The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, has raised the possibility of a deal with President Miloš Zeman on the appointment of ambassadors, an issue on which the two men have been at loggerheads. In a newspaper interview, Mr. Schwarzenberg said he would propose Communist Party MEP and former cosmonaut Vladimír Remek, who enjoys Mr. Zeman’s support, for the post of envoy to Moscow, if the president approved his suggestions for other ambassadorial positions. In a separate interview, the foreign minister said former defence minister Alexandr Vondra would make a good ambassador to Israel. However, he has insisted that former first lady Lidia Klausová, who Mr. Zeman is pushing, is not qualified to become Czech ambassador to Bratislava.
The Ministry of Transport has played down a report in Mladá fronta Dnes suggesting that it is proposing the creation of central register of bicycles in a bid to reduce the number of thefts. A ministry official said on Saturday afternoon that the idea was only aimed at fostering debate on the issue of bicycle thefts. The prime minister, Petr Nečas, had said earlier in the day that a register of that type, which would cost around CZK 20 million, would only increase bureaucracy. Last year nearly 8,000 bicycles were stolen in the Czech Republic, where the total number of bikes is around 4 million, Mladá fronta Dnes said.
A 56-year-old woman died from methanol poisoning in a hospital in Orlová, north Moravia on Friday. She was the 25th victim of methanol poisoning in the Moravia-Silesia Region, while over 40 people have died around the Czech Republic since the first such death last summer. The Ministry of Health imposed a ban on sales of all spirits for a two-week period in September in a bid to deal with a health crisis stemming from illegally-produced poisonous booze. Police are still warning against the consumption of old bottles of spirits and of alcohol of uncertain provenance lacking the correct stamps.
Saturday marks the 135th anniversary of the foundation of the Social Democratic Party, which is today the Czech Republic’s largest left-wing grouping. The party was established at the Kaštan house of culture in the Prague district of Břevnov on April 7 1878 as part of the Austrian Social Democrats. Present-day leaders laid a wreath at the still-functioning Kaštan on Friday, while on Saturday an anniversary ball is being held at the National House in Prague’s Vinohrady district.
The Czech Republic are leading 2:1 on matches against Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup. On Friday, the Czechs – who are without the country’s men’s number one, Tomáš Berdych – got off to a perfect start when Jan Hájek and Lukáš Rosol won their singles matches to open up a 2:0 lead. However, in Saturday’s doubles rubber Hájek and Radek Štěpánek were beaten 7-6 6-4 6-3 by Evgeny Korolev and Yuriy Schukin. The Czechs are the defending Davis Cup champions after taking the trophy in Prague at the end of last year.
The Czech soccer captain Tomáš Rosický scored both goals for Arsenal in a 2:1 win over West Bromwich Albion in an English Premier League game on Saturday. They were his first league goals of the season. The midfielder, who is 32, had headed a shot of the line to prevent a West Brom lead when the score stood at 0:0. Rosický has said he will consider his future at Arsenal in the summer, after not being a regular starter this term.
Around 12,000 people took part in the Prague Half Marathon on Saturday. The race was won by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea in a time of 1:00:10, meaning organisers’ hopes of a world record in the 15th edition of the race were dashed. The fastest of the women was Kenya’s Gladys Cheron, who set an event record of 1:06:47. The full Prague Marathon takes place on May 12.
The district attorney for Prague 1 concluded on Friday that Prime Minister Petr Nečas did not commit a crime by co-signing the presidential amnesty announced on New Year’s day. The attorney’s office thus decided not to pursue the complaint filed against Mr Nečas by the chairman of the Czech senate, Milan Štěch, and senator Miroslav Antl. The two Social Democratic lawmakers argued that Petr Nečas should not have co-signed the amnesty initiated by the former president Václav Klaus without first receiving approval from his cabinet. The premier is also facing another complaint over the amnesty that was filed a by a group headed by the billionaire Karel Janeček.
After meeting with Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič on Thursday, Czech President Miloš Zeman expressed the hope that the Visegrad group, which includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, could be expanded to include Slovenia. The Slovak press reported on Friday that Mr Gašparovič, however, is not in favour of such a move. On the second day of his visit to Slovakia, Mr Zeman is scheduled to lay a wreath at the statue of the co-founder of Czechoslovakia, General Milan Štefánik, in Bratislava. The Czech president will complete his first international visit with a lunch on Friday with the chairman of the Slovak Parliament, Dušan Paška.
After months of preparations, the state prosecutor’s office has filed a lawsuit against former Central Bohemian governor and MP David Rath and ten other defendants, accusing them of corruption and abuse of office; if found guilty, Mr Rath faces up to 12 years in prison. Because of the considerable amount of evidence and documentation involved in the case, the court hearings will most likely only begin in the summer. The former governor remains in custody but could be allowed on bail by the Prague regional court.