The Czech speed skater Martina Sablikova has been beaten in a long-track race for the first time this season. After winning her first three races, the world champion and world record holder finished second in the 3000 m behind home favourite Renate Groenewold in the Dutch town of Heerenveen on Friday.
The Communist Party have suspended discussions on whether to back economist Jan Svejnar for the post of president in elections in early February, deputy leader Jiri Dolejs said. The Communists executive committee will wait to see whether Mr Svejnar has the genuine support of the Social Democrats; though the latter’s leader Jiri Paroubek has repeatedly expressed support for Mr Svejnar, the Communists believe some Social Democrat legislators may not actually back him in the bicameral vote. Jan Svejnar, who has spent most of his life in the USA, is supported by the Greens and is hoping to win the backing of the Christian Democrats. He is set to announce next week whether he is standing.
A European arrest warrant has been issued for Frantisek Prochazka, who is wanted in connection with the biggest cash robbery in the history of the Czech Republic. Czech police have been searching for Mr Prochazka since the robbery of CZK 560 million from the Prague offices of a security firm where he worked last Saturday. The security company G4S has offered a reward of over CZK 50 million for information leading to the capture of Mr Prochazka or any possible accomplices.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, was involved in a car crash during a rally in the capital on Saturday. Mr Topolanek was in the passenger’s seat when the crash occurred on a circuit at Prague’s Strahov. Neither he nor the driver Vaclav Pech was injured. Pech is one of the country’s leading rally drivers and has won the Czech national championship several times.
Two little girls who were mixed up by hospital staff and raised by the wrong parents for the best part of a year have spent their first birthday together. The case of infants Veronika and Nicola made world headlines when it was discovered they had been accidentally swapped at birth at Trebic hospital a year ago. The two girls recently began living with their biological parents, the Brozs and the Cermaks. Both families are also planning to spend Christmas together.
Meanwhile, Mr Svejnar has repeated his call for a public debate with the incumbent, Vaclav Klaus. In a statement, he said it would ensure maximum transparency in the vote and would help clarify President Klaus’s policies. Mr Klaus said, however, that he would not take part in such a debate because the post is decided by 281 deputies and senators.
Czech Television has criticised the awarding of an art prize to a group which sabotaged a live Czech TV broadcast, Lidove noviny reported. A spokesperson for the public channel told the newspaper that the presenting of the National Gallery award for young artists to the group Ztohoven had sent a very bad signal, as breaking the law had been recognized as art and rewarded. In June Ztohoven managed to superimpose an image of a nuclear mushroom cloud on live shots of a scenic area after tampering with a Czech TV camera.
Six Greenpeace activists from five countries were forced to call off a second day of protest against global pollution due to poor weather conditions. The six were part of a team which scaled a smokestack at a Czech power plant on Thursday. The activists aimed to highlight the high carbon dioxide emissions which Greenpeace says the plant produces. Located in the Chomutov area, the plant is operated by the CEZ power utility. CEZ has dismissed the claim of high pollution levels.
The lower house has passed an amendment on the country’s waste law which will require Czech firms to more thoroughly record waste imports and archive records for at least three years. The amendment is in reaction to EU requirements and is to help protect the Czech Republic against illegal trade in waste. The country saw several such cases in 2006. Illegal waste dumps appeared mainly in north Bohemia, with waste smuggled from Germany. In the cases, the Czech Environment Inspection imposed fines worth several million crowns to organisers and the state attorney’s office also charged 15 lorry drivers who face up to five years in prison each. The new bill amendment is aimed to avert such situations, requiring vehicles transporting waste to display proper marking. The amendment will now go to the senate for approval and must still be signed by the president.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has said that Prague will consult its position on Kosovo with other EU countries in the event that independence there is unilaterally declared. A December 10 deadline on talks on the future of the province approaches and there are fears that violence could break out in the still-Serb province if ethnic Albanian leaders decide to eventually declare independence. Mr Schwarzenberg said in Brussels on Friday that he would prefer a UN Security Council decision on the status of Kosovo, but admitted that was unlikely. On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that NATO would “act resolutely against anyone seeking to resort to violence” in Kosovo. NATO has confirmed that its 16,000+ troops in the area will stay put to quell any outbreaks.