News

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Foreign Minister critical of Moscow on missile defense

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has criticised Russian opposition to the US missile shield with a planned radar base in the Czech Republic: speaking on public broadcaster Czech TV on Sunday Mr Schwarzenberg suggested Moscow was trying to recoup Soviet-era influence, what he described as “part of a political game about influence in Europe”. From the start Moscow has been highly critical of US plans to deploy a radar base to the Czech Republic and ten interceptor missiles to Poland. Washington has stressed its system is needed to counter possible threats from so-called “rogue” states. Mr Schwarzenberg said on Sunday that Prague would probably not sign agreements with the US before a NATO summit in April. He stressed, in his view, that Prague would get the best possible deal with the US from the outgoing administration.

Parliamentary heads in favour of secret ballot in presidential election

The head of the Chamber of Deputies, Miloslav Vlček and Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka have agreed that voting by lawmakers in the upcoming presidential election should remain secret. Both men discussed the issue on Czech TV on Sunday, responding to some politicians’ favouring an open vote. Both also expressed hopes that the presidential election would be dignified and without procedural disputes between deputies and senators. The presidential election will see a joint session of both houses of Parliament on February 8. Incumbent Václav Klaus nominated by the Civic Democrats, is seeking re-election. He faces challenger Jan Švejnar, who was nominated by four groups of senators including the opposition Social Democrats.

Strong winds behind falling trees, damage to Czech rail

Strong winds hit parts of the Czech Republic on Saturday causing fallen trees to block roads in places. Fire brigades were called out to remove fallen trees in the Pardubice and Hradec Kralové regions: damages were described as minimal, although one home was struck. No one was hurt in the incident. Further east, in Moravia, falling trees damaged electric lines over railway tracks near Ostrava: trains to the area saw up to one-hour delays on Sunday morning.

Meteorologists have warned that windy conditions will continue in areas including east and north Bohemia into Sunday evening, hitting up to 90 kilometres per hour and 120 km/h in mountainous regions.

Ministry releases statistics showing strong rise in mortgage loans

The real estate credit market increased by 41 percent in the Czech Republic in 2007, according to new statistics published by the Ministry for Regional Development: last year domestic banks issued more than 80 thousand new mortgage loans worth 142 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 8 billion US dollars). Earlier predictions had estimated about half that growth. The highest interest in mortgage loans came in Brno, Moravia, and Prague, the Czech capital. Prague residents alone accounted for 24 thousand loans worth 54.5 billion crowns.

Kerndlová beats out competition for place in Eurovision Song Contest

Singer Tereza Kerndlová will represent the Czech Republic at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Belgrade. Kerndlová, an r ‘n b performer who first made her name with the Czech girl group Black Milk, was the public’s favourite in the national round broadcast on Saturday on public broadcaster Czech TV. The singer beat out competitors such as s L.B.P., Iva Fruhlingová, and hip hop group Gipsy.cz. Last year marked the first time the Czech Republic took part in the Eurovision competition, with viewers sending hard rockers Kabát to Finland. The group, with a particular brand of grinding guitar and vocals, did not make it past the semi-final stage.

NHL confirms New York Rangers, Lightening will open 2008/09 season in Prague

The NHL has confirmed that the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightening will start their 2008/09 seasons in the Czech Republic, playing back-to-back games in Prague. The news was announced by National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday. Mr Bettman expressed satisfaction that hockey fans abroad would be able to see the NHL game up close. The New York Rangers are home to a number of well-known Czech players, including star forward Jaromír Jágr. The Prague games, which will take place on October 4 and 5 at Sazka Arena, are not the only ones scheduled in Europe: on the same days the Ottawa Senators will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm.

NHL hockey: Kaberle helps East to win in All-Star Superskills competition

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomáš Kaberle helped Eastern Conference All-Stars defeat the West in the National Hockey League’s Superskills competition in Atlanta on Saturday. Kaberle won the Most Accurate Shooter category, hitting all four targets in the first round. In doing so he matching the accuracy standard set by defenseman Ray Bourque in 1992 and 1993, equalled by Mark Messier in 1996 and Jeremy Roenick in 2004. In all, Kaberle hit eight of nine targets, making him the league’s top “sharpshooter”.

Sunday will see the All-Star Game between the Eastern and Western Conferences take place and Kaberle but also Czech goalie Tomáš Vokoun are on the roster.

Football: Baroš on loan to Portsmouth

English Premiership side Portsmouth have completed a loan signing Milan Baroš from Lyon for the rest of the football season. The Czech Republic international had struggled at Lyon, hoping to see more of the pitch ahead of Euro 2008. The former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker is expected to play his first match for Portsmouth against Manchester United on Wednesday.

Weather

Monday is expected to be overcast with a chance of rain. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs of around 5 degrees Celsius.