Czechs and Americans negotiating the terms on which US soldiers would be allowed to live on Czech soil did not reach an agreement on Friday as they had hoped. Delegates negotiating the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) were unable to agree on questions of income tax and the criminal jurisdiction of American troops on Czech soil. Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek has said that the agreement will now have to be signed in early May, at the same time as a Czech-American treaty paving the way for a US radar base to be stationed on Czech soil.
Three people died, and 38 were injured, when two trams collided in the North Moravian town of Ostrava on Friday. The Czech rail inspectorate is calling the accident one of the worst in recent history. Police are investigating one of the drivers, who is thought to have ignored signposts and driven the wrong way down a one-way stretch of track. His tram collided head-on with a second. According to the rescue services, 15 of those injured are in a critical condition. All those trapped in the trams following on from the accident have now been rescued, though work continues at the scene.
Leaders of the opposition Social Democrats told party deputies on Friday to get ready to bring a new vote of no confidence against the current government. Since the elections, the Social Democrats have tried on two separate occasions to topple the government through a vote of no confidence, both times without success. Head of the Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek said that there was every chance that this vote of no confidence would not succeed, but that it was the ‘role’ of the opposition to try anyway. According to Mr Paroubek, the opposition are unhappy with the current pensions system, the return of Christian Democrat Jiří Čunek into the cabinet, and the government’s stance on building a US anti-missile defence shield in the Czech Republic.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva started a two-day official visit to the Czech Republic on Saturday by meeting his counterpart Václav Klaus at Prague Castle. In the course of his visit, he is expected to meet other senior Czech politicians, as well as visiting tourist attractions in the capital, such as Strahov Monastery. On the agenda will be issues pertaining to trade – Brazil is the Czech Republic’s biggest trading partner in Latin America – and energy-related matters.
Fifty-nine percent of Czechs are satisfied with their physical condition, suggests a poll conducted by Unilever released on Saturday. Only 31 percent of respondents, however, said that they took regular exercise. The most popular forms of exercise in this country are cycling, swimming and walking, suggests the poll. Respondents of up to 44 years of age preferred sports that they could do in fitness centres, while older respondents in general preferred outdoor activity. Nearly half of those polled said that they were happy with the physical condition of their partner, while nearly as many respondents worried that their partner was not taking enough care of him/herself. Around 28 percent of Czechs polled said that they played sport with their partners.
Russian duo Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev battled from a set down to beat Czech pair Radek Štěpánek and Pavel Vízner to lift their side 2 -1 ahead in the Davis Cup quarter-final in Moscow on Saturday. The hosts won 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours 58 minutes to make it 2-1 in favour of Russia. On Friday, Marat Safin of Russia battled from two sets down to put his squad into the lead with a win over Tomáš Berdych of the Czech Republic. In the second singles’ clash Štěpánek experienced few troubles beating Andreev in straight sets to level the scores at 1-1. Reverse singles will complete the tie’s schedule on Sunday.
Czech markswoman Kateřina Emmons snatched the gold medal in the women’s 10-metre air rifle and equaled the world record of 504.9 points in the World Cup in Beijing on Saturday. Emmons, a bronze medalist at the Athens Olympics, was followed by German Sonja Pfeilschifter who collected 502.4 points. Emmons’ form looks good going into the Olympics, but she remained cool-headed about the victory. “Just because I won here today doesn’t mean I can win an Olympic medal”, she said after the competition.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has begun a tour of European capitals to
outline priorities when the Czech Republic assumes the European
Union’s rotating presidency in less than a year’s time. On Friday Mr
Topolánek met with the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens.
He stressed the focus would be to remove barriers to labour mobility as
well as to lift bureaucratic obstacles. He also said under the Czechs’
presidency the EU would hold energy talks with Russia, address budget
reform and oversee EP elections. During its term, Prague will also oversee
the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, set to replace the EU
constitution rejected in 2005 referenda in France and the Netherlands.
The treaty streamlines EU operations by cutting the size of the European Parliament, limiting the use of national vetoes and creating the post of president as well as European foreign policy head.
Customs officers have revealed they uncovered around 3 million crowns worth of fake brand cigarettes on a shipment from China to the Czech Republic. The discovery was made during a random check on a transport truck from Hamburg, one of the biggest busts this year. The load is said to represent roughly 25 million crowns in unpaid taxes. Two people driving the transport vehicle as well as an addressee in the Czech Republic were arrested; if found guilty in the case each could face up to 12 years in prison.
A Prague court has sentenced two men for the sexual abuse of children – one to four-and-a-half years in prison. The other received a three-year suspended sentence with an order to receive psychiatric treatment. Almost 20 boys, the youngest who was just seven, were abused by Ondřej Martínek while David Lein was found guilty of abusing one child and shooting child porn. Both were former organisers for a civic association focusing on helping children from poor homes. The organisation, called Malý princ (Little Prince), has distanced itself from the criminal events, saying it had had no knowledge of the duo’s activities. Mr Martínek and Mr Lein were first arrested in 2006 on suspicion of what police described as “dangerous, deviant behaviour”. Both men can appeal Friday’s verdicts.