The leader of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek has called on the
Social Democrats and the party’s chairman Jiří Paroubek to stop using
the methods of the StB, referring to Czechoslovakia’s communist era
secret police. Mr Topolánek made the comments at a news conference in
Prague on Friday that saw his first reaction to newspaper photographs of
him meeting influential lobbyists and business people while on holiday in
Italy. He did not give any direct evidence for the claims and Mr Paroubek
later responded that unfounded accusations were also StB practice. The
Social Democrats deny being behind the pictures.
As for those he was photographed with in Italy, including a lobbyist for the power giant ČEZ, the Civic Democrats leader said such meetings were merely coincidental, as Tuscany was “the new Špindlerův Mlýn”, a reference to a popular Czech ski resort. Mr Topolánek said he did not know who owned the villa he had stayed at and refused to provide receipts to show he had paid for the recent holiday.
Paparazzi-style photographs that appeared this week were provided to the media by a former head of the Czech civilian intelligence agency Karel Randák, who said he wanted to show how things were done in this country. Mr Randák, who the Civic Democrats say is close to the Social Democrats, was fired in 2006 when Mirek Topolánek was prime minister.
Local authorities in Husinec on the outskirts of Prague have asked the police to move on a group of Romanian Romanies who have made a makeshift camp there. The Romanies, who are keeping a vigil for a relative who is seriously ill in a Prague hospital, were previously camped elsewhere in the city and are now on private land with the permission of its owner. However, they have no running water or other basic facilities and the mayor of Husinec, Marie Těthalová, has called on the police to expel the group by lunchtime on Sunday. She said there was no way the municipality would pay for mobile toilets or drinking water. The Romanian Romanies arrived in Prague over a week ago after a teenage relative they regard as a prince almost drowned in a lake in central Bohemia.
One hundred and four cases of swine flu have now been detected in the Czech Republic. Nine new cases of the illness were recorded on Friday, the health ministry said. Around ten fresh cases have come to light every day recently and the country’s chief hygiene officer said he expected infection numbers to increase by the hundreds in the coming weeks. Nobody has yet died of swine flu in the Czech Republic and none of the cases detected to date have been regarded as serious.
Czech industrial output in June fell by 12.3 percent compared to the same month last year, according to preliminary data released by the Czech Statistical Office. That is being seen as relatively good news as it represents the smallest drop in the last six months: in January industrial output fell by 23 percent, while in May it decreased by 22 percent, year-on-year. Analyst Jiří Škop told the Czech News Agency that June’s results were a very pleasant surprise. He said the Czech economy, which relies heavily on the auto industry, was benefiting from car scrapping incentives introduced in export markets. Meanwhile, the president of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, Petr Kužel, said Czech firms probably had the worst of the financial crisis behind them.
The Czech high jumper Jaroslav Bába came third at a Super Grand Prix meeting in Stockholm on Friday night. The 24-year-old took bronze with a jump of 227 cm. It was the last competition for Bába before the World Athletics Championships in Berlin this month, whose biggest success to date was a bronze medal at the Olympics in Athens.
The soccer player Patrik Berger appeared for Sparta Prague in a 0:0 draw against Bohemians 1905 on Friday, just weeks after he feared his career was over. Berger said if a knee injury he is suffering from had required surgery he would have had to quit the game. The left-footed midfielder, who is 35, has played for Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and Aston Villa, though he has been out a lot in recent years with injury problems.
The first annual River Film Festival has begun in the south Bohemian town of Písek. The 10-day international film festival, which runs until Sunday week, includes 170 feature films and 150 shorts. Among the special guests are the US film director and former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. The River Film Festival also features a number of accompanying events, including live music concerts and theatre performances.
The American musician Moby was among the headliners at the Sázavafest music festival at Kácov in central Bohemia on Friday night. Around 20,000 people – a record – attended the second of three nights at the outdoor music festival, which has been running for nine years. The British pop singer Jimi Somerville and the German band Die Happy are due to play on the closing night on Saturday.
The American State Department has said that the U.S. is considering alternative locations outside the Czech Republic and Poland for the potential construction of part of its missile defence system. At a hearing on US-Russian relations, Assistant Secretary of State Alexander Vershbow told the House of Representatives that the Czech Republic and Poland are not the only places where the mission could be performed. The construction of an American radar base in Bohemia has been one of the hottest issues in the Czech Republic in recent years, with polls suggesting most Czechs are opposed. Russia has also expressed intense opposition to the plan. The Obama White House has put the plan on hold while it is reassessed by his administration.
Newspaper photographs of top Czech politicians sharing a yacht in Italy with energy lobbyists are causing a stir in the Czech Republic. Among those featured on the photographs are former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, CEO of the energy company ČEZ Martin Roman, and Social Democratic MP Milan Urban. Czech media outlets, aside from speculating on who is most likely to benefit from the rather expensive detective work, have also made frequent reference to the recent passage of a carbon emissions deal in parliament that resulted in a multi-billion-crown windfall for the energy giant, ČEZ. A number of those featured on the photographs have said the meeting was a chance encounter in a popular holiday area. Compounding the discussion around the photographs is the fact that they were released by Karel Randák, the erstwhile chief of the Czech civilian intelligence agency. Mr Randák has declined to shed more light on the procurement of the photos, saying only that no intelligence agents were involved, and that his decision to release them was taken in order to “show how things work in this country.” Mr Randák was dismissed from his position in 2006 by Mr Topolánek’s government.