CR: Nečas supports Serbia, says talks need to be held with Kosovo
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas, on an official visit to Serbia, has reiterated Czech support for Serbian accession to the European Union but stressed that direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina in Kosovo would play a key role. Mr Nečas made the statement after meeting with Prime Minister Ivica Dačič. Besides EU membership, the prime ministers discussed Czech-Serbian ties, agreeing there was significant potential for political and economic cooperation. The Czechs have consistently backed Serbia’s plans to join the EU; the country received candidate status in March of 2012.
Neon heart to commemorate Havel at European Parliament
A neon heart echoing one that adorned Prague Castle 10 years ago has gone on display at the European Parliament building on Monday evening to mark the first anniversary of the death of former president Václav Havel. The work of art, designed by Czech artist Jiří David, was inspired by a small heart Havel used to draw below his signature. Originally, the sculpture went up at Prague Castle at the end of Havel’s final term as president in 2002. The heart in Brussels is based on the same design but produced in lighter materials. A number of representatives of the European Parliament, the city of Prague, as well as other prominent personalities in Czech and European public life will be present at Monday’s ceremony.
Plaque commemorating Havel unveiled
A new plaque commemorating late ex-president Václav Havel close to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial in Prague was unveiled on Monday evening. Several dozen people were present including Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former defence minister Alexandr Vondra. The plaque was paid for by 258 Czech and Slovak artists living in the United States and the project was put together by the American Friends of the Czech Republic. As soon as the weather allows, the plaque will receive permanent moorings at the site. Speaking at the unveiling, the foreign minister – a close friend of Mr Havel’s – noted that his influence abroad had always been greater than many at home realised.
Students hold 24-hour hunger strike
Sixteen students in southern Bohemia are holding a 24-hour hunger strike beginning on Monday to protest against the regional coalition of the Social Democrats and the Communist Party. Above all, students oppose the recent naming of Vítezslava Baborová as the new regional councillor for education and culture. The protest was instigated by 18-year-old high school student Dominik Hořejší, who has met with the governor of South Bohemia, Jiří Zomola of the Social Democrats. The student said that while he hadn’t experienced life under the former regime, he had heard and learned enough and remained unconvinced there was justification for a coalition with the Communists.
Okamura to file complaint with Constitutional Court
Presidential candidate Tomio Okamura, disqualified from running in the upcoming election by a Supreme Administrative Court decision, has said he will file a legal complaint with the Constitutional Court. The senator made clear he would take the step after the Christmas holidays. Mr Okamura has taken issue with the decision, not least over words by one of the justices, Vojtěch Šimička, who said the candidate had the most falsified names on a list of supporters in his candidacy bid. For candidates to register they needed to gather 50,000 signatures to run. Mr Okamura finished below the 50,000 needed, after discrepancies were found. According to the justice, many of the names were written in the same handwriting. Mr Okamura has responded by saying voters’ rights were being trampled on. Another candidate who was rejected, former finance minister Vladimír Dlouhý, meanwhile, has not taken a final decision on his next step.
Online vehicle registration system slows
The online vehicle registration system on Monday was able to continue operation following the adding of local registry branches without lapses or collapse, officials said. The system, however, did slow in places. The electronic system, which has been plagued by glitches since the summer, was only operating at 60 percent. Continuing problems were responsible, at least in part, for the recent departure from government of former transport minister Pavel Dobeš of LIDEM; he has been replaced by Civic Democrat Zbyněk Stanjura.
New Octavia goes into production
Mladá Boleslav-based carmaker Škoda Auto began serial production of the third generation Octavia on Monday, the most important model in the company’s line-up. Production capacity has been raised from 800 to 1,200 vehicles a day. The new sedan is meant to improve brand recognition abroad, the carmaker said, and is expected to follow the success of the previous models. Octavia is Skoda’s best seller, representing 44 percent of global sales, for example, in the first 11 months of this year. The redesigned vehicle will be released onto the European market at the end of January.
Temelín tender: France’s Areva wants ‘back in’
France's Areva is aiming to continue its fight to be included in a lucrative tender for the completion of the Czech Republic’s Temelín nuclear power plant, Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports. According to the daily, the firm sees the manner in which it was excluded from the tender as problematic and far from standard procedure. Areva representatives say the price offered by the firm was in order and stress the company will push its case even at the highest instance court. Thomas Epron, Areva's regional head for Central Europe, said the French company had provided guarantees in supplied documentation that the final price of Temelín´s expansion would not exceed a certain level and the cost of the project, between 200 and 300 billion crowns, would not see manifold growth. ČEZ spokesman Ladislav Kříž told the paper that Areva´s bid had failed to meet defined criteria on a number of points.
