News

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Cunek's comments on Romanies xenophobic, says Topolanek

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has described comments made about Romanies by Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek as xenophobic. Speaking at a meeting of the leadership of his Civic Democrats, Mr Topolanek said the party distanced themselves from Mr Cunek's words. Asked by a newpaper whether other people should receive state subsidies like Romanies, Mr Cunek said non-Roma would need to get a suntan - an allusion to the colour of Romanies' skin - cause chaos with their families and light fires on town squares before politicians would regard them as badly off.

Jiri Cunek rose to national prominence last year after expelling Romany rent-defaulters from the centre of the town of Vsetin, where he was then mayor.

Mr Cunek, who is leader of the Christian Democrats and regional development minister, is currently under police investigation for alleged bribe-taking when he was mayor of Vsetin. He has resisted calls to resign from the government.

Police in Romania arrest group who allegedly sold workers in Czech Republic

Police in Romania have arrested a group of alleged people traffickers who they say sold Romanian labourers as virtual slaves in the Czech Republic, the AFP news agency reported. The Romanian authorities say the group promised workers high earnings in the Czech Republic but then sold them for 150 euros per person to Czech or Ukrainian middlemen. The workers then had their documents taken and were made to work for little money and small amounts of food. Some of them managed to escape and returned home with help from the Romanian Embassy in Prague. An estimated 500 people were abused in this way, AFP reported.

Estranged wife of PM says he harms country with vulgarity

The estranged wife of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek says his behaviour and vulgar language are harming the Czech Republic. Pavla Topolankova told the daily Blesk that her husband should represent the country but in fact does the opposite. Mr Topolanek has come in for some criticism this week for using a phrase associated with Sudeten German Nazi sympathisers.

In the past he has raised his middle finger to opposition deputies in the lower house and described the European Union constitution as "shit" (using the English word). Mr Topolanek left his wife for his Civic Democrat party colleague MP Lucie Talmanova, with whom he is expecting a baby.

Civic Democrats executive committee calls for nomination of Klaus for re-election as president

The Civic Democrats executive committee has called on the party's deputies' and senators' groups to nominate President Vaclav Klaus for re-election next year. Mr Klaus has himself made public his desire to remain in office after his current five-year term ends. But while his own party executive was giving the president its backing, the opposition Social Democrats called on its deputies and senators not to back Mr Klaus. At a party conference on Saturday leader Jiri Paroubek described Mr Klaus as a shifty populist who is ideologically dogmatic and not modern.

Head of CzechInvest sacked for alleged impropriety in awarding of public tenders

Tomas Hruda has been sacked as head of CzechInvest. Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman said he had dismissed Mr Hruda after an inspection uncovered evidence of shortcomings at the state investment and business development agency. An Industry Ministry spokesperson said that CzechInvest had acted at variance with the law several times during the awarding of public tenders. Mr Hruda said the minister was free to appoint whom he liked, but said the reasons given for his sacking were untrue, and cast aspersions on all the agency's staff. He will be replaced by Roman Cermak.

Former Social Democrat forms Dignified Life Party

Former Social Democrat MP Jana Volfova has formed a new party called Strana dustojneho zivota, which translates as something like Dignified Life Party. The name was made up by former prime minister and Social Democrat chairman Milos Zeman, though Mr Zeman - who recently quit the Social Democrats - turned down an invitation to become a member. However, there has been media speculation that other dissatisfied Social Democrats could join the grouping.

Moravian town to join food stamps pilot project

The town hall in Cesky Tesin, north Moravia is to give some social welfare recipients coupons for food and other goods instead of money. The move is part of a new Social Affairs Ministry pilot project to help families in which the parents spend their social welfare on alcohol or gambling machines. The authorities in Cesky Tesin are planning to begin giving the food stamps to around 50 families from the beginning of May. The government is planning to announce a package of social welfare and tax reforms next week.

Skoda workers threaten strike action over pay demands

Workers at the Skoda Auto plant in the central Bohemian town of Mlada Boleslav are threatening to go on a symbolic one-hour strike if their wage demands are not met. Talks between union leaders and employers ended in deadlock on Friday. Skoda Auto is believed to have offered workers a pay increase of 11 percent. A spokesman for the company said negotiations would continue on Monday.

Most castles and chateaux reopen after winter break

Most of the Czech Republic's castles and chateaux have opened their doors to the public after the winter break, Pravo reported. Many have installed new collections and exhibitions ahead of the new season, the daily said. Preparations at Krivoklat castle included calling out the local police, after a pre-war pistol was found in a well. Among the chateaux which reopened on Saturday was the one in Telc, which was voted "most fairytale-like" in an internet poll.

Prague part of Febio Fest closes with film awards

The Febio Fest film festival came to a close in Prague on Friday night with the presentation of awards voted on by Czech film critics. The Kristian prize for Best Film went to Robert Sedlacek, director of Pravidla Lzi. Linda Jablonska took the Best Documentary award for Kupredu leva, kupredu prava, while Michaela Pavlatova won Best Animated Film for Karneval zvirat. Febio Fest, now in its 14th year, was attended by around 70,000 viewers in the capital. It now moves on to the regions.

Footballer Grygera likely to have played last game for Ajax

The Czech international footballer Zdenek Grygera has probably played his last game for Ajax Amsterdam, a club he joined in 2003. The defender needs an operation on the knee he injured playing for the Czech Republic and the daily Sport reported that Grygera - who is moving to Italian giants Juventus in the summer - was unlikely to be fit by the end of the season. His agent said it was currently being decided whether the 26-year-old would undergo surgery in Holland or Italy.

Sparta Prague to open new children's sector

Sparta Prague football club are opening a new sector at their Toyota Arena especially for children in what is a first in the Czech league. It will only be open to children under the age of 15 and their parents, club spokesman Lukas Pribyl told Mlada fronta Dnes. Mr Pribyl said Sparta were hoping to attract more children and youths; he said this segment of society was currently absent from football stadiums and had great potential.

Regional stations of Czech Radio to broadcast around clock

The regional stations of Czech Radio will begin broadcasting around the clock on Monday. Between 9 pm and 5 am the stations, with the exception of Prague's Regina, will have common broadcasting, with news bulletins during those hours concentrating on news from the regions.

Weather

It should remain quite sunny in the coming days. Temperatures are expected to reach up to 17 or 18 degrees Celsius.