The chairmen of the lower house and the Senate, Miloslav Vlcek and Premysl Sobotka, will meet their EU counterparts next week to discuss the future of the European constitutional treaty and reforms of the block. The conference of parliament speakers from EU member states will be held on May 26th and 27th in the Slovak capital Bratislava. The participants are also expected to discuss the roles and positions of national parliaments in EU countries and the issue of national versus European identity.
Belarus opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich praised former Czech president Vaclav Havel and fellow activists for helping to prevent Minsk gain a seat on the UN's Human Rights Council, the CTK news agency reported on Friday. Mr Milinkevich said special thanks were due to Mr Havel, to the Czech branch of the Human Rights Watch, the Czech NGO People in Need and to Civic Belarus, after Minsk's bid for a seat was defeated in a vote on Thursday. Mr Havel called for UN countries to reject Belarus's candidacy, saying that its own human rights record was "a source of constant concern" and that its bid represented "an insult to all Belarussians passionate about liberty." Vaclav Havel, a former leader of the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism in former Czechoslovakia in 1989, is a member of the Civic Belarus association. The playwright has been a constant critic of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, sometimes dubbed "Europe's last dictator."
Prague Archbishop, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, remains the head of the Czech Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has not accepted a resignation Cardinal Vlk tendered prior to reaching 75 years of age. The Pope's decision was announced after a mass in St Vitus Cathedral on Saturday morning. Miloslav Vlk became Prague Archbishop in 1991; in November 1994 he was appointed Cardinal.
Reigning Olympic decathlon champion Roman Sebrle admitted on Friday that a bacterial infection coupled with fever could prevent him from competing fully against US rival Bryan Clay at Gotzis, Austria, next weekend. The May 26-27 meet could be the only chance for a clash between Sebrle and Clay, who beat the Czech to world gold in 2005, before this year's World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Sebrle told Mlada fronta Dnes on Friday that he only resumed his training on Thursday after a week out and under such conditions it is impossible that he can compete for first place at Gotzis against Clay.
The Czech Confederation of Trade Unions has announced it will hold a protest demonstration against the government-proposed package of public finance reforms. The protest is to take place in Prague on June 23. The confederation's chairman Milan Stech announced the plan after Saturday's national conference in Prague. Mr Stech, who is also a senator for the Social Democrats, says the planned reform will significantly decrease the tax burden for high-income groups and will badly affect young families and people with medium or low incomes.
The Czech negotiator for a future EU treaty, MEP Jan Zahradil, says the Czech Republic has discarded its past "submissive" posture within the EU to make its voice heard. In an interview for Saturday's Mlada fronta Dnes, Mr Zahradil said the Czech Republic had "changed from the submissive and servile yes-man stance" under previous left-wing government into "a self-confident country which clearly and reasonably formulates its own views on the union's future". The Czech Republic opposes any wide-ranging revamp of the EU's institutional framework while Germany, the current president of the 27-member EU, wants agreement on an ambitious new treaty at an EU summit next month. Mr Zahradil, a Civic Democratic Party member, also says he does not expect a new European constitution, after an earlier draft was rejected in French and Dutch referenda in 2004.
A Czech mountaineer died during the ascent of the world's highest peak,
Mount Everest, this week, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday.
The time and circumstances of the death of the 47-year-old Czech man are
unclear. According to available information, he was the sole Czech in an
international expedition and he died at a camp at 8300 metres above sea
level. The Czech Republic's ambassador to India and Nepal, Hynek Kmonicek,
told Czech Radio that there were currently no plans to transport the
climber's body to the Czech Republic.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bem, climbing with a different team, reached the summit of Mount Everest on Friday, the tenth Czech to reach the world's highest peak. He is now on a two-day descent to his base camp.
Police in South Moravia continue searching for a 13-year old girl who went missing from a children's home in Brno a week ago. She was placed there after her foster mother was charged with severely abusing her eight-year old son and was remanded in custody. A spokeswoman said police are now studying documents they found when they raided a number of homes belonging to the family's relatives and friends. The missing girl's identity still remains unclear; the family say that Anna is the daughter of a drug addict who abandoned her. DNA tests are to rule out the possibility that Anna is related to the family or that she is in fact Karolina Plana, a girl who went missing 10 years ago and would now be 14 years of age.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has described Austrian
protesters against a Czech nuclear power plant as "loonies"
("magory"). Speaking to Czech television cameras, Mr
Schwarzenberg said "knowing those loonies, they would continue
holding border blockades". This week Austrian anti-nuclear activists
would block all 16 crossings between the two states, if Vienna did not
file a lawsuit against the Czech Republic. The Austrian government has
sent a diplomatic note, saying the Czechs had not fulfilled the Melk
agreement on safety at the Temelin nuclear station in south Bohemia.
Speaking on a visit to Prague on Friday, Austrian Interior Minister Gunther Platter said his government was committed to ensuring free movement on the border, regardless of developments in the dispute over Temelin.