Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has criticised Russian opposition to the US missile shield with a planned radar base in the Czech Republic: speaking on public broadcaster Czech TV on Sunday Mr Schwarzenberg suggested Moscow was trying to recoup Soviet-era influence, what he described as “part of a political game about influence in Europe”. From the start Moscow has been highly critical of US plans to deploy a radar base to the Czech Republic and ten interceptor missiles to Poland. Washington has stressed its system is needed to counter possible threats from so-called “rogue” states. Mr Schwarzenberg said on Sunday that Prague would probably not sign agreements with the US before a NATO summit in April. He stressed, in his view, that Prague would get the best possible deal with the US from the outgoing administration.
The head of the Chamber of Deputies, Miloslav Vlček and Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka have agreed that voting by lawmakers in the upcoming presidential election should remain secret. Both men discussed the issue on Czech TV on Sunday, responding to some politicians’ favouring an open vote. Both also expressed hopes that the presidential election would be dignified and without procedural disputes between deputies and senators. The presidential election will see a joint session of both houses of Parliament on February 8. Incumbent Václav Klaus nominated by the Civic Democrats, is seeking re-election. He faces challenger Jan Švejnar, who was nominated by four groups of senators including the opposition Social Democrats.
Singer Tereza Kerndlová will represent the Czech Republic at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Belgrade. Kerndlová, an r ‘n b performer who first made her name with the Czech girl group Black Milk, was the public’s favourite in the national round broadcast on Saturday on public broadcaster Czech TV. The singer beat out competitors such as s L.B.P., Iva Fruhlingová, and hip hop group Gipsy.cz. Last year marked the first time the Czech Republic took part in the Eurovision competition, with viewers sending hard rockers Kabát to Finland. The group, with a particular brand of grinding guitar and vocals, did not make it past the semi-final stage.
The NHL has confirmed that the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightening will start their 2008/09 seasons in the Czech Republic, playing back-to-back games in Prague. The news was announced by National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday. Mr Bettman expressed satisfaction that hockey fans abroad would be able to see the NHL game up close. The New York Rangers are home to a number of well-known Czech players, including star forward Jaromír Jágr. The Prague games, which will take place on October 4 and 5 at Sazka Arena, are not the only ones scheduled in Europe: on the same days the Ottawa Senators will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomáš Kaberle helped Eastern Conference
All-Stars defeat the West in the National Hockey League’s Superskills
competition in Atlanta on Saturday. Kaberle won the Most Accurate Shooter
category, hitting all four targets in the first round. In doing so he
matching the accuracy standard set by defenseman Ray Bourque in 1992 and
1993, equalled by Mark Messier in 1996 and Jeremy Roenick in 2004. In all,
Kaberle hit eight of nine targets, making him the league’s top
Sunday will see the All-Star Game between the Eastern and Western Conferences take place and Kaberle but also Czech goalie Tomáš Vokoun are on the roster.
English Premiership side Portsmouth have completed a loan signing Milan Baroš from Lyon for the rest of the football season. The Czech Republic international had struggled at Lyon, hoping to see more of the pitch ahead of Euro 2008. The former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker is expected to play his first match for Portsmouth against Manchester United on Wednesday.
The Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar has said he will give up his US citizenship if he is elected Czech president. He made the statement in an interview for the Saturday edition of Mladá fronta Dnes. The candidate said it was a decision he hadn’t reached easily but one he had arrived at after touring the country and hearing from members of the public. Mr Švejnar, who lives on-and-off in the United States, dismissed any suggestion he was bowing to political pressure: dual-citizenship has been an issue for some lawmakers on the political Left, namely the Communists. Mr Švejnar is the sole challenger to incumbent President Václav Klaus, still widely considered the favourite. The election takes place on February 8.
In related news, the head of the Green Party Martin Bursík repeated on Saturday that presidential candidate Jan Švejnar can count on backing from a majority, if not all, Green Party lawmakers. The party has just six representatives in the Chamber of Deputies but was the first to express support for Mr Švejnar’s nomination last year. The economics professor met with Green Party members on Saturday to discuss issues from the EU, to nuclear energy, and missile defense.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas has indicated he hopes to introduce changes in unemployment benefits in the near future through new legislation. Saturday’s Právo reported that the minister is planning to raise benefits to 65 percent of net income instead of the current 50 percent, but also to cut state support by one month. Currently, the unemployed can be slotted for support for six, nine, or 12 months, periods which would each be shortened by 30 days. The minister told the paper also that if unemployed individuals, registered with the labour office for more than five months, rejected offered employment or retraining, they could be deleted from the registry - losing benefits. Mr Nečas has said that a final version of the draft bill will be completed in two weeks’ time.
Czech and US negotiators will open a fifth round of negotiations in Prague on Monday on a possible tracking radar in the country as part of the United States’ missile defence shield. US officials revealed the news in Prague on Friday. The first days of talks will focus on a general legal agreement before negotiations switch to a separate deal covering ballistic missile defence and the radar's operation. This week the US showed increased interest in sealing a deal quickly; but Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has stressed that getting a quality agreement took priority over speed. Washington wants its anti-missile shield in place and operational by 2012 in order to counter threats by so-called rogue states.
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