The Czech Senate has approved a package of government bills aimed at significantly reducing state spending next year. It was the final session of the upper house in its current formation; the coalition parties will lose their majority when the winners of recent elections for one third of Senate seats are sworn in. Last week the government hurriedly pushed the amendments through the lower house under what is known as a state of legislative emergency, in order to allow the outgoing Senate to vote on them. The bills must now be signed by the president.
Friday’s vote was delayed for a few minutes after a civic group named ProAlt blocked the entrance to the upper house in protest at the fact the “old” Senate was voting on the amendments. They said senators’ mandates came into effect from the day of their election, meaning those who are stepping down next week had no right to vote on the government’s amendments. In their view, holding such a vote constituted a breach of the Czech constitution.
A former US ambassador to Prague has accused a former Czech defence minster, Martin Barták, of soliciting a bribe from him. In an interview for Mladá fronta Dnes, William Cabaniss said the approach had taken place during a visit by a Czech government delegation to Washington in January 2008. At that time Mr Cabaniss was on the supervisory board of Tatra; he told the newspaper that when he told the then deputy defence minister the Czech truck maker was having problems with a subcontractor, Mr Barták said they could be resolved in return for cash. Another Tatra representative present said the figure mentioned was millions of dollars. Mr Barták, who is currently deputy finance minister, denies the charge. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said his Civic Democrat party colleague was taking unpaid leave until the matter was investigated.
Any parcels sent through Czech Post to the USA weighing over 453 grammes will no longer be carried by plane from Monday, a spokesperson for the company said on Friday. Packages weighing more will be taken to the US by train and ship, in a move designed to reduce the threat of terrorism. Currently parcels weighing up to 30 kilogrammes can by sent from the Czech Republic to America by airmail.
Negotiators for TOP 09, who came first in local elections in Prague last month, have presented the Social Democrats with an outline coalition agreement on sharing power in the city. TOP 09 had previously only discussed going into government in the capital with another right-wing party, the Civic Democrats. However, the two parties have been unable to reach agreement. There has been speculation the Civic and Social Democrats will form a coalition, in which case the former’s candidate, doctor Bohuslav Svoboda, would become mayor of Prague.
A Brno man responsible for a fatal drink driving hit-and-run in the city has been sentenced to six years in prison. Petr Zahradník, who is 22, drove at 90 kilometres an hour into a group of people at a tram stop in July last year, instantly killing a woman and badly injuring her daughter. He did not possess a driver’s license and was found to have a high level of alcohol in his blood.
Operators of botanical gardens in the Prague district of Troja cut short an exhibition of rare miniature conifers after some were stolen. The show was due to run until November 28 but was halted on Friday, after eight of 50 plants disappeared over a two-week period. In future exhibitions will only be held at the botanical gardens between April and October, when they are guarded around the clock.
The Prague leg of the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival got underway on Thursday night with the screening at the city’s Lucerna cinema of Howl, a biopic about the gay poet Allen Ginsberg. The festival, which is now in its 11th year, will show more than 70 films over six days in the capital, before slimmed-down versions are held in other cities including Ostrava and Plzeň. The first leg took place in Brno.
The Czech Republic’s ice hockey team lost their opening game of the season on Thursday, when they were beaten 4:3 by Sweden in the Karjala Tournament in Prague. The result confirmed coach Alois Hadamczik’s anit-Midas touch when it comes to the Swedes: in a previous stint at the helm between 2005 and 2008, his charges were defeated 16 times in 19 meetings with the Scandinavians. The Karjala Tournament is the first of four competitions in the European Hockey Tour.
The former US boxer Mike Tyson is after all going to come to Prague. A visit by Tyson planned for October was cancelled at the very last moment after a Swiss promoter failed to sell enough high-priced tickets for events attended by the former world heavyweight champion. Now promoters Ladislav Kutil and Pavol Mucha say they will bring the 44-year-old to the Czech capital for two days in March.
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Janek Rubeš: The only question I get – and there are thousands of them – is, Can we come to Prague?