The Czech delegation to the two-day NATO summit in Lisbon has said the
country wants to be actively involved in the creation of a missile defense
shield which would protect the territory of all NATO member states in
Europe and North America. NATO has also invited Russia to take part,
although it is not yet clear at what level. Russia’s involvement was
strongly advocated, among others, by Czech President Václav Klaus. Prime
Minister Petr Nečas said the Czech Republic was hoping to host an early
warning centre but would welcome broader involvement, for instance in the
sphere of military research.
NATO leaders also agreed on a gradual withdrawal of their military presence in Afghanistan, aiming to hand security responsibility to Afghan forces between 2011 and 2014 and to move into a more supportive role. The Czech Republic has been actively involved in the ISAF mission. In response to a US request Prague recently agreed to increase the Czech military presence in Afghanistan to 720 troops in 2011and is expected to maintain 640 troops in the country in 2012.
In the course of the two-day summit Prime Minister Nečas met for talks with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper in an effort to get Canada to review its visa policy towards Czech citizens. Canada re-imposed visas on Czech nationals in July of 2009 in the wake of a stream of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic. Ottawa is now in the process of introducing a less benevolent asylum law and Mr. Nečas said he had failed to get assurances that the visa question would be reviewed before such a law was in place.
The Christian Democrats are holding a two-day party conference which is to determine the party’s future direction. On Saturday they elected thirty-three-year-old Pavel Belobradek - a virtual unknown in Czech politics – party leader. The search for a new face and agenda comes in the wake of the party’s humiliating defeat in May’s general elections. Mr. Belobradek, who is a vet by profession, said he wanted to fully reinstate the Christian Democrats in Czech politics as a socially-aware centre-right party.
Milan Kubek has been re-elected chairman of the Czech Medical Chamber. He received 245 votes from an overall number of 369 delegates present. His rival Jana Herzogová gained a mere 75 votes. His convincing victory is attributed to his experience and fighting spirit at a time when the government’s austerity measures are expected to make work conditions even more difficult for thousands of doctors and nurses. Three and a half thousand doctors working in state hospitals have signed a petition saying they would resign and seek work abroad if they failed to get a pay raise by the end of the year, a prospect that is highly unlikely in view of the cuts implemented.
A spokesman for the Prague Archbishopric has explained what led to its failure to invite the former president and leading Czech dissident Václav Havel to this year’s celebrations of the 21st anniversary of the fall of communism in St Vitus Cathedral. The spokesman said the omission was regrettable and had been caused by the hectic preparations surrounding the event. The event was attended by the country’s leading dignitaries including President Klaus, Prime Minister Nečas and Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka. Václav Havel, who is considered a symbol of the Velvet Revolution, reportedly heard about the event on the radio.
An elderly couple crossing a busy road in Prague on Saturday morning was hit by a police car on its way to a case. The seventy-five-year old man and his two years younger wife were taken to hospital with serious injuries. It is not yet clear exactly how the accident happened. The officer driving claims he saw the couple at the last moment and went into a spin as he tried to avoid hitting them. The incident is being investigated.
The 11th annual Mezipatra Queer Film Festival that features movies exploring gender and sexual identity has come to an end, having attracted more than 9,000 viewers. This year’s chosen theme was “high art” pitting artsy and intellectual movies against vulgar comedies about gays and lesbians. The festival offered 72 movies, three of which premiered at the festival –Squealing, Imaginary loves and Miss Kicki.
Police are investigating a theft at Prague’s Museum of Agriculture where a number of exotic exhibits have gone missing –including a number of leopard skins, the head of a hyena and a rhino’s horn. It appears that the culprit hid in the museum after closing hours and left through a window late at night. The police are keeping an eye on bazaars where stolen objects often end up.
Eleven firefighters units battled a raging fire at a hay storage facility near Brno on Saturday. The emergency operation lasted for most of the day as some doused the flames while others moved what they could to a safe location, saving half of the hay tarps in storage. The damage was estimated at over 3 million crowns.
The 2008 European figure skating champion Tomáš Verner of the Czech Republic won the men's section of the Cup of Russia, the fifth event in the ISU Grand Prix series, in Moscow on Saturday. The 24-year-old, third after the short programme, improved his position with a solid presentation to a Michael Jackson medley, taking the gold with a personal best of 156.21.