Around five hundred and fifty people gathered in Prague at two separate demonstrations on Saturday to protest against Kosovar independence. Nearly 350 people gathered on Palackeho namesti - Prague’s equivalent of Speaker’s Corner - to protest against Kosovo’s declaration of independence. A further 200 or so protestors from the ‘The Central Bohemian Autonomous Nationalist’ group marched through the capital brandishing Czech and Serbian flags. Traffic in the capital was disrupted by the march. Tens of police were on standby in case of any violence, but according to a police spokesperson, both demonstrations passed without any incident. The Czech Republic is still to recognise Kosovo’s independence, but has indicated that it will follow suit should the majority of other EU member countries formally recognise the state.
The High Court in Prague has ruled that fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejčíř can be tried in absentia, Saturday’s edition of Právo writes. A breakthrough verdict clarifying Mr Krejčíř’s status as a fugitive now paves the way for Czech prosecutors to bring some of the charges leveled against Mr Krejčíř to court. Radovan Krejčíř is wanted in Prague in connection with a string of violent crimes, and on charges of large-scale property fraud. A court in South Africa, which Mr Krejčíř entered on a false-passport in April last year, recently ruled against extraditing him to the Czech Republic for criminal prosecution. Czech courts will now consider charges against him in his absence.
A legal dispute between health minister Tomáš Julínek and shadow health minister David Rath has been settled out of court. Mr Julínek had sued Mr Rath for defamation of character after the shadow health minister suggested to journalists that Mr Julínek had misappropriated public funds for political purposes. In March last year, a court ruled in favour of Mr Julínek, but Mr Rath immediately appealed the verdict. The court of appeal upheld the original ruling, demanding that Mr Rath apologise to the current health minister, and pay him 20,000 CZK (nearly 1,200 USD) in damages. The dispute was taken before a court for the third time following this verdict, but on Friday, Mr Julínek’s spokesperson said that the minister was tired of dealing with the case, and that a settlement had been found out of court. He did not divulge the conditions of the settlement.
The Czech Interior Ministry has approved a proposal put forward by the North Bohemian town of Ústí nad Labem to outlaw drinking in the municipality’s public spaces. According to Saturday’s edition of Lidové noviny, the decision could act as an important precedent, leading to the prohibition of alcohol consumption in public spaces elsewhere in the Czech Republic. Other towns have greeted the Interior Ministry’s decision, and say that they will now put forward similar proposals. Prague Town Hall says it is considering trying to implement such a drinking-ban as a means of countering what it calls the problem of drunks and homeless people in the city’s parks and stations. Hradec Kralové is also working on the drafting of such legislation.
The Czech energy-giant ČEZ is to build a new gas-fired power plant in Počerady, Northern Bohemia, Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. The plant’s output will be 880 megawatts. It is estimated that it will cost around 18 billion CZK (1.07 million USD) to build. Construction is expected to get underway before the end of the year.
Bohuslav Sobotka, of the opposition Social Democrats, is the most trusted politician in the Czech Republic right now, suggests a poll conducted by CVVM. Mr Sobotka enjoys the trust of 46 percent of those polled, while Prague mayor Pavel Bém of the Civic Democrats and Zdeněk Škromach of the Social Democrats rank joint second, with a trust rating of 40 percent. Trust in Mr Bém had fallen five percent since the previous poll, which was conducted in October 2007. But, in another STEM poll recently released, Mr Bém finished above Mr Sobotka, ranking first in a poll of the country’s most popular politicians.
Czech speed skater Martina Sábliková crowned her World Cup victory by winning the final race in this year’s competition in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, on Friday. The Czech athlete of the year 2007 sped to victory in the 3000 metres with a time of 4 minutes 3.75 seconds. Second was local girl Ireen Wüst with a time of 4 minutes 4.24 seconds. Sábliková had already assured first place overall in the World Cup even before the start of the race. The win at Heerenveen marks her sixth out of a possible seven in the competition this year. The only place where Sábliková had failed to clinch a victory in this year’s competition was in Heerenveen at a previous race two months ago.
Czech cross-country skier Lukas Bauer has increased his World-Cup lead after finishing first in the 30km race in Falun, Sweden, on Saturday. Bauer took one hour 11 minutes 54,1 seconds to complete the course, second was the Norwegian Tord Asle Gjerdalen, who was seven tenths of a second slower. Bauer now occupies first place in the World Cup rankings with 408 points. The win in Falun is his fifth in this season’s World Cup.
President Václav Klaus has expressed concern over developments surrounding Kosovo since the former Serbian province announced independence last Sunday. Responding to a letter from the head of the Czech Communist Party, Mr Klaus said on his website he understood the frustration and disillusionment of the Serb people; he also made clear tensions over Kosovo must not continue to escalate. The Czech Republic has not yet recognised Kosovo’s independence but is expected to do so, as indicated by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. President Klaus has said the Czech decision should help calm, not complicate, the situation.
Coalition members the Christian Democrats are continuing to up the pressure for the return of their party leader, Jiří Čunek, to the cabinet. In a radio interview on Thursday Christian Democrat deputy head Michaela Šojdrová said the prime minister should reinstate Mr Čunek before leaving for an official visit to Washington. The controversial head of the Christian Democrats was forced to step down as deputy prime minister and minister for regional affairs last year after being hit by bribe and fraud scandals; he was later cleared. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has already indicated he will propose Mr Čunek’s re-nomination, but Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg remains opposed to the Christian Democrat’s return. The foreign minister told Friday’s Hospodářské noviny that he was not convinced Mr Čunek’s financial affairs had been adequately explained. In December, Mr Schwarzenberg said he would resign if Mr Čunek returned to the cabinet without fully explaining past dealings.