory is underway in Prague. Czech and American officials are hoping to finalize a Status of Forces Agreement concerning the stationing of U.S. military personnel in the Czech Republic. European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra said that one of the last open issues – criminal liability of U.S. troops under Czech Law – could be concluded by the end of the week.

The United States is planning to position a tracking radar base in the Czech Republic and intercepting missiles in Poland as parts of its anti-missile defence shield. The plans have little support by the public and have been criticized by Russia, Slovakia and other countries.

Czech experts, troops are off to Afghanistan

A group of Czech civilian experts, together with 50 troops, left for Afghanistan on Thursday to reinforce the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in the country’s Logar province. While the troops will join the Czech contingent in Afghanistan, the three civilian experts are set to coordinate work in the fields of agriculture, construction and hydrology. The Czech Defence Ministry said another five experts would be joining the Provincial Reconstruction Team in due time. They will follow up projects started by the Americans, including the construction of two hospitals and a school. The Czech team will work in Afghanistan for three to five years; besides the team in the Logar province, the Czechs also run a hospital in the capital Kabul.

Unemployment benefits to be cut

Unemployment benefits should only be paid over a period of five months, instead of the current six, and should be decreasing gradually, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas said on Thursday. Mr Nečas believes that planned change will increase the motivation of the unemployed to find a new job.

The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic is now 6.1 percent and keeps dropping due to the country’s growing economy. The maximum monthly unemployment benefit is 11,000 crowns, or over 670 U.S. dollars.

Human rights film festival “Jeden svět” begins in Prague

The 10th year of Jeden Svět (One World), the biggest European human rights documentary film festival began in Prague on Wednesday. This year of the festival, organized by the Czech NGO People in Need, focuses on dictatorships and is dedicated to the Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi. From Prague, the festival will move on to another 28 Czech cities and towns on March 13 before travelling to Washington, New York, London and Brussels.

Czech army to buy transport planes

The Czech Army is considering spending nine billion crowns, or more than 540 million U.S. dollars, on new transport planes, Deputy Defence Minister Martin Barták said on Thursday. The Defence Ministry is likely to save the funds needed for the purchase by buying only a hundred armoured personnel carriers from an Austrian arms producer, instead of the original 199 vehicles. The new planes could be used to transport personnel and equipment to Czech foreign missions. Most transport planes currently used by the Czech Army are old, Soviet-made aircraft.

Prosecution drops anti-communist lawsuit

A state prosecutor in Prague has dropped a lawsuit against the Communist Party concerning their position on the 1948 communist putsch. The party leadership endorsed on Friday the communist takeover that led to the establishment of a Stalinist regime in 1950’s Czechoslovakia. A lawsuit was then filed against the party accusing it of supporting and promoting a totalitarian regime which constitutes a crime in the Czech Republic. A spokesperson for the prosecution said that no law was breached by the Communist Party statements.

Average salary up by 7.3 pct

The average monthly salary in the Czech Republic rose by 7.3 percent in 2007, amounting to 21,692 crowns, or more than 1300 U.S. dollars, the Czech Statistical Office said on Thursday. 2007 saw the largest increase in the average salary in the last four years. Economists estimate that this year the average salary in the Czech Republic will rise further reaching 23,000 crowns, or just over 1400 U.S. dollars, per month

Consumption of antidepressants highest ever

Czechs are consuming three times more antidepressants than they did ten years ago, the State Institute for Drug Control announced on Thursday. Last year, 4.8 million packs of antidepressants were sold for 1.5 billion crowns, or more than 90 million U.S. dollars. The number of patient suffering from depression has doubled in the last decade. Psychiatrists say other methods, including psychotherapy, should be used as supplementary or alternative treatment.

Brno beats Valencia in women’s basketball

Sika Gambrinus Brno beat Valencia 75:69 in the women’s basketball EuroLeague on Wednesday and advanced to the competition’s Final Four. The decider took place in Spain after the first two previous games failed to produce a winner. The Czechs managed to build up a 14-point lead in the first half of the match which the Spaniards were unable to bridge. The most prolific scorer on the Czech side included Zuzana Žirková with 22 points and Tamika Whitmore with 21 points. In the Final Four, Gambrinus Sika Brno will face Bourges of France.

Ice-hockey champion dies at 84

World champion in ice-hockey Stanislav Konopásek died on Thursday at the age of 84. Mr Konopásek, a former forward for LTC Prague and the Czechoslovak national team, won the world title in 1947 and 1949 as well as a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 1948. In 1950, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for high treason by the communist regime, together with several of his team mates.

Weather

The end of the week will be party cloudy with highest day temperatures reaching 11 degrees Celsius.