The first part of a Czech reserve company, 60 out of a total 116 soldiers, has departed for Kosovo. The remaining members will rejoin the unit on Sunday. The unit is returning to the Balkans after a two-month break. Czech soldiers were called upon in March at the request of multinational peacekeeping forces to help maintain security after Kosovo declared independence. The Czech Republic has more than 400 soldiers in Kosovo, traditionally based in the northeast of the former Serb province as part of the KFOR mission since 1999. The Czech Republic has otherwise not recognised Kosovo’s independence although Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has indicated the country will eventually do so.
Delegates have been gathering in Hradec Králové for the Communist Party’s congress, aimed at addressing the party’s future as well as electing its leader. Current party head Vojtěch Filip spoke on Saturday, slamming other parliamentary parties on both the political left and right. Ties between the Communists and the Social Democrats, for example, have cooled since the parties failed to agree on a strategy to block the re-election of Czech President Václav Klaus. Mr Filip suggested the Communists needed to be more aggressive, a so-called “pike” in political waters. Mr Filip is being challenged for the post of party leader by three opponents including Euro MP Miloslav Ransdorf. He is expected to retain the chairmanship.
Staff at the National Cemetery in Terezín have been replacing bronze plaques stolen from the site last month. The director of the Terezín memorial said on Saturday that so far more than 100 resin plaques honouring victims of the Gestapo prison and ghetto in Terezín during World War II had been put up. Unlike the earlier bronze plates, the new resin models will not attract scrap metal thieves. More than 800 bronze plates were stolen in April resulting in 2.5 million crowns in damages. Earlier this week the culture ministry said would provide funds for the installation of a camera system at the cemetery as well as patrols.
Czech Radio held an Open Doors Day at its main headquarters in Prague on Saturday, allowing visitors to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at production studios and other facilities used by the radio’s flagship Radiožurnál (Radiojournal) as well as other stations including Radio Prague - the international service of Czech Radio. This Sunday, May 18th, marks an important milestone for the public broadcaster: it was 85 years ago that, following the UK, Czechoslovakia became the second country in Europe to offer regular broadcasts. Its first broadcast went out at 8:15 pm from a military tent in Prague-Kbely. It featured musical performances as well as the spoken-word.
Some 600 customs officers launched a major operation at one of the largest markets in western Bohemia on Saturday, checking mainly for the sale of illegal tobacco products. Officers searched 450 stands at the market, known as Svatý Kříž, and also ran searches on cars and nearby containers. Recent operations uncovered a secret factory capable of producing 2,500 fake-brand cigarettes per minute, representing unpaid taxes of 134 million crowns (the equivalent of around 8 million US dollars).
It has been reported that the costs for the Czech Republic to take part in Expo 2010 in China could be higher than half a billion crowns, a sharp increase from the 300 million it cost to take part at Expo 2005 in Japan. According to the Czech news agency ČTK, the foreign ministry will propose a budget of 520 million next Wednesday. The government is to discuss the proposal and concept for the Czech pavilion. The one in China is expected to be twice as large as the one in Japan, covering 2,000 square metres. The Czech exhibition at the previous Expo was seen by some 1.7 million visitors.
Czech judge Pavel Nagy, who forged a report on court proceedings, has resigned. The news was released by Justice Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Kuncová on Friday. In early March, a disciplinary panel of the Supreme Court allowed the judge to continue, suffering only a 25 percent cut to his salary for six months. But Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil had called on Mr Nagy to resign and leave the judiciary. Mr Nagy had missed court proceedings and fabricated and registered a final defence speech in the protocol and issued a verdict as if the proceedings had taken place. He later argued that he suffered from stress and a sleep disorder. In March, the justice minister filed a criminal complaint against Mr Nagy for forgery and abuse of power.
Canoeist Martin Doktor and fellow team-mate Jiří Heller have missed their opportunity to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Beijing, coming last in the men’s double canoe event in Milan on Saturday. Doktor, a gold-medal holder from the Games in Atlanta in 1996, is now expected to announce his retirement from the sport.
Czech president Václav Klaus has vetoed an anti-discrimination bill passed in Parliament calling the legislation “poor, counter-productive and unnecessary”. The decision was revealed by the president’s office on Friday. The European Union has called on the Czech Republic to pass legislation ensuring equal access to education, work, and health care, but the president countered the legislation proposed was already covered sufficiently under Czech law. In a letter sent to the speaker of the lower house the president contends that EU directives are “only binding with regards to results”, but that the methods of achieving goals “depended on individual member states”. The aim of the anti-discrimination law, backed by the EU, is to ensure the same opportunities for all irrespective of age, race, nationality, sex, or religious belief. The bill will now return to the lower house.
The spokeswoman for the country’s foreign ministry has revealed that Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has enlisted help from an outside firm to look into the finances of fellow cabinet member Jiří Čunek. According to the official, the private investigation and security firm Kroll has been brought in to look into the Mr Čunek’s dealings as part of an agreement that saw the controversial Christian Democrat leader return to the cabinet after an absence of five months. Mr Čunek was forced to step down last November over accusations of abuse and corruption. The audit into his finances is expected to take six weeks.