STEM: opposition Social Democrats would win elections
The Social Democrats continue to dominate in public opinion polls: a new survey released by the STEM agency suggests if elections were held today the opposition party would secure 26.5 percent of the vote, followed by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats with 13.9 percent and the Communist Party with 12.7. Other results in recent weeks have regularly placed the ruling Civic Democrats third. The new STEM poll suggests two other parties would make it into the Chamber of Deputies: TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats, with parties like the Greens and the Civic Rights “Zemanovci” Party finishing not far below the five percent threshold.
R10 sees 15 car pile-up
The R10 route in the direction of Liberec, near an exit for Stará Boleslav saw a pile-up of at least 15 cars after 6 am on Monday. Two people suffered light injuries. The section of road was completely closed off and will be reopened at around 11 am, the authorities said. Three cars also crashed in the opposite direction, towards Prague. One lane there, however, remains open. Icy conditions contributed to the accidents. Freezing rain, ice, and fog are complicating the situation on Czech roads in areas across the country.
Mostly overcast conditions are expected; daytime temperatures will remain at around 1 degree Celsius.
Institute issues warning over freezing rain, extremely icy conditions
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has issued a warning over freezing rain and icy conditions beginning across the country on Sunday evening and lasting through Tuesday. Freezing drizzle is expected to make sidewalks as well as roads far from safe; earlier in the week, when conditions first worsened, the authorities appealed to motorists to drive with extreme caution and to find alternatives to heading out onto the road. Saturday saw a marked rise in both fall-related injuries and car accidents in the capital and elsewhere.
Nine vehicles crash on D5 highway
In related news, icy conditions led to a nine-vehicle pile-up on the D5 highway in the region of Plzeň on Sunday. Seven automobiles and two trucks were involved in the crash; two people who were injured were taken to hospital. A truck that lost control on the road led to the pile-up. One of the motorists told news website idnes that the highway was nothing more than “a sheet of ice”.
President to remain vocal in politics even after leaving office…
Czech President Václav Klaus – who has 80 days remaining in office – has said he intends to remain vocal in Czech and international politics even after completing his second and final term. Speaking on a Sunday debate programme on private broadcaster TV Prima, Mr Klaus also discussed the upcoming direct presidential election. He refused to name his favourite in the field of nine candidates but in the past expressed indirect support for former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman, who he referred to as the “only real politician” in the group. Earlier, he also expressed fears that a candidate like Tomio Okumara (currently not in the running) or tattooed composer and artist Vladimír Franz would succeed him. Mr Klaus said if he were to openly endorse a candidate now it would be a “kiss of death” for the person in question.
…says nothing major will happen if upcoming election is delayed
In related news, President Klaus on Sunday said that “nothing crazy” would happen if the upcoming direct election to find his successor was delayed and the country was without a president for several weeks. More than two candidates who were unable to register official bids, are petitioning the Constitutional Court over the legislation on direct elections, which could lead to postponing the vote in the second and third weeks of January. Mr Klaus reminded viewers that the country was without a president for more than six months in 1992 prior to the Czech and Slovak split, and for around six weeks prior to his own election.
Klaus says he no longer trusts new defence minister
President Václav Klaus said on Sunday that he has lost confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake after the new defence minister wasted no time introducing unexpected personnel changes. During her appointment on Wednesday, Mrs Peake said she was planning no major shake-up; but on her second day in the post, she dismissed first deputy minister Vlastimil Picek, who is a former chief of the general staff of the armed forces, and two others. Mr Klaus said that Prime Minister Petr Nečas had repeatedly assured him that the ministry’s top officials would remain in their posts to secure stability in the defence sector. The prime minister was himself caught off guard by Defence Minister Peake’s rapid move.
Five injured in accident at Prague theatre
At least five people (possibly six) were injured in an accident during a matinee performance at Prague’s Kalich Theatre on Saturday when a cable, holding actor Jan Kříž, snapped. The actor was injured when he fell into the seats, as well as four in the audience, two men and two women, one of them seriously. All five were treated in hospital. Reports say a six-year-old boy was also hurt but was taken home by his grandmother. The emergency services have appealed to the family to have a doctor look at the child. The spokesman for the theatre, Jaroslav Panenka, said the cable in question had been used in 200 performances prior to the accident. Police are investigating the incident and the cable itself will be assessed by experts. Attendees of the show received refunds while the evening performance was modified.
