The state attorney has filed charges against communist MP Josef Vondruška, a former prison guard, who stands accused of maltreating political prisoners in the early 1980s. Mr Vondruška is charged with abuse of office, having allegedly beaten inmates while working as a warden at the Minkovice jailhouse. The Communist MP allegedly targeted political prisoners such as dissidents Jiří Wolf and Vladimír Hučín. He denies all charges. Late last year, Czech parliamentarians decided to strip Mr Vondruška of his political immunity and hand him over to the police for investigation. If found guilty, he faces three to ten years in prison.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg met with his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski in Prague on Friday. Mr Sikorski told journalists after the meeting that both countries hope the project to expand the US anti-missile defence shield to Central Europe will continue. He said he expected the US president-elect Barack Obama to respect the decision of his predecessor. The United States wants to install a tracking radar on Czech soil and interceptor missiles in Poland as part of a broader missile defence shield in Europe. Czech and US government representatives signed the relevant treaties earlier this year, but they still have to be approved by Parliament.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic is convinced that Czech EU presidency in the first six months of next year will move Serbia and the western Balkans closer to EU membership. He made the statement after a meeting with his Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg on Friday. Mr Schwarzenberg said it would still take some time before Serbia was admitted to the EU and stressed that Serbia would have to work hard for it. Czech diplomacy previously announced that bringing the western Balkan countries closer to EU membership was one of its EU presidency priorities.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, will visit Prague later this month at the invitation of former Czech president Václav Havel and his Forum 2000 Foundation. He is scheduled to deliver a public speech and meet with lower house deputies who are members of the Friends of Tibet association. The Dalai Lama is a close friend of Mr. Havel and has visited the Czech Republic on several previous occasions.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met with opposition Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek on Thursday to discuss their possible cooperation during the upcoming Czech EU presidency, the daily Právo reported on Friday. The meeting might bring about personnel changes in the lower house, the paper writes. Mr Paroubek confirmed that he had met with Mr Topolánek, adding that they had not reached any final agreement. Prime Minister Topolánek suggested earlier this week that the Social Democratic leader could replace Miroslav Vlček in the post of chairman of the lower house.
Milada Emmerová has become the governor of the Pilsen region, the first ever woman to hold the post in any of the Czech Republic’s 13 regions. Mrs Emmerová returns to high politics three years after being dismissed as health minister from the cabinet of Jiří Paroubek. The Social Democrats in October scored a victory in all 13 regions, 12 of which were controlled by the Civic Democrats. Several regional governments, including the one in Pilsen, have formed a coalition with the Communists. Negotiations are still underway in several regions.
Czech scientists will receive some 12 million crowns for radar research from the Pentagon by the end of this year. The Czech Technical University in Prague this week signed the first bilateral agreement with the US, securing some 5 million crowns for the development of special software. The Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences is set to receive the same amount.
Škoda Auto has sacked about 1,500 temporary workers since September in reaction to the global financial crisis. The biggest carmaker in the country still employs about 2,500 external workers, most of them from Slovakia and Poland. The company’s spokesman Jaroslav Černý says the number of in-house staff would remain unchanged for the time being. The company was forced to announce price-cuts last month.
The Czech Republic plans to invite U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to a summit meeting with the 27 EU states in Prague on April 2, the country’s ambassador to the EU Milena Vicenová, said on Thursday. The Czech Republic which takes up the rotating EU presidency on January 1st has said transatlantic relations and improving economic cooperation with the United States would be a priority for the six-month Czech EU presidency. Mr. Obama, who will take office in January, is due to attend a NATO summit in Strasbourg on April 3-5.
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