Representatives of the EU and South Korea discussed a trade deal worth USD 100 billion at a summit chaired by the Czech president, Václav Klaus, on Saturday. The two sides had hoped to reach agreement on lowering barriers to trade and investment at the meeting in Seoul, but the EU’s first major trade pact in Asia was stalled by disputes within the EU over how a deal would impact its auto industry. At a news conference President Klaus said an agreement would not be signed before the Czech presidency of the bloc comes to an end, in five and a half weeks’ time. He said leaders had called for a speeding up of talks to ensure a deal was reached by the end of the year.
The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, has slammed his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus for suggesting the EU should pay more attention to Russia’s interests than to those of its own members in the Baltics, the news agency AFP reported. Mr Ilves made the comments on Friday in reaction to an interview Mr Klaus gave to a Czech newspaper before an EU summit with Russia which he chaired, as part of the Czech presidency of the bloc. Mr Klaus, who has a reputation as being pro-Russian, told Lidové noviny he did not see Russia as a threat but as a big, strong and ambitious country, to which more attention should be paid to than the likes of Estonia and Lithuania. The Estonian foreign ministry said it had summoned the Czech ambassador over the comments.
A memorial was held on Saturday at the site of notorious communist-era labour camps in Jáchymov. Dozens of former political prisoners forced to work in uranium mines in the west Bohemian town attended Saturday’s ceremony. In a speech, Prime Minister Jan Fischer expressed admiration for those who had defied the communist regime. Mr Fischer, who was a member of the Communist Party throughout the 1980s, said everybody else would have to come to terms with their pasts. Eighteen labour camps linked to uranium mines were built in Jáchymov in the 1950s. Of the thousands interned there, hundreds did not survive.
Social Democrat election campaign organisers are concerned about incidents in which people have thrown eggs at the party’s leader, Jiří Paroubek, Právo reported. Party officials fear the incidents are tarnishing gatherings intended to get out the vote in elections to the European Parliament next month, the newspaper said. Mr Paroubek has been hit by eggs twice on the hustings this week, while opponents have brought boxes of eggs to other meetings without actually throwing them. The Social Democrats chairman has accused rivals the Civic Democrats of being behind the eggs, an accusation the right-of-centre party denies; leader Mirek Topolánek said voters who want to express their dissatisfaction with Mr Paroubek should do so at the polls on June 5 and 6. Newspaper Lidové noviny reported that 15,000 people had joined a Facebook group called “Eggs for Paroubek in Every Town”.
Meanwhile, hackers placed a link to a youtube video mocking the Social Democrats on the party’s website. Entitled “Pre-Election Anthem – or Start to be Afraid”, it featured among other pictures a photoshopped image of Mr Paroubek alongside Soviet dictator Stalin and Czechoslovak communist leader Klement Gottwald. The three had red stars above their heads.
The Czech troops deployed in Afghanistan are likely to operate in Kabul, Logar province and the Sharna helicopter base in Paktia province, the Czech defence minister, Martin Barták, said after talks in Prague with US General David Petraeus on Friday. Mr Barták also said the Czech provincial reconstruction team in the war-torn state would probably get more members. He presented the Czech plans for 2010 to General Petraeus, but said they would only be made public after they had been submitted to the Czech Parliament; the lower house is set to discuss the country’s mission in Afghanistan in June. General Petraeus, who oversees American military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said he was mainly in the Czech capital to thank the Czechs for their operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans.
Prague police arrested two men on Wednesday after they attacked and injured a man who told them to stop giving the Hitler salute and shouting Sieg Heil and racist abuse. The two face up to eight years in jail if found guilty of a series of charges. On Thursday two men were detained in Prague after one of them recorded the other giving the Hitler salute on his mobile phone, the police said on their website.
Clean-up work has been carried out following storms in the Czech Republic on Friday. Trees were knocked down, hundreds of households were without electricity, and train transport was interrupted in some parts of the country. Czech fire brigades were called out 400 times between midnight Friday and noon Saturday to deal with problems caused by heavy rain and strong winds.
The Czech ice hockey player Robert “Bobby” Holík has said he is retiring after 18 seasons in the NHL. In an interview for the New York Post, Holík, 38, said he had decided at the end of the season that he wanted to spend more time with his family. The centre won two Stanley Cups with the club where he spent the best part of his career, the New Jersey Devils. His father Jaroslav Holík won the 1972 world championships with Czechoslovakia and seven national championships with Dukla Jihlava.
The 22-year-old defender Jan Šimůnek has won the German football league title with Wolfsburg. Šimůnek joined the Bundesliga club from Sparta Prague after captaining a Czech team to the final of the Under 20 World Cup in Canada two years ago. He has four full international caps for the Czech Republic and is expected to figure in the first squad selected by new manager František Straka.