Police search for suspect who brutally raped woman outside metro
Police in Prague are searching for a suspect between the ages of 30 and 35 believed to have brutally raped a woman near Stodůlky metro at around 12 am on Thursday. Closed-circuit cameras in the metro captured his likeness, showing him repeatedly try to talk to the woman before following her out of the station. After she repeatedly turned down his advances, the perpetrator struck the victim, who had an elbow crutch, repeatedly in the head, before raping her. The victim suffered trauma to her head and is reportedly in poor condition mentally. Anyone with possible information has been asked to contact the police.
Press: Salačová cooperating with authorities in hopes of lesser sentence
Businesswoman Ivana Salačová, involved in a wider corruption case that brought down former regional Social Democrat governor David Rath, has provided key testimony in the hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence, Czech daily Lidové noviny reports. As a witness, Mrs Salačova has reportedly revealed how suspects operated to mask large bribes. In May of this year, former governor Rath was caught red-handed with seven million crowns in cash on his person. Ten others face prosecution in the case. Rath, formerly one of his party’s most prominent figures, is behind bars awaiting trial.
Vice chancellor slams late president ahead of anniversary
Petr Hájek, the controversial vice chancellor to current president Václav Klaus, has issued harsh criticism of the late Václav Havel, the playwright and former dissident and president, who died a year ago on December 18. In a TV interview, Mr Hájek indirectly compared the late president to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, suggesting that Mr Havel’s politics had been undemocratic and had favored a non-elected elite. In a recently-published book Mr Hájek slammed Václav Havel as having been “in the service of Satan”. The vice chancellor is no stranger to controversy: in the past he has questioned, for example, who was behind the 9/11 attacks. German daily Die Welt this week dubbed the vice chancellor “court jester” to outgoing president Václav Klaus.
Prague bridge, section of embankment, could be named after Havel
City councilors are weighing the possibility of renaming a Prague bridge or part of an embankment street after late President Václav Havel, Mlada fronta Dnes reports. According to the daily, part of Rašínovo nábřeži near where Mr Havel once had an apartment could be renamed in his honour. Councilor Lukáš Manhart told the paper the renaming was a possibility but provided few details. At least one other city councilor expressed support for the idea. Earlier this year Prague’s Ruzyně international airport was renamed after the late president.
Transport minister says new road should be alternative to the D1
New Transport Minister Zbyněk Stanjura has listed as a top priority for alternatives to be found to the Czech Republic’s “overused” major highway, the D1, connecting Bohemia and Moravia. His stressed as an alternative the building of a major road, the R35, as well rail “corridors”. The minister suggested that such a solution made more sense than adding lanes to the D1 and said such projects would help boost the economy. The D1 highway often comes under criticism for damaged routes and surfaces suffering heavy traffic and transport. Minister Stanjura made clear that any new projects would need to be carefully prepared to avoid unexpected jumps in costs, as was the case in the past.
Icy conditions complicate situation on Czech roads and city sidewalks
Icy conditions which intensified in areas around the country this week complicated the situation for countless motorists and pedestrians in the early hours of Saturday. According to the Czech news agency, ČTK, emergency services had registered 80 falls on icy Prague sidewalks alone by 1 pm on Saturday. Traffic accidents also increased, with some reporting that the municipal police were having trouble processing cases quickly due to the high number. Although temperatures have risen somewhat, motorists have been asked to exercise extreme caution due to the difficult conditions.
Ice a factor in fatal accidents
In related news, a driver was killed and his fellow passenger was seriously injured on Saturday on the road from Litvínov to Most. The driver apparently lost control of his vehicle on an icy patch and crashed into an electrical column for trolleybuses. He died at the scene.
In another accident, the father in a family of four was killed shortly 8 am after their car hit a tree in the area of Jindřichův Hradec. His wife and children suffered injuries and were taken to hospital for care.
Hockey: Czech squad crushed in 6:0 loss
The Czech hockey team suffered a debacle at the hands of Russia in their opening game in the second part of the Euro Jockey Tour, the Channel One Cup. The Czechs were soundly defeated by a score of 6:0; Russia’s Dajcuk got a hat-trick. The Czechs face Sweden next.
