News

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Canada dropping visa requirement for Czechs

Canada is dropping its visa requirement for Czech tourists from midnight on Wednesday, the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, announced at a special news conference. The Canadian authorities say, however, that they will reintroduce a visa regime for Czech citizens if there is a significant increase in the number of Czechs applying for asylum in Canada. Ottawa imposed the visa requirement in 1997 after an influx of Czech asylum-seekers.

Topolanek tells Cunek to clear up welfare fraud allegations or quit cabinet

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek will have to leave the government if he cannot plausibly and quickly refute allegations he abused the social welfare system. A Czech Television programme this week alleged that during the 1990s Mr Cunek collected social welfare while at the same time lodging millions of crowns in different bank accounts. Members of the party Mr Cunek leads, the Christian Democrats, have also called for him to clear up the matter. The deputy prime minister denies the allegations.

Jiri Cunek has frequently been in the headlines since he entered national politics last year. He was accused of racism after moving Romany rent-defaulters out of the Moravian town where he was mayor, while for a time his position in government was under threat due to alleged bribe-taking, though those allegations never made it to court.

Rules for applying for permanent residence, asylum tougher under new bill

The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill tightening the rules on foreigners applying for permanent residence or asylum in the Czech Republic. Under the new legislation, which still has to go before the Senate and the president, foreigners who marry Czech citizens will have to wait two years before being able to apply for a permanent residence permit; currently they can apply as soon as they get married. Passing an exam in the Czech language will also be a prerequisite for getting a permanent residence permit. The bill passed by the lower house on Wednesday also defines conditions for the treatment of foreigners who apply for asylum at Prague Airport. The Czech Interior Ministry says the tougher rules are necessary in view of the fact the country will join the Schengen zone later this year.

Neo-Nazis threaten to hold illegal march if they do not get permission for alternative route

A group of neo-Nazi extremists who have been barred from holding a march through Prague's Jewish Quarter say they will break the law and go ahead with it anyway, if they do not receive permission to march on an alternative route. The far-right Young National Democrats lost a legal battle to march through the Jewish Quarter on November 10, the anniversary of the Kristallnacht Nazi pogrom of 1938. In a statement on their website, the group said the Prague Town Hall had this week refused to grant them permission to march on eight other routes.

Doctor and nurse fired over baby mix-up now reinstated

A doctor and nurse dismissed from a hospital in Trebic after a high-profile baby mix-up have been reinstated. The head of the hospital's children's unit, Jan Kozak, and the unit's senior nurse, Jitka Pospisilova, were fired in October after it emerged that two babies were accidentally swapped at birth almost a year ago. However, both have now been offered their positions back by the hospital, and have accepted, Dr Kozak told reporters.

Crown again hits record high against US dollar

The Czech crown has again hit a new record high against the US dollar. During trading on Wednesday morning 1 dollar was going for 18.56 crowns, the lowest rate ever. The dollar fell on world markets ahead of a meeting of the US Federal Reserve.

Finance Ministry revises upwards growth estimate

The Ministry of Finance has again revised upwards its estimate of growth in the Czech economy this year. The ministry said growth should reach 5.9 percent in 2007, a slight increase on the 5.8 percent forecast it made in June of this year. Last year the Czech Republic saw record GDP growth of 6.4 percent.

Berdych keeps Shanghai hopes alive with win in Paris

Czech men's tennis number one Tomas Berdych has kept his hopes of reaching the prestigious season's end Masters Cup in Shanghai alive, after advancing to the third round at the Paris Masters with a 6-3 6-3 win over Croatia's Mario Ancic. A good run in Paris could secure Berdych a place in the elite eight player tournament. The Czech now faces Spain's David Ferrer in the third round.

Smicer hoping for return after two-month injury lay-off

Czech footballer Vladimir Smicer is hoping to make a return for Slavia Prague this weekend after being out injured for over two months. Smicer, who is 34, has made few appearances for Slavia since making a high-profile return to the club in the summer. The midfielder is now in full training again and says he should be ready for Saturday's game against Teplice. Smicer has scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for the Czech Republic.

US-based author presented with Skvorecky literary prize in Prague

The writer Jan Novak has been presented the Josef Skvorecky Award for his novel Deda (Granddad). Novak, who settled in the United States after leaving Czechoslovakia the late 1960s, also received a cheque for CZK 250,000 (over USD 13,000) from the organisers, Prague's Josef Skvorecky Private College.

Weather

It should remain quite sunny over the next few days. Temperatures will reach up to 13 degrees Celsius.