The husband of Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader Julija Tymoshenko has
been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic. Czech Interior
Minister Jan Kubice confirmed the news at a press briefing on Friday
afternoon, saying the request had been filed several months ago.
The former Ukrainian prime minister was sentenced to seven years in prison last October for abuse of office in what the European Union denounced as a politically-motivated trial. The asylum granted to her husband Oleksander Tymoshenko is the second high profile case the country has dealt with in the past 12 months. Last year it granted asylum to a former economics minister in the Tymoshenko cabinet.
Ukraine’s ruling Party of the Regions says the request for asylum was financially motivated, claiming that Tymoshenko’s husband wanted to transfer abroad funds that his wife received from political sponsors.
Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka is among 22 archbishops elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Benedict on Friday. The pope announced their appointment following an Epiphany Mass in the Vatican and will elevate them to their new rank in a formal ceremony on February 18. The sixty-eight year old Dominik Duka is the country’s second living cardinal alongside Miloslav Vlk. The head of the Czech Catholic Church will thus join the conclave that will one day help elect the Pope’s successor.
Czech women with silicone breast implants manufactured by a French firm accused of using unapproved industrial-grade material should have them replaced, a Health Ministry spokesman said on Friday. The recommendation follows a consultative meeting of a commission of experts who met to weigh up the risks. Women who refuse to undergo repeat surgery have been advised to have regular check-ups. It is not yet clear who will finance the operations, though the country’s largest health insurer VZP said Thursday it would cover the cost of repeat surgery for all women who undertook it for health reasons. An estimated 2,000 Czech women received the risky implants.
The EU’s debt crisis, energy issues and the state of bilateral relations topped the agenda of a meeting between French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and the visiting Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday. The French Areva is one of the bidders for the contract on the completion of the Czech nuclear power plant at Temelin. The two officials reportedly also discussed new possibilities in the field of scientific and technological cooperation. Prime Minister Nečas is also due to meet with French President Nikolas Sarkozy on Friday evening.
The opposition Social Democrats say they will request a special session of Parliament to deal with the country’s persisting problems in drawing subsidies from EU funds. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday that there was a very real threat of the EC halting subsidies to several ministries which consistently fail to meet the respective criteria. The situation is reportedly worst in the Education Ministry, the Environment Ministry and the Ministry for Local Development.
Czech industrial output accelerated its annual growth in November to 5.4 percent from October´s 1.7 percent, the Czech Statistical Office said Friday. Seasonally adjusted industrial output rose by 2.7 percent month on month. The results were influenced by a long-term positive development in the automotive industry as well as by cumulative completion of orders with a longer production cycle in the engineering industry and the production of heavy transport technology, statisticians said.
The Czech Republic's foreign trade balance remained in surplus in November, though it narrowed on the month due largely to accelerating import growth, the Czech Statistics Office said Friday. The country's November trade surplus totalled 18.41 billion crowns, down from a surplus of 25.96 billion in October. Imports rose 6.3% on the year in November following a 3.5% annual gain in October, while exports rose 9.6% annually in the month compared with an 8.6% annual increase a month earlier.
Road maintenance crews are struggling to deal with the consequences of heavy snow in the north of the country. Several roads in the Krušné Hory mountains remain closed and traffic police have issued a warning regarding the state of the D8 motorway. The clean-up operation is complicated by strong winds.
The Czech team beat Denmark 2:0 on Friday to reach the final of the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia. In the ladies’ singles match, Petra Kvitová, ranked number two in the world, defeated the world’s number one Carolina Wozniacki 7:6, 3:6, 6:4; Tomáš Berdych then beat Fredrik Nielsen 6:1, 6:3. In Saturday’s final, Petra Kvitová and Tomáš Berdych will face Marion Bartoli and Richard Gasquet of France. If the 21-year-old Petra Kvitová wins the Sydney International tournament next week, she will replace Wozniacki as the world’s number one in ladies’ tennis.
The Czech Senate announced Thursday that in early February it will be
voting on a proposal for direct presidential elections that got the
go-ahead from the lower house of Parliament in December and is pending
approval from the upper house. President Václav Klaus may also attend the
Senate session on February 8. If approved by the Senate, the amendment
would also limit the president’s powers.
In December, a deal between the coalition and the opposition Social Democrats ensured sufficient support for the motion which had been debated for years. Should the proposal be approved by the upper chamber of Parliament, it would allow Czechs to elect their president directly for the first time in 2013, when current president Václav Klaus leaves office.