Infant dies after being attacked by family pit bull
An 18-month-old infant died on Friday after being savaged by his family’s dog at their home in Prague’s Žižkov district. The news website novinky.cz reported that the dog was a pit bull. The child’s mother is receiving specialist care. Neighbours said the animal had been vicious and attacked other dogs. The Czech police register several cases of dogs attacking children every year.
PM angered by changes at defence ministry, says Peake
The freshly installed minister of defence, Karolína Peake, says Prime Minister Petr Nečas reacted angrily to her dismissal of a number of senior Defence Ministry officials. Minister Peake told Czech Television that Mr. Nečas, who was in Brussels, had raised his voice during a phone conversation on Thursday. For his part, Mr. Nečas said she had no place making public their conversation. Among those the minister removed on her first full day in office was her first deputy, General Vlastimil Picek, a former chief of staff of the Czech Army. She said she believed top positions at the ministry should be filled by civilians. On Friday the opposition Social Democrats called for her resignation in a lower house debate.
Presidential candidates receive ballot numbers
The nine candidates standing in the Czech Republic’s first direct presidential elections have received their ballot numbers, following a draw by the State Election Commission on Friday. The vote will be held on the second and third weekends of January, with the two candidates who receive the most votes in the first round facing each other in the second. An opinion poll released on Thursday by the PPF Faktum agency suggested the front runner was Miloš Zeman, a former prime minister.
Speaker proposes use of mechanism to speed up approval of bills
The speaker of the Czech lower house, Miroslava Němcová, has proposed what is known as a state of legislative emergency, in a bid to push through certain pieces of legislation by the end of the year. If approved by the relevant committees, the mechanism will allow one bill on judges’ salaries and another on the sKarta social welfare payment system to be passed in a single reading. It was last employed two years ago to push through a raft of cost-cutting measures.
Poll: Paltry 6 percent of Czechs believe country headed in right direction
A paltry 6 percent of Czechs think their country is “going in the right direction”, suggests a poll published on Friday by the STEM agency. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in the survey said they felt the Czech Republic was going in the wrong direction, while 37 percent said it was not going in any direction. Two years ago a poll indicated that a third of the population thought the country was going in the right direction; the authors of the latest survey said the increased negative outlook was down to people’s strong disillusionment with conflicts in the government, corruption cases and fears of recession.
Prague councillors reject petition to salting of pavements in freezing weather
Prague councillors have rejected a call to end the sprinkling of salt on the capital’s pavements to keep them safe for pedestrians in freezing weather, saying it was the most cost-effective approach. However, they said salting the streets would only take place when conditions were particularly bad. A petition organised by the Green Party and an animal welfare group calling for the cessation of the practise was signed by over 1,000 people; they said it harmed dogs’ feet and destroyed building foundations and people’s shoes. Salting the streets was banned for many years but reintroduced at the start of 2012.
Most regular drinkers of spirits consumed hard alcohol during sales ban
A fifth of Czechs drank spirits during a two-week ban on the sale of hard alcohol in September, according to a survey conducted by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and a polling agency. Less than a third of regular drinkers of spirits refrained from consuming them during the ban, which was imposed following a wave of deaths caused by counterfeit liquors containing poisonous methanol. To date 38 people have died from drinking such bootleg spirits.
Horvath, 37, makes team of group stage in Europa League
The captain of Viktoria Plzeň, Pavel Horvath, has been named in the team of the group stage of the Europa League. The midfielder, who is 37, is the oldest player to score in European soccer’s second-tier competition. The former Czech international finds himself alongside the likes of Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Napoli striker Edinson Cavani in the all-star 11.
Bronze for Baumrtová first Czech medal from World Swimming Championships in near decade
Simona Baumrtová took bronze in the 100m backstroke at the World Swimming Championships in the Turkish capital Istanbul on Thursday, securing the Czech Republic’s first medal in the competition in nine years. The 21-year-old beat her own Czech record to come third in a time of 57:08 seconds. Last month she became the first Czech swimmer to bring home four medals from a single competition, the European Short Course Championship in France’s Chartres.
Peake fires three top officials after first day as minister
The newly appointed Defense Minister Karolína Peake (LIDEM) announced a number of personnel changes at the ministry on Thursday after officially taking up the post the day before. Ms Peake dismissed the first deputy defense minister, General Vlastimil Picek, the armaments director Pavel Bulant and an advisor. The new defense minister said that she has offered Mr Picek another position at the ministry, but added that she believes that top positions at the defense ministry should be occupied by civilians. Shadow Defense Minister Social Democrat Jan Hamáček criticized Peake for making major changes after announcing on Wednesday that she will not do so.
