One person was killed during violent storms which hit the Czech Republic on Wednesday night. A woman of 45 died a few hours after being hit by a falling tree at Svitavy in east Bohemia; she had apparently been sitting at a table in a beer garden, a rescue services spokesperson said. Fire brigades were called out to deal with fallen trees and other problems at hundreds of places around the country. Thousands of households were left without electricity, some trains were cancelled and some flights from Prague Airport were briefly delayed. The storms also interrupted some Radio Prague shortwave broadcasts.
The Czech leader Mirek Topolánek has presented a prime minister’s medal to Sir Nicholas Winton, an Englishman who saved the lives of hundreds of Czechoslovak Jewish children during World War II. Mr Topolánek said he hoped Czech children today would learn about Sir Nicholas’s story. Mr Winton, who is 99, told reporters in Prague he was moved to receive such an award. During the war he managed to get 669 Czechoslovak Jewish children to safety in the UK; today “Winton’s Children” have around 5,000 descendants.
Jana Hybášková, an MEP for the European Democrats, has been ordered by the Prague High Court to apologise to Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlustý for accusing him of corruption. Ms Hybášková also has to pay financial compensation of CZK 50,000 to Mr Tlustý. He had been demanding CZK one million, after the MEP accused him of seeking a bribe of that amount in exchange for support for a subsidy for her party.
The Czech footballer Petr Čech has reacted angrily to comments by the former business manager of the national team Vlastimil Košťál, who blamed the Czech Republic’s early exit from Euro 2008 on a mistake by the goalkeeper. Čech issued a statement saying Mr Košťál had been happy enough to take the glory whenever the Czech team was successful and had not behaved like a “team player”. Vlastimil Košťál is one of the most unpopular figures in Czech football. Respected coach Ivan Hašek recently turned down the chance to manage the national team because of Mr Košťál’s role as deputy chairman of the Czech football association.
The Canadian singer Celine Dion is appearing in the Czech Republic for the first time on Thursday night. The former winner of the Eurovision Song Contest will perform in the round at Prague’s O2 Arena on a special stage delivered by 21 trucks. The show will be part of Dion’s Taking Chances tour, supporting a CD of the same name.
Czech MPs voted on Wednesday to raise the retirement age in the Czech Republic to 65 years of age. Labour Minister Petr Nečas said the move was necessary in the face of an ageing population, with a higher life-expectancy rate. Previously, the retirement age was 62 for men, and 61 for women. Deputies also moved to raise the number of years that Czechs are required to make payments into a pension fund from 25 to 35 years. The bill still has to be approved by the Senate and President Václav Klaus. If passed, the new laws should come into effect by 2031.
The Czech Parliament has abolished healthcare fees for newborn babies. On Wednesday, deputies almost unanimously approved an amendment to the government’s healthcare reform package, exempting newborns, organ donors and those legally ordered to undergo treatment from paying healthcare fees. As part of the government’s healthcare reforms, patients have been obliged since January to pay 30 crowns (nearly 2 USD) per visit to the doctor, and 60 crowns per day spent in hospital. On Tuesday, thousands of healthcare workers went on strike in protest against the reforms.
Brno authorities have banned two rallies intended to protest against the country’s first gay parade on Saturday. Requests by two right wing groups to hold rallies against the planned gay-rights march were turned down by the council, who feared clashes. The ‘Queer Parade’ will be the first march of its kind in the Czech Republic. Organisers predict around 300 people will take part. It is to be held in the Czech Republic’s second city on Saturday at 14:00.
Czech President Václav Klaus has protested against a bill which would allow foreigners to register their same-sex partnerships in the Czech Republic. He voiced his protest to the amendment by refusing to sign it, nor did he reject it. The bill, which was passed by the Czech Senate at the start of the month, will become law in spite of the president’s symbolic protest. In a statement, Václav Klaus attacked the bill which widens the scope for same-sex marriages, to which he was also opposed when they came into law back in 2006.
Mr Klaus has made fresh comments about the European Union’s embattled Lisbon Treaty. In an interview with Spain’s El Pais newspaper, Mr Klaus warned against ignoring the Irish electorate’s rejection of the treaty two weeks’ ago. He warned of ‘catastrophic consequences for Europe’ should EU leaders exert pressure on Ireland to change its stance on the treaty. The Czech president chided EU leaders for ‘ignoring their own rules’ by continuing to ratify the treaty now that the document no longer had all member states’ support. In the interview, Mr Klaus called for a ‘new document, written by new people’ in order to take the EU forward.