News

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Unknown gunman fires on BIS building in Prague

A gunshot by an unknown assailant was fired at the Prague headquarters of the Czech counter-intelligence service, the BIS, on Thursday. At the time members of the parliamentary committee overseeing the service were on site. The news was revealed by the deputy head of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek and committee head Jeronym Tejc on Friday. Mr Tejc confirmed he had received the information directly from BIS director Jiri Lang. The projectile from the shooting has been recovered and is being analysed by ballistics experts. Members of the parliamentary committee overseeing the BIS were at the service's headquarters on Thursday to discuss a classified information leak from the service three years ago.

Interior Minister on shooting incident

In directly related news, the Interior Minister, Ivan Langer, told the lower house on Friday that is so far unclear whether the shooting was "an attempt to harm, a provocation, or an accident". It has been revealed that the shot was fired from beyond the zone of cameras around the BIS building. Mr Langer stressed that none of the MPs in the parliamentary committee were in any danger; he also promised to inform the parties in parliament of additional facts when they become known.

Czech crown reaches new record against US dollar and euro

The Czech currency, the crown, has continued to break records reaching new all-time highs against both the US dollar and the common European currency, the euro, on Friday. Following negative news regarding the real-estate market in the US the dollar has fallen to 19.08 to the crown. The fall in the dollar on world markets has reportedly led to greater interest in the currencies of emerging markets - this in turn has led to the euro's trading at 27.26 Czech crowns, its lowest rate ever.

Prague mayor, Czech-born architect, debate future of new National Library building

Prague Mayor Pavel Bem and Czech-born British architect Jan Kaplicky met in a televised debate on Thursday evening to discuss the future of the new National Library, a modern design by Mr Kaplicky planned for Prague's Letna Plain. The building, nicknamed "the Blob" or "the Octopus", was the winning entry in an international competition earlier this year. The building has become the centre of heated debate after it came to light the project would be blocked by assembly members from the Civic Democratic Party at City Hall. Mr Bem indicated on Thursday that a mistake in zoning plans meant it was unlikely the project would be approved for Letna Plain. But he said he was for the modern design being built elsewhere in the capital.

The mayor will reportedly provide a list of alternative sites for the building to National Library director Vlastimil Jezek next week.

PM: Czechs will preside EU in 2009 irrespective of new treaty

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has stressed that the Czech Republic will preside the EU presidency in the first half of 2009 as planned, irrespective of the EU's Reform Treaty agreed at a summit in Lisbon on Thursday. The prime minister made the statement despite the fact that the new treaty - if ratified by member states - will come into force on January 1st, 2009. The treaty includes the creation of a new longer-term president of the European Council, meaning the Czechs could lose the opportunity to preside a "full-fledged" presidency. But the Czech prime minister made clear it was evident there will be delays in the naming of officials to new EU posts, meaning the Czech presidency will not be diminished.

PM in favour of EU treaty ratification in parliament

In related news, it has been reported that Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra - who attended the EU summit - are in favour ratification of the EU Reform Treaty by parliament rather than through a referendum. In parliament, the document would require the support of three-fifths of deputies and senators. It is not yet clear when the Czech Republic will start the process of ratification of the document, which replaces the earlier draft EU constitution. But the EU states are likely to sign the document in Lisbon on December 13th.

Poll: two-thirds of Czechs want Klaus for second term

A new poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested that two-thirds of Czechs want Vaclav Klaus to be re-elected to a second term as the country's president. The election is to take place in roughly four months. 66 percent of those queried told pollsters they were in favour of Mr Klaus's re-election, while 68 percent said they did not think the opposition would be able to field a strong contender. The opposition Social Democrats have been trying to agree on a joint-candidate with some of the smaller parties in parliament.

CVVM: Social Democrats would win election by 6 percent over nearest rivals

A poll conducted by the CVVM agency has suggested that if a national election were held today the country's largest opposition party would benefit, winning by a margin of six percent. The survey suggests that the Social Democrats would defeat the ruling Civic Democrats with 36 percent of the vote, compared to the ruling party's 30. The findings are similar to other surveys conducted by the STEM and Factum Invenio agencies. 64 percent of the CVVM poll respondents said they would take part in the election if it were held today.

Mayors petition for referendum on Prague Olympics

The mayors of small Czech towns are petitioning for a referendum to be held on the summer Olympic Games if the games were to be held in the Czech capital. According to a spokeswoman for the mayors, those behind the petition fear hosting the games would siphon funds from respective municipal budgets. On Friday, she handed a petition in favour of a referendum on the issue - signed by more than 1,000 Prague residents - to Prague City Hall officials. Opponents of the Olympics being hosted by the Czech Republic say the country is not prepared for the high costs. Prague officially put forward its bid to host the 2016 Olympics in early September. The bid was signed by Prague's mayor and the chairman of the Czech Olympic Committee.

NHL ice hockey: Atlanta down Jagr's Rangers, Toronto defeat Florida

The Atlanta Thrashers won their first win of the season in the National Hockey League on Thursday, defeating the New York Rangers 5:3. Assists by New York players Jaromir Jagr and Michal Rozsival weren't enough to keep the Rangers in the match.

In other ice hockey action, the Maple Leaf's Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle assisted on their team's winning goal against Florida; in the match the Leafs downed the Panthers by a score of 3:2.

Weather

Partly clear skies are expected into the weekend with a chance of rain in places, and snow in mountainous areas. Daytime temperatures in Prague are expected to reach highs of around 6 degrees Celsius.