Court lets Bobošíková register as presidential candidate
The Supreme Administrative Court ruled on Thursday that the Interior Ministry should register Jana Bobošíková as a presidential candidate, after the ministry rejected her application earlier citing an inadequate number of verifiable signatures. The court rejected the appeals of Tomio Okamura and Vladimír Dlouhý whose applications for candidacy were also previously rejected. There are now nine candidates who will be vying for the presidential post in the January elections.
Students to protest Communists with a hunger strike
Sixteen students from high schools in České Budejovice will hold a 24-hour hunger strike early next week to protest the naming of the Communist Party member Vítězslava Baborová as the regional councilwoman for education in South Bohemia. Students and teachers in a number of South Bohemian cities held street protests against the regional government coalition between the Social Democrats and the Communists in November, and have met with the regional governor, Social Democrat Jiří Zimola. But the regional council has not responded to their demands to put an end to the coalition with the Communist Party. The students have said they will begin the hunger strike at 6 p.m. on Monday and will continue for 24-hours. A street protest is also scheduled for Tuesday in České Budejovice, which will coincide with the one-year anniversary of the death of former president and dissident Václav Havel.
Central vehicle registry collapses in a number of cities again
The central vehicle registry in Prague, as well as in Pardubice, Karvina, Kladno and Brno, has collapsed after the system was electronically connected to the government databases of people and property addresses. The vehicle registration system has had numerous functionality problems ever since it was launched this summer. The current outage means that the vehicle registration office is unable to complete most of the visitors’ requests. During this time of the year, 250 to 300 people go to the registration office daily. The former Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš was pressured to step down from his post due to problems with the central vehicle registry.
Czech Republic will not join the EU banking union
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that the Czech Republic will not join the European Banking Union, which was agreed on on Wednesday night by European heads of state. According to Mr Nečas’ statement, the Czech Republic has no reason to do so yet. Sweden, Poland and Hungary are also considering not joining the union at this point.
Vladimir Franz wins mock student presidential election
In a mock presidential election held at nearly 450 Czech secondary schools this week, Vladimír Franz received over 40 percent of the vote. Jan Fischer, a favourite in the polls ahead of January’s real presidential election, came in second with some 19 percent of the mock student vote, while Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg finished third with more than 14 percent. Party candidates – Civic Democrat Přemysl Sobotka and Social Democrat Jiří Dienstbier, finished last. Commentators believe the results reflect deep mistrust for political parties in the society. The mock election was organized by the human rights group People in Need to educate students and familiarize them with democratic elections.
Civic Democrats want to create study abroad scholarships for students
The Civic Democrats want to include a proposal to provide scholarships for Czech students to attend top universities abroad in the new coalition agreement. The Hospodařské noviny daily reported that according to the proposal the scholarships would be given to high achievers who will be interested in studying subjects that are useful for public administration. Experts estimate that the government could send up to five students a year to study abroad, which would cost around ten million crowns from the annual budget.
Zeman ahead in the polls for the first time
Results of a poll by the PPF Factum agency that were released on Thursday show Miloš Zeman as the leading presidential candidate, for the first time since January. According to the poll Mr Zeman would receive 25.6 percent of the vote, with Jan Fischer trailing closely behind with 25 percent. Mr Fischer was ahead in all the previous polls, but also by a relatively small margin. According to the current Factum poll, vice-chairman of the Social Democratic Party Jiří Dienstbier is in third place with 10.6 percent.
Photography exhibit presents all the Czech presidents
The Václav Lídl gallery in Prague’s Vinohrady opened an exhibit of photographs of Czech presidents, from Tomáš G. Masaryk to the current presidential race. The exhibit includes photographs by famous photographers and some taken by amateurs. In total, some 11 thousand pictures are on display at the gallery .
Czech Republic jumps by one slot in GDP ranking
The Czech Republic took 17th place among EU member countries in terms of its GDP per capita for last year, according to figures released by Eurostat. It improved by one place from the previous year, moving ahead of Greece. The Czech Republic has lower GDP per capita than three of the 12 newest EU member states – Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia.
