Uzbek President Islam Karimov has cancelled a planned visit to the Czech Republic, a spokesman for the Czech president’s office said on Thursday. The controversial Uzbek leader, who was set to arrive in Prague next week, asked Czech President Miloš Zeman to postpone the visit; the decision came after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, other cabinet members and Prague City Hall officials refused to meet the Uzbek president. Mr Karimov, who has been in power since 1991, faces accusations of severe human rights abuses in his country. Earlier this week, a number of NGOs called on Mr Zeman to cancel the invitation. The president refused, arguing that Uzbekistan was an ally of the US in its fight against terrorism in the region.
The police on Thursday arrested controversial Prague businessman Ivo Rittig and three other people, including his attorney. They have been charged with money laundering, Prague High Attorney Lenka Bradáčová said. The case is related to the alleged siphoning of funds from Prague’s city public transport company, the news website idnes.cz wrote. The firm is reported to have bought tickets from anonymously owned companies whose beneficiary is Mr Rittig. He allegedly received a cut from each ticket sold. The controversial businessman also figured in a police operation that led to the fall of the government last June.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is visiting Slovakia, on his second trip abroad since he was appointed last month. Among the issues discussed on Thursday by Mr Sobotka and his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, were plans to stage a joint session of the Czech and Slovak governments in the coming months. The Czech leader said the two cabinets should discuss, among other things, improving road connections between the two countries. The prime ministers also talked about joint acquisitions of military technology for the Slovak and Czech armies.
The new centre-left Czech government of the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats have approved their policy programme. In the document rubber-stamped on Wednesday night, the coalition pledges to support business and job creation, make the state apparatus more efficient and transparent and foster social cohesion. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s government will seek confidence in the Chamber of Deputies next Tuesday.
President Miloš Zeman on Thursday formally called elections for the European Parliament in the Czech Republic for May 23 and 24. Voting in all EU member states will take place at the end of May. Czech polls will open at 2 PM on Friday, May 23; they will close at 10 PM to reopen the next day between 8 AM and 2 PM. Czech parties are now finalizing nominations for the elections. The Social Democrat ballot will be headed by sociologist Jan Keller, ANO is fielding former European commissioner Pavel Telička and the Civic Democrats have nominated MEP Jan Zahradil as their electoral leader.
Lawyer Andrew H. Schapiro is to become the new US ambassador to the Czech Republic, the news website respeckt.cz reported on Thursday, citing sources from the Czech Foreign Ministry. Mr Schapiro, as former US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, is to replace the current ambassador Norman Eisen, who has been in the post for three years.
NWR, the owner of the mining company OKD, has reported a net loss of 970 million euro for 2013, down from a loss of 1.25 million euro posted for the previous year. NWR management said the scope of the loss was caused by last year’s depreciation of the company’s fixed actives, worth around 800 million euro. Analysts say the results were affected by low coal prices and an uncertain outlook for the company; with over 17,000 workers, it is the largest employer in the northern Moravia-Silesia region.
More than 441,000 foreign nationals were living in the Czech Republic at the end of last year, the Czech Statistics Office said on Thursday. That represents 4.1 percent of the country’s total population. In Prague, foreigners make up 13 percent of inhabitants. Around half of the foreign citizens have permanent residency permits. The biggest surge in the numbers of foreigners moving to the Czech Republic was registered between 2001 and 2008; in recent years, mostly citizens of other EU member states have been settling in the country. Around 60 percent of all foreign residents come from Ukraine, Slovakia and Vietnam.
Czech prima ballerina Daria Klimentová on Thursday announced she would retire in June, after 25 years on stage. The 42-year-old, a graduate of the Prague Conservatory, has spent the last 18 seasons at the English National Ballet. Klimentová will make her final bow at the Royal Albert Hall in London before the end of May; her last Prague performance is scheduled for May 15 at the National Theatre.
The Czech Republic’s public broadcaster, Czech Radio, is marking World Radio Day on Thursday. All Czech Radio stations feature special programming with debates and analytical programmers focusing on the future of radio. Czech Radio CEO, Peter Duhan, appeared on Radiožurnál on Thursday morning, and said he had no doubts that radio would survive the boom of new media.