The Czech Republic is to continue negotiations with the US on possible participation on a new type of missile defence shield, the Czech Defence Minister Martin Barták has said. On Friday, he met with officials in Washington including US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the head of the US National Security Council James Jones. Further high-level talks are expected by the end of the year and the Czechs have expressed an interest in having their experts join the Missile Defence Agency (MDA). The latest developments come after the US scrapped plans for a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor rockets in Poland this week – components of a system backed by former US president George W. Bush. Instead, the US will now look into creating a mobile ground-based system, blocking the threat of short and mid-range rockets, which could go into operation in 2015. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made clear on Friday that the Czech Republic and Poland but also other EU countries were possible candidates for participation in the project.
In related news, it will become clearer in October or November whether the Czech Republic will buy C-130 Hercules military transport planes from the United States. The Czech Defence Minister Martin Barták said on Friday after meeting with his US counterpart Robert Gates that negotiations were continuing. The planes could replace Russian An-26s in the Czech Air Force. Final details will be negotiated at the same time as other items, such as possible participation the development of a new US anti-missile system. Sources reported this week that the sale of the Hercules planes to the Czech Republic had hit a road bump over a rise in the asking price by the US.
Former Czech president Václav Havel has taken issue with comments made by Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek in the Czech daily Právo. In an opinion piece in the daily on Friday, Mr Paroubek suggested that Havel (along with others such as former prime minister Mirek Topolánek) “longed for a world of Iron Curtains” – a response to Mr Havel’s position on the US radar base cancelled by the Obama administration. Mr Havel responded on Saturday by writing in Právo that Mr Paroubek was lying. He wrote that unlike the Social Democrat leader, he had done all that was in his power to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In roughly two months, the Czechs will mark the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which toppled the Communist system in Czechoslovakia, and lifted the playwright and former dissident Václav Havel to power.
The Prague Planetarium has launched a unique digital “gateway to the universe” or “gateway to Space” capable of projecting views of the stars and the night sky not only from Earth but from other parts of the universe. The system, which cost 24.5 million crowns, is said to be able to replicate the heavens as they were seen by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV or to recreate and “explore” other solar systems. The head of the planetarium Marcel Grun told reporters that the world-class project was unique not only in the Czech Republic but also worldwide.
A two-day military show near Ostrava, NATO DAYS 2009, has drawn tens of thousands of visitors. On Saturday viewers were able to see F-16s in flight, as well as to get a close-up look from outside and inside the C-5 Galaxy: one of the largest commercially built military aircraft in the world. Others draws have been the Typhoon F2. Czech flyers have also taken part in the show, flying JAS-39C Gripens. NATO DAY is the largest air force and armed forces show in Europe.
Renowned Czech cameraman Jaromír Šofr will celebrate70th birthday on Sunday. The cameraman, who studied at Prague’s FAMU film academy, has lensed features for directors like Věra Chytilová and worked with the late Jaromír Jireš and Karel Kachyňa. He also shot the famous O slavnosti a hostech (A Report on the Party and the Guests) directed by Jan Němec and Closely Watched Trains directed by Jiří Menzel - awarded the 1967 Oscar for Best Foreign-language film.
The Czech tabloid Blesk has reported that a 23-year-old woman taken into custody on Thursday evening, after she rode a horse around the statue of St. Wenceslas on Prague’s Wenceslas Square, was a finalist in this year’s Czech Miss beauty pageant, Leona Grešáková. Police who arrived at the scene were forced to pull the young woman off of the horse, which she had ridden around the statue chanting prayers and anti-communist slogans. There was danger the spooked animal could bolt and cause injuries to the rider and passers-by. The young woman was taken to a psychiatric ward for treatment. Representatives of the Czech Miss competition, said to be in shock over the incident, are planning to release a statement.
Prague police uncover a headless corpse on Friday, buried near garages by a local railway station in the city’s Vysočany district, TV Nova’s website tn.cz has reported. A man suspected of the murder is already in custody. The man reportedly told others he had committed the deed; they then reported him to the police. It is thought the deceased and his killer (both homeless) roomed together for a while. Discord between the two reportedly grew when one (the murder victim) reportedly killed a cat.
The Czech Republic has booked an appearance in the final of the tennis’s
Davis Cup, after defeating Croatia in their doubles match-up on Saturday.
Štepánek and Tomáš Berdych downed Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko in
straight sets, 6:1, 6:3, 6:4, a day after winning the first two matches in
the semi-final at the Croatian seaside town of Porec. The Czechs are now
most likely to face Spain for the championship title. The one time the
Czechs won the Davis Cup was 29 years ago, in 1980.
On the first day of the semi-final, the Czechs defeat of Croatia was nothing less than heroic: Radek Štepánek survived a five-hour, 59-minute epic against Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, in which the latter served a world record 78 aces. In the second match, Tomáš Berdych played a five-setter against Croatian number one Marin Cilic, edging him 6:3 in the final set.
Next year’s state budget deficit could be as low as 157 billion crowns if the draft package of austerity measures is approved in its present form, Finance Minister Eduard Janota told the ctk news agency after negotiations with political parties' representatives on Friday. The revised package provides for an increase in both VAT rates by one percentage point. It will reportedly save 12 billion crowns in social and mandatory spending on the side of expenditures. The cost-cutting measures would only apply for 2010. The government is to discuss and approve the package on Monday. Political leaders will be debating the proposed cuts further. After two attempts at early elections were scupperd Prime Minister Jan Fischer made it clear that his caretaker government will only remain in office if politicians agreed on a budget with a maximum deficit of 170 billion crowns i.e. 5 percent of the GDP.