The Czech president, Václav Klaus, says his life would have been simpler if he had not declared an amnesty on January 1. Mr. Klaus, who steps down on Thursday, made the comment in an interview in the newspaper Právo. The president’s poll ratings fell in the wake of the amnesty, the most controversial plank of which halted cases – several involving alleged massive corruption – running for eight years or more and carrying sentences of at least a decade. Mr. Klaus told Právo that while his life would “obviously have been simpler” without the amnesty, he would not take a different approach today. The head of state said he had personally authored it, adding that questions about who had drafted it represented a “stupid media or political game”.
Mr. Klaus’s successor, Miloš Zeman, said on Saturday that the amnesty had also pardoned the incompetence of judges and state prosecutors, who had proven incapable of concluding cases in a timely manner. He repeated, however, that he was opposed to the amnesty. Mr. Zeman, who will be sworn in as president next Friday morning, also revealed that he had refused to sign the oath of allegiance with a gold-plated pen valued at CZK 1 million. It was offered to him by the South Bohemian firm Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth, which prior to its nationalisation provided pens to Czechoslovakia’s presidents. The president-elect said the company should donate the money to schools in its region.
Mr. Zeman told a conference of his Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites on Saturday that his success in the Czech Republic’s first direct presidential election did not automatically mean that the party would be successful in next year’s parliamentary vote. He said the main tasks facing the party were to prepare a high-quality manifesto and to find good candidates. In the last general election, the Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites received 4.3 percent of the vote, falling short of the 5 percent threshold required to enter the lower house.
The police have begun investigating 10 people in connection with a suspicious contract for IT services at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, a spokesperson said on Saturday. The story was reported in the newspaper Lidove noviny, which said that the supreme state attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, had said the suspects included both present and former employees of the ministry. Jaromír Drábek resigned as labour minister in October after a close associate, who was had been his deputy, was accused of corruption.
The Czech Republic’s postal service, Česká pošta, is looking to expand into other areas, including running a radar system to measure the speed of vehicles on the country’s roads, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Česká pošta has entered tender processes to operate radar speed systems in several municipalities, the newspaper said, adding that the company hopes to profile itself as a provider of IT and communications technology. The Czech postal service has in recent years seen a fall in the volume of mail it delivers and this year will lose its monopoly on mail weighing less than 50 grammes.
Saturday is the 35th anniversary of the start of the first and to date only space flight by a Czech. Vladimír Remek was a member of the crew of the Soviet Soyuz 28 mission which took off on March 2 1978 and reentered Earth’s atmosphere almost eight days later. The Czech cosmonaut was the first man in space who was not a citizen of either the US or the USSR. Mr. Remek, who is 64, is today an MEP for the Communist Party and has been discussed as a possible future Czech ambassador to Moscow.
The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has been beaten in the final of the Dubai Championships. Berdych, ranked sixth, lost 7-5 6-3 to top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Saturday in what was his second final of the season; last week Berdych failed to take the ninth ATP title of his career after losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Marseille Open.
The Prague State Attorney’s Office has asked the police to investigate accusations of corruption against Prime Minister Petr Necas stemming from a criminal complaint filed by defence lawyer Václav Láska. Láska’s complaint alleges that the prime minister promised three Civic Democrat deputies lucrative posts in state-owned companies if they gave up their seats in the lower house to allow the government’s controversial tax package to win approval. A criminal complaint has also been filed against the three now former deputies, Marek Šnajdr, Petr Tluchoř and Ivan Fuksa. Marek Šnajdr later got a seat on the supervisory board of the company Čepro, while Ivan Fuksa was named managing director of Czech Aeroholding. According to media reports Petr Tluchoř is allegedly being considered for a post in the power giant ČEZ.
Russian and Georgian representatives met in Prague on Friday for talks aimed at normalizing bilateral ties in areas of trade, transport and culture, but avoiding the sensitive issue of Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is the second meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and the Georgian Prime Minister’s special envoy on Russian issues, Zurab Abashidze, since Tbilisi announced last November it was ready to renew talks with Moscow. Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after the two nations fought a brief war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008.
A police chase on the D1 highway resulted in a mass collision involving at least 8 vehicles on Friday. Police were chasing a driver who had refused to stop. The Audi eventually crashed into a road block set up by the police and burst into flames. The 17-year-old driver died on the spot. At least seven other cars got involved in the accident. At least two people were injured, one of them seriously. The incident is being investigated.