News

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Svejnar confirms presidential bid

Czech-American economist Jan Svejnar has confirmed that he will run in the Czech Republic’s upcoming presidential election, to be held in February. His nomination was backed by ten lawmakers from the upper house on Friday, senators from across the political spectrum – excluding the right-of-centre Civic Democrats and the Communists. The Greens, a junior member of the government, have said they will support Mr Svejnar’s candidacy, while the opposition Social Democrats are due to decide on Saturday. Jan Svejnar, a professor at the University of Michigan who served as an advisor to former president Vaclav Havel, will face incumbent Vaclav Klaus. So far Mr Klaus is being considered the favourite in the race, having already received backing from the Civic Democrats, the largest party in Parliament. The election is to be held on February 8.

Czech PM at EU Summit in Brussels

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is in Brussels for an EU summit dominated by the future of Kosovo, the Serbian province now geared towards independence. The EU has made clear it sees the situation in Kosovo as unsustainable. Leaders on Friday agreed to send an 1,800 person strong security force to the province, replacing the current UN mission. The EU also offered Serbia a fast track option towards candidacy for membership in the union, but such a trade-off has been rejected.

PM on ratification of Lisbon Treaty

In related news, on Thursday EU leaders signed the Treaty of Lisbon, to replace the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in national referenda in 2005. The new document will now need to be ratified by individual member states by 2009. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek commented in Brussels on Friday, saying the process would “not be easy”. He signalled that a potential sticking point was the implementation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

MF Dnes: Czech military to sack neo-Nazis

Three suspected neo-Nazis serving in elite units in the Czech Army will almost certainly be sacked by the military, the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes has reported. The newspaper recently broke the news that the three men regularly attended international neo-Nazi meetings and demonstrations, something confirmed by witnesses and the police. The army’s Chief of Staff Vlastimil Picek told the paper that the military police were in charge of the case, but refused to speculate on the final outcome. He did say the army would take a tough stance on extremists from both sides of the political spectrum in the future. He made clear he will propose to Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova that newly enlisted soldiers sign a special statement upon joining the military, confirming they have no allegiance to organisations promoting racial intolerance or hatred.

Constitutional Court will not rule on healthcare fees before end of year

The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychetsky, has said that the court will not rule on a complaint on healthcare fees put forward by the opposition Social Democrats before the end of the year. The court is to study whether payments for visits to the doctor to be introduced as of January 1 are unconstitutional – clashing with the country’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Mr Rychetsky told radio station Frekvence 1 people would have to obey the law unless the Constitutional Court annulled the legislation, part of the government’s reforms. The court chairman stressed he disagreed with a petition launched this week by some politicians and public figures, calling on the public to express civil disobedience and to ignore the law when it comes into effect.

South African court fails to decide on Krejcir extradition

A first instance court in Johannesburg, South Africa, has failed to decide whether Czech-born businessman Radovan Krejcir will be extradited for prosecution in the Czech Republic. The judge in charge of the case released the information to the Czech news agency CTK on Friday. Mr Krejcir, wanted on suspicion of a number of serious crimes in the Czech Republic, escaped from Czech police during a search of his family’s luxury villa in June 2005. He went into hiding in the Seychelles but was later apprehended in South Africa while using a false passport. He was held in custody but has since been released on bail.

Prague State Attorney’s Office: MP did not commit crime in Kubice report leak

The Prague State Attorney’s Office has revealed that Christian Democrat MP Pavel Severa did not commit a crime in the case of leaking the so-called “Kubice report” – a report presented by former senior police officer Jan Kubice outlining alleged links between organised crime and the state administration. The report was leaked to the media shortly before parliamentary elections in 2006, after the officer appeared before a lower house committee. Mr Severa was suspected of having put classified information at risk through negligence. The Social Democrats, who lost the election, have contended the report influenced its outcome. They originally blamed the right-of-centre Civic Democrats of having purposely leaked the document.

Police investigate possible tax fraud, improper business practices, on part of Bursiks

Czech daily Lidove Noviny has reported that police are investigating the head of the Green Party and Environment Minister Martin Bursik, together with his brother Jiri, on the suspicion of improper business practices. The newspaper said in its Friday edition that the police were looking into a number of possible crimes, including tax fraud. The Bursiks may have breached the law in connection with a building the brothers own and rented through their own company. The environment minister – attending a conference on global warming in Bali – is to return to the Czech Republic on Sunday. Anonymous charges were reportedly put forward against the politician soon after the Greens threatened to leave the government – if embattled former deputy prime minister, Jiri Cunek, was reinstated to the cabinet.

Czechs to draft plan for fighting domestic violence

The new committee for the prevention of domestic violence established by the Czech government's council for equal opportunities will draft an action plan for fighting against domestic violence, the minister in charge of minorities and human rights Dzamila Stehlikova has revealed. The committee's priority will be the preparation of proposals for the government for including certain measures against domestic violence among crimes, she told journalists after the first committee meeting. She also stressed the committee would also focus on the better protection of children against domestic violence. Domestic violence has been punishable in the Czech Republic since June 2004. As of this year, police can expel the perpetrators of domestic violence from their home for a ten-day period. The measure is aimed at protecting victims against further attacks.

International clinic labs to open in Czech Republic in 2008

Two laboratories belonging to the International Clinical Research Centre (ICRC), where Czech doctors will be able to cooperate with specialists from the US Mayo Clinic, will open in Brno next year and later be moved to a new ICRC centre to be completed by 2011. Construction of the final site, to be built within the complex of the St Anne Teaching Hospital, is to begin in mid-2008. Health Minister Tomas Julinek said the government had earmarked 1.5 to 2 billion crowns for the project. The ICRC will focus on research in such areas as cardiology, cardiosurgery, internal medicine, and neurology. Patients will also be treated there; the latest methods in medicine developed in the US will be made available to Czech patients at the centre.

NHL ice hockey: Hemsky cuts short Detroit winning streak

In NHL ice hockey action on Thursday Edmonton Oiler Ales Hemsky was the only player to score in a penalty shootout against Detroit, beating goalie Dominik Hasek. The final score in the game was 4:3. The Oilers snapped a seven-game winning streak by the Red Wings, who otherwise continue to top the National Hockey League standings. In other action, netminder Tomas Vokoun turned away 33 shots to help the Florida Panthers beat St Louis 1:0. The shutout is Vokoun’s third this season.

Weather

Mostly cloudy conditions are expected into the weekend, with daytime temperatures on Saturday and Sunday expected to hover between -5 and 0 degrees Celsius.