Former president Vaclav Havel is the greatest euro-optimist on the Czech political scene today while his successor Vaclav Klaus is the most euro-sceptic; this according to a poll of public perceptions by the STEM agency. Asked to name a pro-European politician, aside from Havel, respondents named three high-profile Social Democrat party members: former prime minister Stanislav Gross, the current man in the job, Jiri Paroubek, and ex-premier Vladimir Spidla, now a European Commissioner. Apart from Klaus, the poll found that people consider Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek and Communist party head Miroslav Gerbenicek the most euro-sceptic Czech politicians.
Liverpool striker Milan Baros, a Czech national, looks set to join Aston Villa. The English club have reportedly offered him 40,000 pounds a week to play for them. Baros, a top scorer for the Czech national team in the most recent European championships, has rejected offers from Lyon and CSKA Moscow, saying he wanted to remain in the Premiership. Liverpool rejected Aston Villa's 6 million pound bid for Baros. But Aston hope that a 1 million pound add-on --based on performance-- will swing the deal their way.
Ceremonies took place throughout the Czech Republic on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. The invasion 37 years ago marked an end to the democratisation process that came to be known as the Prague Spring. Czech President Vaclav Klaus spent part of the day in Brno, where he spoke at the opening of an exhibition of historic photographs and documents from the period.
Former prime minister Milos Zeman's daughter will enrol this September in the private high school of which president Vaclav Klaus' son is the director. Zeman lost to Klaus in the 2003 presidential elections. He said that his daughter Katerina picked the school herself and that, politics aside, he approved of her choice. The daily Pravo notes that besides Milos Zeman, several prominent Social Democrat party members send their children to private schools while pushing for increased spending on public education. They include Education Minister Petra Buzkova and former prime minister Stanislav Gross.
Private security firms operating in Iraq have been actively recruiting in the Czech Republic, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reports. A young man who passed a training course in the town of Zlin told the newspaper that he was lured by promises of 80 US dollars an hour once posted in Iraq, which is fifteen times the average Czech wage. Authorities here say it is unclear how many Czech nationals have been recruited to do private security work in Iraq.
The already strong Czech currency is expected to gain against the common European currency and the US dollar in September, market analysts have said. The prediction follows on news that the Czech foreign trade surplus for the first half of 2005 has been revised upwards, from 38 to 44 billion crowns. Economists say that GDP growth could now exceed 4.4 percent for the first-quarter of this year. The improved results should strengthen the crown from its current level of around 29.40 to the euro and 24.22 to the US dollar.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and twelve other prominent world figures have signed an open letter calling for the world to end "autocratic" rule in Belarus. In the letter published on Saturday, the signatories accuse President Alexander Lukashenka of routinely violating basic human rights and civic freedoms. They also warn that the last independent daily in the country, Narodnaja Volja, is in danger of being shut down. Apart from Vaclav Havel, signatories to the letter include the Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg, the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. They are calling on the United Nations and world governments to make a united push for democracy in Belarus.
The newly appointed minister of culture, Vitezslav Jandak, has said that he never suspected that the casino for which he helped establish a charitable foundation in 2001 had connections to organised crime. The Little Lion (Levice) children's foundation of which Mr Jandak was a founding board member was established by and received donations from the now defunct casino Royal. That casino's de facto owner, Assaf Abutbul, survived an assassination attempt in Prague last spring. Mr Abutbul's father was an Israeli crime boss known as 'The Butcher' who was himself killed nearby the casino in August 2002. Culture Minister Jandak told the daily Pravo that he was concerned only with the work of the charity, and had no reason to investigate the casino's other business.
FC Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed that the English club are weighing up bids from Aston Villa and Lyon for striker Milan Baros, a Czech national. Baros, a top scorer for the Czech national team in the most recent European championships, is expected to leave Liverpool before the end of the transfer window.