Foreign Ministry condemns North Korean rocket launch
The Czech Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned Wednesday’s launch of a North Korean long-range missile. In a written statement, the ministry said the launch was a “provocative act” which was contrary to North Korea’s international obligations and which seriously violated a resolution by the UN Security Council. The ministry urged the country to immediately comply with all its international obligations and to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions.
North Korea launched its Unha-3 rocket at around 10 AM local time with the state objective of carrying satellite to orbit. However, the country is banned by a UN resolution from conducting missile tests.
President Klaus appoints new ministers to office
President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday appointed three new ministers to office within a planned cabinet reshuffle. The head of the Civic Democrats’ deputies group in the lower house Zbynek Stanjura took up the post of transport minister, while Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake now heads the defense ministry. Her place at the head of the government’s legislative council was filled by her deputy Petr Mlsna. There are plans to eventually merge the transport ministry with that of trade and industry which would be run by a Civic Democrat.
Finance minister: Czech veto of banking union no longer necessary
The Czech Republic might no longer insist on vetoing the eurozone’s planned banking union, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Wednesday. The Czech government opposes the plan over concerns it could rid the Czech central bank of its authority over foreign banks’ Czech subsidiaries. But Mr Kalousek said that if new legislation proposed by the EU legal service is approved, these concerns would no longer be justified and the Czech Republic would no longer be opposed the planned banking union. EU leaders are set to discuss the issue at a meeting in Brussels at the end of the week.
Judges’, prosecutors’ salaries under threat over legislative mishap
Judges and prosecutors might not be receiving salaries as of next month due to a legislative snag. The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday failed to approve legislation which would, among other things, introduce new rules for the calculation of salaries. MPs voted down the bill because it would also tax their benefits. The Czech government is set to discuss the situation later on Wednesday. The current system of remunerating judges and prosecutors has been abolished by the Czech Constitutional Court as of the end of the year.
MPs suggest changes to state budget
In a debate on the draft state budget for 2013 in the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday, MPs came up with proposals to move more than 10 billion crowns within the budget. If approved, the changes would raise teachers’ salaries and increase support for social services, sports, and other areas. Deputies also proposed to use some 500 million crowns, earmarked for the servicing of the state debt, for incentives for the film industry, an idea Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said was unfortunate. The final vote on the budget is scheduled for next week.
Czech population grows slightly in Q1-Q3
The population of the Czech Republic increased slightly over the first nine months of this year, according to the Czech Statistical office. At the end of September, the country had 10,513.209 inhabitants which was some 7,800 more than last December. The growth in population is mainly owed to immigration; some 6,200 foreigners settled in the Czech Republic between January and September which was 7,700 people less than in the same period last year.
First Russian Centre opens in Plzeň
The Russian Centre, an institution promoting the Russian language and culture, opened at West Bohemian University in Plzeň on Wednesday, the first such centre in the coutnry. Funded by a Moscow-based foundation, the centre plans to hold language course and organize lectures and debates. It will focus on students and teachers at the univeristy as well as on the general public, the university said. The region of west Bohemia has reportedly registered an increased interest in the Russian langauge. The region is also home to a large Russian-speaking community.
Police close neo-Nazi e-shop
The police in Most, in the north of the country, closed an online store selling neo-Nazi music, clothes, and other artefacts. The police said that two brothers, aged 30 and 33, set up the store in 2009. Some 2,000 items were confiscated during a search of their house, 70 percent of which were considered as illegal under the Czech law. If convicted, the men could receive 10-year prison sentences.
Opava-východ named country’s most beautiful train station
The station Opava-východ in the north east of the country won this year’s poll for the Czech Republic’s most beautiful train station. The recently renovated structure was built in 1851 in the style of late classicism. The top prizes for the most fairytale-like train station were awarded to the train stations of Nemilkov, in western Bohemia, and Mnichovice, outside Prague. Around 8,500 people took part in the poll.
Petr Čech wins mid-season poll for best Czech footballer
Chelsea FC and Czech international goalkeeper Petr Čech won the mid-season part of the Golden Ball poll among sports journalists for best Czech footballer. The 30-year-old Čech won the poll for the seventh time in a row. Werder Bremen’s defender Theo Gebre Selassie came in second in the poll, followed by Jablonec striker David Lafata.
PM announces details of cabinet reshuffle
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced the details of a planned cabinet reshuffle. The head of the Civic Democrats’ deputies group in the lower house Zbynek Stanjura is to take up the post of transport minister, while Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake will head the defense ministry. Her place at the head of the government’s legislative council is to be filled by her deputy Petr Mlsna. There are plans to eventually merge the transport ministry with that of trade and industry which would be run by a Civic Democrat. President Klaus is to appoint the new ministers on Wednesday.
