News

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Czech Republic signs memorandum with US on visas

The Czech interior minister, Ivan Langer, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States which is the first step towards the Czech Republic being included in the US visa-waiver programme. Though not legally binding, the memorandum paves the way for a full deal between the two countries. US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who co-signed the document in Washington, said if all went well Czechs would be able to travel to the States without a visa from the end of October or the beginning of November this year. However, to do so they will have to provide US authorities with personal data via the internet before being allowed to enter the country. The information in question is in line with an agreement reached between the US and the EU last year, the website Aktualne.cz reported.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who also took part in the signing ceremony, said it was an historical moment; he said the agreement represented the fulfilment of a dream for generations of Czechs.

Radar deal likely around time of NATO summit in April, says Czech PM

The Czech prime minister expects that the Czech Republic will sign an agreement with the United States on the building of a US radar base in central Bohemia around the time of a NATO summit in Bucharest at the beginning of April. Mr Topolánek made the comments on his way to Washington. He said discussions in the US capital would take in how the US anti-missile system would be linked to NATO structures and Russia’s opposition to the plan. The Czech side is also demanding that its scientists are given a role in anti-missile research and development. Prime Minister Topolánek is set to hold talks with President George Bush on Wednesday.

Greens leader apologises after calling MP “cow” in accidental email

The leader of the Green Party Martin Bursík has apologised for an email he accidentally sent to Olga Zubová in which he referred to the Green MP as a “cow”. Ms Zubová’s failure to attend a second presidential vote recently made it easier for Václav Klaus to win re-election; she said she was ill, though Mr Bursík and other senior Greens questioned her behaviour. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the party’s leader apologised for the email, saying it was a mistake made under pressure.

Klaus ready to visit Belgrade, says new Czech ambassador

The new Czech ambassador to Belgrade says the Czech president, Václav Klaus, is prepared to visit Serbia in the near future. Hana Hubáčková, who takes office in Belgrade next month, made the statement after meeting Mr Klaus in Prague on Tuesday. The Czech president has expressed fears over developments in Kosovo, which recently ceded unilaterally from the former Yugoslav state. Mr Klaus said he understood the frustration and disappointment of Serbs, adding that the cession of Kosovo could have consequences for other countries in Europe and around the world. The Czech Republic has not yet recognised the independence of Kosovo; the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said it would do so when the time was right.

Group under minorities minister proposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt children

An expert group on sexual minorities working under the minister for human rights and minorities, Džamila Stehlíková, has proposed a number of changes to Czech law, including a provision to allow same-sex couples to adopt children, Lidové noviny reported. The expert group’s proposals, which have been posted on the internet, also include widow’s and widower’s pensions for the surviving partner in registered homosexual couples. Same-sex registered partnerships were introduced in the Czech Republic in July 2006.

Budvar achieves record exports in 2007

The Czech brewer Budvar last year exported almost 600,000 hectolitres, the greatest amount in the company’s 112-year history. A Budvar representative said exports had increased by nearly 6 percent in 2007. The south Bohemia brewer saw a hike in sales in Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Russia and exported its lager to states such as South Korea, Brazil and Albania for the first time. It now sells its beer in over 50 states around the world. Budvar is one of the Czech Republic’s three largest brewers, alongside Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen.

Czech internet search sites to merge

The Czech internet search websites Centrum.cz and Atlas.cz are to merge under a deal announced on Tuesday. Atlas is being bought by NetCentrum, which is owned by the American private equity firm Warburg Pincus. The new group should have combined user numbers of over 4 million and be a strong competitor to the biggest search site Seznam.cz, which has around 4.5 million users. Centrum and Atlas will maintain their names and current forms.

Most productive Czech in NHL Prospal returns to Philadelphia Flyers

The most productive Czech ice hockey player in the NHL this season Václav Prospal has left Tampa Bay Lightning for the Philadelphia Flyers. The move means the forward returns after a decade to the club where he was drafted back in 1993. Prospal, who is 33, is a two-time world champion with the Czech national team.

Weather

We can expect more mild weather in the coming days, with temperatures of up to 12 degrees Celsius. It should be cloudy with some sunny spells.