NATO has expressed support to Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze in reaction to Russian moves to boost ties with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Earlier this week, Russia made overtures saying it was in favour of strengthening cooperation in trade and culture with the regions, as well as providing protection for Russians. NATO spokesman James Appathurai confirmed on Friday that NATO is in favour of Russia reversing its position. NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressed what he called “deep concern” over Russia trying to establish legal links with the regions, earlier this week. On Friday the Czech Foreign Ministry added its voice in a statement making clear the Czech Republic fully backed Georgia and Georgian sovereignty.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is on an official visit to Albania to meet with his counterpart Sali Berisha as well as other officials. The prime minister is currently touring a series of European capitals to outline priorities of the Czech EU presidency in 2009. Items on the agenda for discussion include Albanian integration within NATO and the EU, the situation in the western Balkans, and trade.
Police have been posted at the National Cemetery outside the Terezín Memorial after extensive thefts at the site. Culture Ministry spokesman Jan Cieslar said on Friday that a private security agency – which offered its services free of charge – would begin guarding the area next week. The firm will do so until May 18, when a ceremony honouring Holocaust victims will be held at the cemetery. By then, bronze plaques stolen from the site by unknown perpetrators will have been replaced, the Memorial’s director Jan Munk has said. The culture minister has stressed that a project including a camera-monitoring system was being put together, with the Culture Ministry ready to set aside funds. Hundreds of bronze plaques were stolen from the National Cemetery in Terezín in recent days: damages have been estimated at 2.5 million crowns.
A Prague court has ruled in favour of the Foreign Ministry in a case involving a female employee over alleged discrimination. The decision comes after a lower-instance court awarded former diplomat Adriana Bašovská one million crowns compensation for unequal treatment at the ministry last year. In the case, she was stripped of authorisation in handling classified data by a superior. The ministry appealed the decision and the Prague municipal court found evidence that the steps taken were the same in the case of a male colleague. Mrs Bašovská worked at the Czech embassy in Libya; in 2002 she was recalled by the Foreign Ministry in Prague. Her superior claimed that she had breached security principles.
Education Minister Ondrej Liška has said he will press for an increase in wages for teachers; he made the statement at a national meeting of education workers' unions on Friday. Teachers’ unions are considering taking steps to try and push through pay demands, but are likely to wait and see whether the education minister will be able to argue for an increase at the government. As a result of high inflation, educational workers' real wages have decreased, the unions say; they have also argued that in some regions school budgets are lower than the 2.8 percent increase the government previously promised. The education minister has expressed the hope that the situation could be solved this year.
Czech parents might be banned from physically punishing their children,
the daily Mladá fronta Dnes has written, after a bill by the government
committee for children's rights was approved on Thursday. Under the bill,
corporal punishment would be banned, but would not include sanctions for
the time being. A recent public opinion poll showed that three-fifths of
Czechs disagree with such restrictions. But specialists say legislation
banning physical punishment in the home and in schools is needed to
children from potential abuse. Under the planned bill, parents or teachers
would break the law if they slapped a child on the hand or face.
A poll conducted by the Median agency, whose results were released by the daily Lidové noviny recently suggested that one quarter of Czech parents use physical punishment on occasion, while 31 percent of respondent said they never used physical punishment as a method.
Several members of the Czech national football squad have added their
voices to those expressing support for midfielder Pavel Nedvěd, who plays
for Italy’s Juventus, to come out of international retirement. The calls
come less than two months ahead of the Czechs’ start at the European
football championship, EURO 2008. In the past, Nedvěd, 35, was a key
player in 91 caps for the Czech side, including the World Cup in Germany
2006. On Thursday, star keeper Petr Čech said the team was in real need
a player with similar “abilities and skills”. It is hoped that a
Nedvěd return would add spark to a side currently missing its captain,
Tomáš Rosický, out with injury.
AFP has cited a top Czech football official as saying he “believed” that talks between Nedvěd and the national team coach had already begun but there has been no official confirmation yet .
The Montreal Canadiens missed an opportunity to knock the Boston Bruins out of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday. The game was tied a goal apiece after two periods but the Bruins exploded on the offense in the 3rd, adding four goals for a final score of 5-1. David Krejčí racked up two assists, while forward Vladimir Sobotka scored the final goal of the game – his first in the playoffs – with around two minutes remaining. Montreal still leads the series 3-2 but Boston will hope to win at home on Saturday to force Game 7.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told the press on Wednesday that he would not be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. A spokesperson for the prime minister made the announcement, adding that Mr Topolánek’s decision came in the light of discussions held with other members of the cabinet. Mr Topolánek said at the end of March that it was up to his cabinet to decide whether he should attend after controversy surrounded China’s crackdown in Tibet and spurred calls for an Olympic boycott. Head of state Václav Klaus has also said that he will not attend the Olympics, though this is because he is due to be undergoing surgery in Prague at the time. Prague mayor Pavel Bem and minister for education, youth and sport Ondřej Liška have also declared that for ideological reasons, they will not be going to the summer games.
Police in North Bohemia have detained a man whom they believe desecrated the graves of hundreds of Holocaust victims at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp Terezín last week. The man, who has not been named, is accused of stealing over 300 bronze name plaques from the graves of the Holocaust victims. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the culture ministry said that a suspect had been detained and that the bronze plaques had been recovered. The police were unwilling to give any further details, and declined to say whether charges would be brought against the owner of the scrap yard who bought the plaques from the perpetrator. If found guilty, the man charged could face up to eight years in prison.