Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has supported Israel’s right to self-defence against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Mr Schwarzenberg said that firing rockets on civilian settlements was unacceptable and that it disqualified the Palestinian organization Hamas as a partner for any political dialogue. The Czech foreign minister expressed regrets over the poor living conditions in the Gaza Strip which make young people join radical organizations. Mr Schwerzenberg also said that the situation may only be improved if both sides restore cease-fire.
The car maker Škoda Auto has been unable to determine the number of cars to be produced in 2009, the head of Škoda’s board of directors Reinhard Jung told the German automobile magazine Auto, Motor und Sport on Saturday. Mr Jung also said that the car manufacturer, owned by the German Volkswagen, had to abandon its plan to put out more than one million vehicles in 2011 or 2012. Škoda Auto has been affected by the financial crisis and the shrinking world’s car markets; in November, the factory had to cancel its objective to produce 700,000 cars this year. Škoda also halted production several times before Christmas; its plants will resume production in the second week of January 2009.
The Czech Education Ministry will introduce cyber-bullying as a punishable offence in Czech schools. A new regulation, which will come into force in January 2009, will allow headmasters to punish pupils who record teachers or classmates on mobile phones. Cyber-bullying will also include attacks via e-mail or posting offensive personal materials on the internet. Experts say that the number of such incidents in the Czech Republic has been on the rise. Last year, a pupil in Ostrava recorded a classmate beating three other school children; other students recorded their friends bullying a teacher in the classroom, and posted the footage on the web.
The recently elected governor of the Central Bohemian Region, David Rath, told the daily Právo on Saturday that the region is considering introducing home deliveries of medicines. Mr Rath said that patients could order their drugs by telephone and have them delivered to their homes “just like pizza”. According to Governor Rath, only more expensive medicines would be distributed in this way. The proposal comes after Mr Rath abolished health care fees in the region, a promise he made during his campaign ahead of November’s regional elections.
An amendment to the weapons and ammunitions act will tighten rules for obtaining firearms in the Czech Republic next year. The new regulation will introduce stricter conditions for reviewing applicants’ integrity and reliability. The new conditions will not be met by those who excessively drink alcohol or use illicit substances; the amendment also establishes harsher sanctions for weapon-related offences.
The Czech-born, US based economist and presidential runner-up Jan Švejnar has opened an office in Prague. A spokesperson for Mr Švejnar said hundreds of Czechs approach him with all kinds of petitions and problems. The office replies to these inquiries, coordinates Mr Švejnar’s media activities and organizes his lectures and tours. Jan Švejnar, who is a professor of economics at Michigan University in the United States, left Czechoslovakia in 1969. In 2003, he ran for the office of the Czech president against the incumbent Václav Klaus.
The Mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém, has returned from a week’s holiday and denied speculations that he visited Antarctica. Several media outlets informed earlier this month that Mr Bém was going to climb Antarctica’s highest peak, Vinson Massif. The mayor, who has climbed the tallest mounts of six continents, including Mt Everest, told the Czech news agency ČTK on Sunday that he did spend his time off in the mountains but not in Antarctica.
A 28-year-old US citizen has been arrested on felony charges by the police in Ostrava, northern Moravia, after he stabbed another man in the stomach on Sunday. The two men were arguing in a bar; the American then came closer and stabbed his companion. The injured man was taken to a hospital and was later released. A police spokesperson said that the US national is already prosecuted in the Czech Republic for grievous bodily harm and public disturbance he had committed earlier this year.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has criticized the EU for being too benevolent towards Russia. In an interview for the German weekly Welt am Sonntag, Mr Schwarzenberg said he did not call for a confrontation with Russia but rather for both sides – the EU and Russia – to follow certain rules. The Czech foreign minister said that if any country declares “areas of privileged interests” beyond its borders, it is a signal of warning. As long as Moscow does whatever it wants, said Mr Schwarzenberg, the EU has to draw a “red line” beyond which there is no retreat. Czech Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg also emphasised the project of Eastern Partnership as one of the priorities of the upcoming Czech presidency of the European Union.
President Václav Klaus has branded French President Nicolas Sarkozy as “harmful to the European Union and the whole of Europe”. Referring to Mr Sarkozy’s criticism of the Czech President’s refusal to fly the EU flag over his office at Prague Castle, President Klaus said Mr Sarkozy was anti-European in that he didn’t respect the opinions of others, which, as President Klaus said, was one of Europe’s fundamental values. While the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg refused to comment on Mr Klaus’ remarks, he appreciated Mr Sarkozy’s role during the outgoing French EU presidency. Other Czech politicians believed the argument between the presidents was personal, and said they hoped both politicians would cooperate during the Czech EU presidency.