A top police official has confirmed that three locations in the Czech capital are being considered likely sites for a key European speech by US President Barack Obama. He is scheduled to visit Prague in three weeks. Included among the possible sites is Prague’s Wenceslas Square, which has already been evaluated by an advance team. During his Prague speech, the 44th US president is expected to discuss key topics such as cooperation against terrorism and cooperation in Afghanistan. It is not clear whether he will raise the issue of European missile defence, pursued by his predecessor George W. Bush. While in Prague, Mr Obama will meet with Czech President Václav Klaus, former president Václav Havel, and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. On the second day of his visit he will also meet with other European leaders at a planned EU-US summit.
A spokesman for Czech President Václav Klaus has said that the Czech head-of-state will speak at the upcoming congress held by the Social Democratic Party. The event is to take place next weekend. It is the first time Mr Klaus will speak at a congress held by the leftist party – the largest opposition grouping in the Chamber of Deputies. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek commented the news by saying that he was looking forward to Mr Klaus’s speech. Previously, the Czech president regularly attended congresses by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, who he led until 2002. But last December he stepped down as their honorary chairman, unhappy over the party’s current direction.
The Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has made public never-before-published photos from Prague Castle from March 15th and 16th 1939, after Bohemia and Moravia were occupied by German troops and were proclaimed a protectorate of Nazi Germany. The historic photos, which show Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials in stately rooms at Prague Castle, were only recently uncovered by researchers in the Prague City Archives.
A march by around 200 ultra right-wing extremists who protested in the west Bohemian town of Plzeň on Saturday has ended without serious incident. Police did detain two men, one for a misdemeanour, the other on suspicion of promoting movements aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. According to ČTK, the Czech news agency, the suspect sported an “88” tattoo – a coded reference to the Hitler salute. Neo-Nazis in the march carried posters against Zionism while shouting slogans against Israel. Between 200 to 300 people came out to show their opposition to the extremists. The demonstration was monitored by police, some on horseback, while a police helicopter surveyed the scene from overhead.
The Christian Democrats are running the risk of splintering into different political parties, Czech daily Lidové noviny has written, saying its future success will depend on how it resolves its current leadership crisis. A number of key party figures, including the minister for regional affairs, Cyril Svoboda, have already announced they will challenge Jiří Čunek for their party's chairmanship at the Christian Democrats’ congress in June. There has also been speculation that some within the party close to finance minister Miroslav Kalousek are considering founding a new conservative party focussed on Christian values.
A 44-year-old Czech national has been detained in Brazil on suspicion of large-scale animal smuggling, facing up to ten years in prison, if found guilty. The news was released by the Czech vice-consul in Sao Paulo on Friday. The man is suspected of having connections to an extensive smuggling network in Europe. Specimens smuggled included exotic birds such as rare parrots. According to Brazilian data, the group smuggled some 500,000 animals or eggs. In all 78 people have been detained and the Brazilian prosecutor's office has issued 102 arrest warrants. Interpol is searching for five individuals in the case, three of them Czechs.
The head of the Czech medical chamber Milan Kubek was elected vice-president of the Standing Committee of European Doctors on Saturday, a body which represents two million physicians in 27 EU countries. Mr Kubek will take up the post in 2010 and represent the Czech Republic for two years. The Medical Chamber president recently made headlines in the Czech Republic over comments on “feminisation” in health care, suggesting that female physicians contributed less in their jobs than their male counterparts. He later apologised for the remarks. The Czech Medical Chamber, meanwhile, stated that Mr Kubek’s comments had been distorted by the media.
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, has spoken at an international conference in Prague on the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Addressing attendees on Friday, Mrs Albright called on allies within NATO to join forces in the face of the global economic downturn; she also read an address by former US President Bill Clinton. The Prague conference, marking ten years since NATO first expanded to include former communist countries including the Czech Republic, also saw speeches by leading representatives such as NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. He said that the expansion of the alliance to ten former communist states between 1999 and 2004 had enhanced European security and put a definitive end to the Cold War. He also said NATO would remain open to new members, taking two more states – Albania and Croatia - on board before the end of the year.
In related news, Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová said at the close of the two-day NATO conference on Friday that the EU and NATO should cooperate more closely over the use of military helicopters. Given the current recession, she said, individual countries could not afford to build up dual military and defence capacities for both organisations. At the same conference, EU foreign and defence policy chief Javier Solana said that the availability of helicopters was perhaps the most important factor in improving the EU’s rapid response capability.