News

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Schwarzenberg: Prague to consult Kosovo position in case independence declared

The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has said that Prague will consult its position on Kosovo with other EU countries in the event that independence there is unilaterally declared. A December 10 deadline on talks on the future of the province approaches and there are fears that violence could break out in the still-Serb province if ethnic Albanian leaders decide to eventually declare independence. Mr Schwarzenberg said in Brussels on Friday that he would prefer a UN Security Council decision on the status of Kosovo, but admitted that was unlikely. On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that NATO would “act resolutely against anyone seeking to resort to violence” in Kosovo. NATO has confirmed that its 16,000+ troops in the area will stay put to quell any outbreaks.

Social Democrats to decide on Svejnar next week

The opposition Social Democrats have said they will decide by next Saturday whether to officially back Czech-American economist Jan Svejnar for president. The news was revealed by party chairman Jiri Paroubek, after meeting with Mr Svejnar on Friday. The well-known economist, whose name was first put forward by the Greens, has also not yet decided whether to enter the race against incumbent Vaclav Klaus; he has been testing the political waters, next week scheduling talks with the Christian Democrats and members of the Communist Party. Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek has been urging the Communists to consider Mr Svejnar’s nomination.

Czech presidential election to start on February 8

The Czech presidential election will start on February 8 when a joint session of both houses of Czech parliament will take place, lower house chairman Miloslav Vlcek has told public broadcaster Czech TV. Incumbent Vaclav Klaus is the only official candidate so far, but economist Jan Svejnar may run against him if he receives sufficient support.

Greenpeace calls off protest at Czech power plant

Six Greenpeace activists from five countries were forced to call off a second day of protest against global pollution due to poor weather conditions. The six were part of a team which scaled a smokestack at a Czech power plant on Thursday. The activists aimed to highlight the high carbon dioxide emissions which Greenpeace says the plant produces. Located in the Chomutov area, the plant is operated by the CEZ power utility. CEZ has dismissed the claim of high pollution levels.

Schwarzenberg estimates agreement on radar could be reached in first months of 2008

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that he expects Prague and Washington to conclude a treaty on the construction of a US radar base in the Czech Republic in early 2008, saying in Brussels on Friday that agreement could be reached sometime between January and March. The Czech government is negotiating on the radar project with the US even though the project is opposed by a majority of Czechs as well as the opposition. Russia has also been one of the main critics of the US plan to deploy the radar base to the Czech Republic as part of its planned missile defence shield in Central Europe.

Lower house passes amendment on waste law

The lower house has passed an amendment on the country’s waste law which will require Czech firms to more thoroughly record waste imports and archive records for at least three years. The amendment is in reaction to EU requirements and is to help protect the Czech Republic against illegal trade in waste. The country saw several such cases in 2006. Illegal waste dumps appeared mainly in north Bohemia, with waste smuggled from Germany. In the cases, the Czech Environment Inspection imposed fines worth several million crowns to organisers and the state attorney’s office also charged 15 lorry drivers who face up to five years in prison each. The new bill amendment is aimed to avert such situations, requiring vehicles transporting waste to display proper marking. The amendment will now go to the senate for approval and must still be signed by the president.

Czech foreigner police to be reorganised after Schengen entry

The Czech foreigner and border police will be reorganised by January 1 in connection with the Czech Republic's entry to the Schengen area. Pavel Vosicky of the Pilsen foreigner police made the announcement on Friday. The official revealed that 43 foreigner police inspectorates will be established by January to replace a current 195 branches which will cease to exist. Seven regional foreigner police offices will continue to function. The foreigner and border police management announced previously that all employees who will lose jobs as the result of the changes would be able to join traffic police in the border regions. The main task of the newly established inspectorates will be to prevent illegal migration. The Czech foreigner and border police had more than seven thousand members in 2005; by the end of this year their number will be reduced by more than two thousand.

Czech singer/pianist Irglova, Irish singer/musician Hansard, nominated for Grammys

The Czech singer and pianist Marketa Irglova and Irish singer Glen Hansard have received two nominations for US Grammys in the category of Best Soundtrack. The two were nominated for the soundtrack to the independent film “Once”, which was shot in the Czech Republic two years ago and since received strong recognition. The nominations for the Grammy Awards were announced in Los Angeles on Thursday; the awards ceremony itself will take place in February next year.

Plekanec helps lift Canadiens over Bruins

Tomas Plekanec scored his 9th goal of the season in NHL ice hockey action on Thursday, helping lift his team the Montreal Canadiens over “Original Six” rival, the Boston Bruins. The Canadiens won 4:2, their 7th match in a row against Boston.

Toronto, meanwhile dumped the New York Rangers 6:2 with Leaf’s defenseman Pavel Kubina getting an assist. The Rangers’ Jaromir Jagr failed to get on the board.

Weather

The weekend is expected to see mostly cloudy conditions with a chance of showers in places but also snow. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs between 0 and 6 degrees Celsius.