Wednesday saw the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit pay an
official visit to Prague. At a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister, Karel
Schwarzenberg, he stated that Egypt would be supporting the Czech bid for
one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council. The Czech
Republic is up against Croatia for the seat, which will be voted upon on
The two foreign ministers also discussed Isreali-Palestinian relations, the coming Czech presidency of the European Union, and Czech tourism to Egypt, among other matters. At the meeting, Mr. Gheit presented Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg with an invitation to Egypt.
Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 mostly Jewish children from the Nazis in the run up to WWII, met Czech President Klaus on Wednesday morning. At the start of the meeting, President Klaus told Mr. Winton that he was 'not forgotten, nor would he ever be'. Mr. Winton, who organized transports out of the former Czechoslovakia for children endangered by the Nazi regime, is in Prague all this week, attending Vaclav Havel's Forum 2000. On Tuesday, he met with Czech students and some of the children who survived the war thanks to his assistance. It was also revealed on Tuesday that over 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for Mr. Winton to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Czech Republic's biggest mining company, Moravske naftove doly (or MND), has bought a 76% share in two Russian oil firms, it was announced on Wednesday. A spokesperson for MND revealed that the firm had bought a majority stake in both Nikolajevkaneft and VostokInvestNeft, in a deal worth hundreds of millions of crowns. He did not, however, divulge the exact amount of money involved.
A publisher who brought out an unauthorized Czech version of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' has been fined and sentenced by a Prague court. On Wednesday, Vlastimil Svoboda, who published over 10,000 pirate copies of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire', was handed a two and a half year suspended sentence and fined 200,000 CZK (10,000 USD). Albatros, the Czech publisher owning the rights to the Harry Potter series, pressed charges against Mr. Svoboda back in 2004, when they found out he was distributing the book illegally. Mr. Svoboda was selling his copy of the book for around 100 CZK, while the recommended retail price for the official version of the novel was 490 CZK.
But it's not all bad news in the world of Czech football - national goalkeeper Petr Cech has been nominated for FIFA's 'World Player of the Year' award for the second year in a row. The shortlist came out on Wednesday, and saw Mr. Cech nominated alongside 29 other players, including five members of Italy's 2006 World Cup winning side, but no other Czechs. The favourite for the award is Brazilian player Kaka, who has already been named 2007 Player of the Year by the professional soccer players' union FIFPro. The winner will be announced in Zurich on December 17th.
The Czech Postal Service is to raise its prices as of January 2008, reported Hospadarske Noviny on Wednesday. The newspaper added that the postal service's plans had already been approved by the Czech Finance Ministry. A spokesperson for the postal service attributed the rise in tariffs to the increased cost of fuel, energy, and employees' wages. As a state institution, Ceska posta (or the Czech Postal Service) is only allowed to raise its prices once every three years. January 2008 will see the delivery of a normal letter rising in cost from 7.5 CZK to 10 CZK. The biggest leap in price will be for registered post - the cost of sending a registered letter will go up from 19 crowns to 26 CZK. The Czech Finance Ministry has leant its support to the move. A spokesperson for the Ministry said that the price-rise was in-line with the Ministry's plan to privatize the postal service, which it didn't want to do while Ceska posta was in the red.
A State Attorney has been fined 15% of his wages for the next three
months, having been found guilty of professional misconduct by the High
Court in Olomouc. Mr. Horvath's wages were docked following the loss of a
file on fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir, which was in his care
at the time. The file was stolen from Mr. Horvath's car in May this year,
where he had left it unattended. It was later retrieved and two people have
been charged in connection with the theft. But the judge ruling in Mr.
Horvath's case said today that 'a state attorney has to behave in such a
way that the possibility of a file getting lost is minimal'. He deemed that
Mr. Horvath's behaviour had been reckless. Mr. Horvath has already been
suspended from his post as a result of the incident.
Radovan Krejcir is a fugitive businessman wanted in the Czech Republic on charges of fraud. A South African court is currently considering whether he should be extradited.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek does not support Dusan Luzny's bid to become the Czech Republic's next Education Minister, reported the iDNES news website on Wednesday. Mr. Topolanek objects to Dusan Luzny's candidature on the grounds that he was the second-in-command at the Education Ministry when it failed to secure over 60 billion CZK (3 billion USD) worth of EU funds, in a mix-up which later caused the then Education Minister, Dana Kuchtova, to resign. Dusan Luzny is the Green Party's chosen candidate to succeed Dana Kuchtova as Education Minister, but his candidature does not have to support of Prime Minister Topolanek, who today told journalists that 'a complete break from the past' was needed at the ministry. Mr. Luzny is also lacking the support of other prominent members of the coalition parties - on Wednesday, senior Christian Democrat Michaela Sojdrova said that she could not support his bid for the ministry as he had been a member of the Communist Party under the last regime.
The board of Sparta Football Club have handed defender Pavel Horvath a fine of 300,000 CZK (15,000 USD), and stripped him of the captaincy, following his sending off against Slavia Prague on Monday. During the Prague derby held on Monday evening, Mr. Horvath lashed out at an opponent and was subsequently sent off. On Wednesday, members of Sparta Football Club agreed that his behaviour had weakened the side, and ultimately led to their 2:0 defeat. According to a statement released by the club, the fine was as high as it was because players had already been warned, following an incident-filled match against Teplice, that 'unsporting' behaviour would not be tolerated. Mr. Horvath's team-mate, David Limbersky, also picked up a 10,000 CZK penalty for arguing with the referee during Monday's match.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek predicted that this
year's budget deficit would be in the region of 81 billion CZK (4 billion
USD). This figure was, he said, 10 billion CZK lower than originally
predicted. Mr. Kalousek said that while the budget deficit was originally
expected to be around 3.9% of GDP, this figure had been revised down to
3.6% GDP given the strong performance of the Czech economy in recent
months. The Finance Minister said that public spending had created a 122
billion-crown deficit this year, but that this had been alleviated by the
selling-off of shares in CEZ and other such state-run companies.
This comes as the European Commission advises the Czech Republic to make steeper cuts in its public spending. On Tuesday it directed the Czech Republic to cut its public spending deficit to below 1% of GDP by 2012.