Thursday, January 17, 2013

News 1.17.2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Thursday, January 17th, 2013

By: Jan Velinger

* The government is facing a vote of no confidence in the lower house
of Parliament.

* Karel Schwarzenberg, the chairman of coalition partner TOP 09, has
said he was shocked by the amnesty declared this month by President
Vaclav Klaus.

* Outgoing President Vaclav Klaus has issued a dig against one of the
two candidates running to succeed him.

* Two Czech citizens held in Greece since September on espionage
charges have returned home.

* Czech tennis player Petra Kvitova has lost to Laura Robson at the
Australian Open.

Government faces vote of no confidence

The coalition government, led by Prime Minister Petr Necas, faces a
vote of no confidence on Thursday. The opposition initiated the vote in
reaction to the recent presidential amnesty which had been
counter-signed by the premier. The controversial amnesty saw the
release of more than 7,000 prisoners and halted, or threatens to halt,
a number of major corruption and economic crime cases. On Wednesday,
President Vaclav Klaus accused the opposition of whipping up hysteria
over the amnesty for political reasons. The government is largely
expected to survive Thursday's vote; the opposition lacks the 101 votes
needed to succeed.

Schwarzenberg criticizes presidential amnesty

In related news, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, the chairman of
coalition partner TOP 09 and candidate in the second round of the
presidential election, has said he was shocked by the amnesty declared
this month by Vaclav Klaus. Speaking in the lower house ahead of the
vote of no confidence on Thursday, Mr Schwarzenberg made clear he was
most concerned with article 2 of the amnesty, which affects unresolved
criminal cases lasting eight years or longer. Mr Schwarzenberg said he
learned of the amnesty only through the president's televised speech on
January 1 and criticized the prime minister for not fully informing the
cabinet in advance; he suggested it was a sign of mistrust. Along with
the vote of no confidence, the opposition is pushing a proposal that
would express fundamental disagreement with the presidential amnesty.

Fellow presidential candidate Milos Zeman (not a member of Parliament)
has also come out against the amnesty.

President, on ski trip, outlines candidate he'd prefer

Outgoing Czech President Vaclav Klaus, while skiing on Thursday, issued
an apparent dig against one of the two candidates running to succeed
him, Karel Schwarzenberg. Speaking to the Czech news agency and Czech
Radio, Mr Klaus said he would prefer to see a candidate elected who
"belonged to the country" and had spent his life here in "good times
and bad". The statement was a clear snub of Mr Schwarzenberg, the
foreign minister, who grew up and spent much of his life in
neighbouring Austria; his parents emigrated with him as a boy after the
Communists seized power in 1948. Mr Schwarzenberg, a titled prince,
said in an earlier debate he never gave up his Czechoslovak
citizenship, even when abroad, and always kept strong ties to his

Czechs held in Greece on espionage charges return to Prague

Two Czech citizens held in Greece since September on espionage charges
returned to Prague on Thursday morning. The two were released from jail
on Wednesday on a 5,000 euro bail. Their release came after the Greek
authorities stated that they did not represent a security threat. The
two video games developers were arrested and accused of espionage after
they took photos of a military facility on the Greek island of Lemnos.
The men said they took the pictures to use them in a new game. They may
still have to return to Greece for trial. The two suspects on Thursday
were awaited by members of their families at the airport in what was an
emotional reunion that drew marked attention from the media. One of the
two men said the release had gone unexpectedly smoothly; both expressed
relief to be back on Czech soil.

Health Ministry makes Tamiflu available in response to flu epidemic

The Health Ministry has made available 9,000 packages of Tamiflu in
response to the flu epidemic hitting the country.
One-hundred-and-thirty five people have been hospitalized in serious
condition and the ministry has revealed that the flu this season has
claimed 23 lives. Last week, the ministry made available 1,440 packs of
the antivirotic Relenza in the keeping of the General Teaching Hospital
in the Czech capital. Three-thousand packs of Tamiflu will go to the
General Teaching Hospital, while further packages of the medicine will
be delivered to other facilities across the country. The flu epidemic
in the Czech Republic is expected to peak in the coming days or weeks,
the chief hygiene officer has said.

