News

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Czech politicians point to number of "blank" areas in EU reform treaty

The Czech deputy prime minister for EU affairs, Alexandr Vondra, has indicated that the EU reform treaty set to replace the rejected EU constitution contains a number of "blank" areas; he discussed the issue after a meeting with President Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Thursday. Ratification of the EU reform treaty was not discussed per se, but all four representatives agreed to hold regular meetings in order to coordinate further political steps. Mr Vondra said the prevailing opinion was to have the EU reform treaty ratified in parliament as opposed to a referendum.

On Thursday, President Klaus also discussed a planned speech at the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York. Mr Vondra told journalists he expected the president will use his visit to promote the Czech Republic's candidacy for a non-permanent member seat in the U.N. Security Council in 2008-2009.

Parts of Czech Republic threatened by floods

Areas of north Moravia and Silesia are under extreme threat of floods. The levels of rivers in the area, as well as parts of northern Bohemia, have risen considerably due to extensive rain - and surrounding areas are on highest alert. In some areas, 20-year old water has already broken banks, leading to flooding in parts of some village homes: namely cellars and basements. Some roads have been closed off. Meteorologists have said that a warning of heavy rain and strong winds will remain in effect until Friday. On Wednesday night, fire fighters had to intervene in many regions, mostly east Bohemia and north Moravia, removing fallen trees from roads and high voltage electric lines. Technicians were called in to repair lines in 230 places in east Bohemia alone. Extensive rain on Wednesday also raised water levels in some rivers in southern Bohemia.

State Veterinary Administration to relax ban on bird exhibitions

The State Veterinary Administration has revealed that this Friday it will relax a number of restrictions in place since outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu at poultry and turkey farms in east Bohemia in June. As of Friday, breeders' organisations will once again be allowed to host bird exhibitions. But breeders will still be required to uphold strict hygiene standards as well as to provide authorities with warnings of any potential signs of bird flu. Indicators include a drop in egg production or in the consumption of water and feed. The spokesman for the State Veterinary Administration said that new cases of bird flu in the Czech Republic could not be ruled out.

Interior minister: wave of departures from police force offset by new employees

A wave of departure of professionals from the police force has begun to be offset by the arrival of new employees. Interior Minister Ivan Langer said on Thursday more people joined the force than left it in the months of July and August. At a press conference assessing the activities of police upper management on Thursday, the minister said the trend had changed. Mr Langer also stressed that the wages of 94 percent of police personnel had grown in the first half of 2007 compared to the same period last year.

Mr Langer's deputy stated that was partly the result of the new law on service. The new service law - valid since January - originally triggered the wave of departures from the police force due to the changes in service rules for police officers, prison guards, customs officers as well as members of the fire brigade. The legislation applies to about 72,000 people, including 47,000 members of the police force.

Hyundai chairman's sentence suspended

A Korean appeals court has ruled that the chairman of carmaker Hyundai, who was convicted of embezzling company funds, will not go to prison. Chung Mong-Koo's original sentence of three years in jail was suspended. Mr Chung had continued to run the Korean automaker after release on bail; investors had worried any absence could hurt the company's expansion plans in Korea and abroad. The Hyundai Motor Group chairman's legal troubles made headlines in the Czech Republic due to the construction of a new Hyundai factory in northern Moravia. The project, representing a 1.1 billion euro investment, began earlier this year. Once fully-operational, the plant is expected to manufacture 300,000 cars annually and to employ around 3,500 workers.

Poll: Civic Democrats strengthen position against nearest rivals

A new poll released by the Median agency - published on two internet servers - has suggested the ruling Civic Democrats have improved over their nearest rivals. According to the poll, if elections were held today they would be won by the right-of-centre party earning 35.2 percent of the vote. The party strengthened over rivals the Social Democrats, who slipped by 3.5 percentage points since July. In their current coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Greens, the Civic Democrats would now gain a majority of seats in the lower house. The poll suggests the opposition Communists would place third with 12.6 percent of the vote, followed by the Greens with 6.6 percent, and the Christian Democrats last, with 6.1 percent.

The survey also monitored voters' willingness to go to the polls: turnout would be 60 percent, or 5 percentage points less than the real figure during the national election last June.

Number of Czechs aged over 100 on rise

The Czech Social Security Administration (CSSZ) has registered 510 people aged 100 and over: 428 women and 82 men, the office's spokeswoman has said. The oldest person in the Czech Republic is Marie Kraslova, South Bohemia: she celebrated her 108th birthday last November. The oldest man is 105 years of age. The number of people over 100 has grown in the Czech Republic: last November there were 404 people, compared to 354 in November 2005. Most of those aged over 100 live in Prague, followed by South Moravia.

Footballer fined 200,000 crowns for Nazi salute

Czech footballer Pavel Horvath, who plays for Sparta Prague, will have to pay a fine of 200,000 crowns (the equivalent of almost 10,000 US dollars) for a gesture in a recent match reminiscent of the Nazi salute. The gesture was made towards fans. A disciplinary commission of the Football Association of the Czech Republic reached the decision on Thursday that the salute had damaged the reputation of Czech football. The player has admitted the gesture was a mistake but denied it was meant as a racist act.

Weather

More rain with some clearing in places is expected on Friday. Daytime highs are not likely to exceed 12 degrees Celsius.