Czech and American negotiators have begun another round of talks on a
treaty defining conditions under which US soldiers will be deployed at a
planned US radar base in central Bohemia. Issues to be resolved before the
signing of a status of forces agreement include the legal status of US
personnel at the base, income tax payment and the insurance of US
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said there was at least one issue on
which the Czech Republic would not back down. However, he said he believed
a deal would be reached within the next two weeks, allowing the status of
forces agreement to be signed in May at the same time as the already
published main agreement on the building of the radar. The Czech
still has to vote on the matter.
Russia, which has expressed strong reservations about the planned radar base and a linked missile base in Poland, wants to hold talks with Prague, Warsaw and Washington on allowing its experts to inspect the sites, ITAR-TASS reported. Both the Czech Republic and Poland are opposed to allowing Russian military personnel on their soil.
Meanwhile, the Czech Defence Ministry has refused the Communist Party permission to hold an anti-radar demonstration at the proposed site of the US base on the Brdy military grounds in central Bohemia. The radar would be part of a US global missile defence shield.
The Czech government has rejected the idea of paying compensation to Czechoslovak citizens who lost their property in Subcarpathian Ruthenia after the war. They were forced to leave the region when it was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1945. Both the finance and interior ministers opposed the compensation plan put forward by a cross-party group in the Chamber of Deputies, where the matter will now be debated.
Growth of the Czech economy should slow to 4.2 percent this year, according to a twice annual report released by the International Monetary Fund. That would be a marked slowdown after 2007, when gross domestic product increased by 6.5 percent. Czech analyst David Marek said he regarded the IMF outlook as pessimistic, given that the Czech economy entered 2008 in very good condition.
The ombudsman says asylum seekers should not have to pay charges when they visit a doctor. Otakar Motejl said asylum applicants did not have the money to pay the fees, which were introduced at the start of this year. Mr Motejl said it was unethical for the state to ask them to pay. The Interior Ministry failed in a bid to introduce an exemption for asylum seekers, while the Health Ministry has called for another system of helping refugees pay for health care. Around 2,000 people apply for asylum in the Czech Republic every year.
Police in Peru have charged a 68-year-old Czech citizen with attempting to smuggle 3.8 kilogrammes of cocaine to the Spanish city of Valencia. The Czech, who is alleged to have hidden the drugs in his suitcase, was arrested at Lima airport. He told Peruvian police he had been given USD 3,000 to carry the suitcase to Valencia, but said he had no idea what was in it. A year ago a 19-year-old Czech was arrested in possession of 3.3 kilogrammes at Lima airport.
Václav Havel’s new play Leaving is to be performed at London’s Orange Tree Theatre in September, Lidové noviny reported. The play is currently in rehearsal in Prague ahead of its world, Czech-language premiere on May 22. The London premiere will mark the beginning of a season of plays by Mr Havel which will run until December. Václav Havel was a noted playwright and dissident before becoming president of Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution. Leaving is his first new play in two decades.
A proposed US radar base to be stationed on Czech soil could have up to 250 US military personnel stationed there at any one time. The figure was agreed upon by Czech and American delegates, negotiating the terms of the SOFA agreement which defines the status of US troops on Czech soil. In reality, a spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry said, the number of troops to be stationed at the base during regular operation will be closer to 100. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek recently announced that the negotiations on the SOFA agreement should be completed by Friday. The next round of negotiations on SOFA will start in Prague on Wednesday.
Christian Democrats generally agree with the stationing of the US radar base in the country, but they will only adopt a final stand after they are informed about the Czech-US agreements concerning the radar, head of the Christian Democratic Party Pavel Severa announced on Tuesday. “The condition that the installation should be part of a NATO defence system was fulfilled,” Mr Severa said after talks with Foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová and Czech ambassador to NATO Stefan Fuele. The Czech opposition as well as some member of the Green Party are against the plan.
Environment Minister Martin Bursík has confirmed his decision to keep the most valuable parts of the Šumava National Park untouched. The decision includes a ban on logging in forests that were hit by a devastating windstorm last year. Several local municipalities have protested against the decision, arguing that leaving fallen trees untouched may lead to the spread of bark-beetle. Šumava National Park is the largest national park in the Czech Republic stretching along the German and Austrian border and covering 39,000 hectares of land.
Some 60 percent of Czechs disagree with a proposed amendment to the law that would ban physical punishment of children, according to a poll conducted by the Median agency. Seventy percent of respondents said they themselves had been punished in this manner as children. One fourth of parents say they smack their children from time to time. Only 31 percent of parents polled said they were against physical punishment and never used it. Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Džamila Stehlíková, who proposed the amendment, says it is necessary to hold a public debate on the issue. Most experts say there is no reason to introduce a ban on smacking, since there is a law that bans maltreatment of children.
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