Jan Palach remembered

Dignitaries from Prague's Charles University, headed by rector Vaclav
Hampl, laid flowers at Jan Palach's plaque at the Philosophy Faculty,
44 years after Palach set himself on fire in protest of the 1968
Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. He died on January 19 1969.
Dozens in attendance on Wednesday lit candles in the student's memory
and held a minute of silence. Traffic at the square bearing Palach's
name was also temporarily halted. A new website dedicated to him has
also been launched by the university, in cooperation with Czech TV,
Czech Radio, the National Film Archives and other institutions.

Aviation accidents drop to lowest in 10 years

The number of aviation accidents in the Czech Republic fell to its
lowest in 10 years in 2012, according to information released by the
country's Air Accidents Investigation Institute. According to the
organization, the country saw 50 aviation accidents last year; there
was, however, no significant drop in the number of fatalities - 13,
just one fewer than the previous year. Eight people died in plane
crashes, two in a helicopter crash, and three in parachute jumps. The
head of the Air Accidents Investigation Institute, Pavel Strubl,
suggested that nevertheless the generally low number of fatalities
could be considered a success. He explained at a seminar on Thursday
that since the 1990s the number of small sports planes and ultra-light
planes in the country, considered the highest-risk, had gone up ten
times, while the number of fatalities had gone up four.

Necas marriage in trouble

Prime Minister Petr Necas and his spouse Radka have revealed in a
joint-statement that they are currently going through a difficult
period in their marriage, confirming to the Czech news agency that they
had been living separately for several months. The statement was issued
following increased speculation by the media over several weeks; the
prime minister turned down a traditional New Year's lunch with the
president earlier in January, where both wives would have been present.
Mr and Mrs Necas revealed they had no concrete plans on how to proceed
but made clear their dedication to their four children, as well as
continuing respect for each other, was of primary importance.

Snow worsens conditions on roads

Fresh snowfall worsened conditions on Czech roads on Thursday
especially in the regions of central and southern Bohemia and Plzen.
Areas in the region of Plzen saw between 5 and 10 new centimeters of
new snow. Although all major roads remained accessible, motorists were
warned to exercise extra caution due to the risk of snow drifts and
also icy patches. Worsening conditions were the main factor in a number
of car crashes.

Tennis: Kvitova loses thriller against Robson

Czech tennis players have had a rough time at the Australian Open, many
of their campaigns to progress far into the tournament being cut short.
Eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova was stunned by Great Britain's Laura Robson
in an epic three-setter that ended at 12:30 am local time. The match
went three sets and came down to a tie-break: the final score was 2-6,
6-3, 11-9 in Robson's favour. The two had never met in competition
before. Other Czechs who lost include Lukas Rosol and Lucie Safarova,
while the defending doubles champion from last year, Radek Stepanek and
doubles partner Leander Paes, were defeated in the first round.


The coming days will be mostly overcast with snow across the country.
Daytime highs should range between -5 and -1 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Crossing frozen Lake Baikal on foot

Lake Baikal -the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world is
located in the south of Siberia, between Irkutsk to the northwest and
the Buryat Republic to the southeast. A region of breathtaking beauty
and harsh climate it attracts thousands of visitors from around the
world -from those who want a guided tour in relative comfort organized
by a travel agency to those who take a backpack and set out on an
unforgettable adventure.
Vaclav Klaus insinuates Czechs should not vote for "foreign"

Without actually naming any names, the outgoing Czech president, Vaclav
Klaus, appears to have endorsed Milos Zeman ahead of the second round
of the election to succeed him at Prague Castle. Mr Klaus said he hoped
his successor would be someone who has spent his life in this country -
which would rule out Mr. Zeman's rival Karel Schwarzenberg, who spent
40 years abroad. But what effect will Mr Klaus' comments have on the
New website offers wealth of material on Jan Palach

For over four decades, Czechs have at this time of year - once covertly
but now openly - marked the death of Jan Palach, who on January 16 1969
set himself on fire in protest at society's resignation in the face of
the Soviet occupation that began five months earlier. This year one of
the events commemorating Palach's act of self-sacrifice has been the
launch of a new website containing a wealth of material on the
student's life, death and much more.

This e-mail is sent to you automatically according to the settings you
chose at To change the settings, click
here. (C) 2013, Radio Prague - the international service of Czech Radio,
all rights reserved., E-mail: