News

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As Erdogan visits Prague, Czech PM backs Turkey’s bid to join EU

The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, has told his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that he supports Ankara’s efforts to join the European Union. After a meeting between the two leaders in Prague, Mr Topolanek called for full membership of the EU for Turkey; he said any form of privileged partnership would not suffice. Mr Erdogan, who is in Prague for a two-day official visit, is also due to meet the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus; Mr Klaus also supports Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

Jan Antonin Bata cleared definitively of collaboration during war

The late Czech-born industrialist Jan Antonin Bata has been cleared definitively of collaboration with the Nazis. In 1947 a Czechoslovak court found Bata guilty in absentia of failing to join the anti-Nazi resistance. That judgment was overturned by a Prague court earlier this year, when the file was handed over to the state attorney’s office; it said on Thursday it was shelving the matter, as no crime had been committed.

Jan Antonin Bata was the step-brother of Tomas Bata, founder of the shoe empire of the same name. After fleeing the Nazis, he settled in Brazil, where he established a number of towns.

Czech Republic offers to train Afghan helicopter pilots

The Czech Republic has offered to train helicopter pilots from Afghanistan. The chief of staff of the Czech Army, Vlastimil Picek, made the offer at a NATO military committee meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the website iDnes reported. However, no concrete date for any such training programme has been set. The Czech Republic is planning to increase its military presence in Afghanistan from 224 soldiers to 415, with a provincial reconstruction team due to be sent to the war-torn state in spring of next year.

Armed guards to remain on flights between Czech Republic and USA

Czech and American armed guards will continue to be deployed on planes flying between the Czech Republic and the United States. A memorandum to that effect was signed on Thursday by US representatives and the director of the Czech foreigners and border police service, Jindrich Urban. The Czech police say signing it is one condition for the removal of visa requirements for Czechs wishing to visit the US. America’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, Richard Graber, has said Czech citizens should be included in his country’s visa waiver programme within one to two years.

Minister denies plans for bill increasing powers to monitor phone and internet use

The minister of industry and trade, Martin Riman, has strongly denied press reports that he is preparing a bill aimed at providing the secret services with easier access to data at the disposal of internet and telephone operators. On Thursday the newspaper Pravo said that the bill would allow both the counter-intelligence and military intelligence to monitor information on phone and internet communication. However, a spokesperson for Mr Riman said the minister had always been opposed to broadening the powers of the security services to the detriment of citizens’ privacy.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade took over the bailiwick of telecommunications following the abolition of a short-lived ministry of information technology.

Car search leads to discovery of major haul of smuggled cigarettes

Customs officers seized over three quarters of a million smuggled cigarettes in a raid in the Liberec region on Thursday. The cigarettes either had Ukrainian duty stamps or none at all, said a spokesperson for the north Bohemian customs police. After apprehending a man at the border with over 10,000 cigarettes hidden in his car, the police uncovered almost 40,000 cartons of smuggled cigarettes in a search of his home.

Award for young Czech artists won by Eva Kotakova

The prestigious Jindrich Chalupecky Award for young Czech artists has been won by Eva Kotakova. The artist, who is 25, combines performance with sculpture; she was selected from a short-list of five artists under the age of 35. The Chalupecky award includes a six-week stay in New York and a cash prize totalling CZK 150,000. The work of Kotakova and the four other short-listed artists is currently on show at galleries around Prague.

Clubs from major European leagues interested in Baros, says agent

Football clubs in England, Germany and Spain are interested in signing the Czech striker Milan Baros, his agent Pavel Paska told reporters. Baros is not a regular first team player for France’s Olympic Lyon and could leave the club during the transfer window in January. The 26-year-old had spells at Liverpool and Aston Villa before joining Lyon at the beginning of this year.

Baros is currently in Prague with the rest of the Czech squad, preparing for a European Championship qualifying game against Slovakia. The Czechs have already reached Euro 2008.

Weather

Temperatures should reach a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius in the next few days. It will be mostly cloudy with some sunny spells and snow in places.