Šumava wild boars still radioactive
The Šumava National Park says its population of wild boars is still contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster from 1986. Out of 44 wild boars shot during the hunting season 33 were found to contain high levels of the radioactive isotope caesium, most likely due to eating contaminated mushrooms in certain areas of the park. There are health regulations in place making it obligatory to test any game hunted on the park’s premises. The authorities say the contamination is such that the meat cannot serve as animal feed and the carcasses must be safely destroyed.
Škoda Auto unveils new Octavia model
The car maker Škoda Auto has unveiled a third-generation Octavia model. The company claims the new Octavia hatchback is longer and wider than its predecessor providing more interior space and an engine starting at 1.4TSI. The new Octavia is to be shown at the Geneva international motor show show and will go on sale in March of next year. Škoda Auto is hoping to sell more than 500,000 Octavia models a year making it one of the ten top-selling cars in the world.
Bleak labour market outlook for 2013
More Czech companies will lay off employees in the first quarter of 2013 than those planning to take on new staff according to a Manpower Labour Market Index poll conducted among 750 Czech firms. Only 3 percent of employers said they were hiring staff while 11 percent are planning lay-offs. 85 percent of respondents said they were not planning on significant changes in staff numbers. The report is the most pessimistic outlook in four years, a fact widely attributed to a fall in turnover due to dropping demand.
Antonie Hegerlíková dies at 89
Actress Antonie Hegerlíková, one of the last living stars from the golden era of Czech film, has died at the age of 89. In a career spanning over 70 years Hegerlíková starred in hundreds of theatre performances and appeared in over thirty films and TV series. She was unforgettable in the roles of Lady Mcbeth, Electra. Nora, Maryša and played a central figure in the long-running TV series F.L. Věk. In 2005 she received the Thalia award for her lifelong contribution to Czech theatre.
Qatar Airlines as yet uncertain over bid for ČSA
Qatar Airlines has said it is as yet undecided as to whether it wants to make a bid for shares in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA. The heard of Qatar Airlines Akbar Baker told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that his company was still studying the offer. The government is offering to sell a 96 percent stake to a European buyer; other airlines could only purchase a less than 50 percent stake in order to ensure that ČSA remains a national carrier. The Czech finance minister said last week that of the 50 airlines the Czech government had approached only two had expressed interest in the privatization of ČSA: Korean Air and Qatar Airlines. The Czech government made a previous unsuccessful attempt at selling off ČSA in 2009.
Inspectors intensify checks at open air markets
The country’s chief inspection office says it has intensified checks of food products at open air, farmers’ and Christmas markets ahead of the Christmas season. The most frequent transgressions are uncertified goods of unclear origin and products past their expiry date. Special attention is also being paid to adherence to the ban on spirits at open air markets in Prague. The inspection office says it has conducted over 1,500 inspections of food products at open air and farmers’ markets since the start of the year issuing over 200 fines to the tune of 1 million crowns.
Students doing better in international tests
Czech students have achieved above-average results in international tests conducted in 52 countries, the Czech education ministry said on Tuesday. The tests cover reading literacy, mathematics and science with Czech students placing 14th, 22nd and 8th in the respective subjects. Education Minister Petr Fiala said he was pleased with the result which was a significant improvement. The improvement is being attributed to the ongoing reform of the school system which allows schools greater freedom in planning their curricula and puts greater emphasis on creativity.
Snow, ice complicates situation on roads
Snowfall and icy conditions have continued to complicate the situation on Czech roads. Several roads on Tuesday morning were blocked or narrowed by slow-moving transport trucks. According to a police transport website visibility near Strakonice was less than 100 metres. Heavy snowfall in the area of Uherské Hradište left a three-kilometre stretch of road impassable; fog also complicated matters. Drivers have been warned to exercise extreme caution and not set out for the mountain regions without winter gear.
Eight dead of exposure
Sub-zero temperatures over the past four days have claimed eight lives. Shelters for the homeless are bursting at the seams and although efforts are being made to accommodate anyone who turns up many homeless people try to weather the night out in the open. Police officers in Prague are devoting special attention to localities where they gather and check up on them several times a day.
Main suspects in ‘Methanol Affair’ to remain behind bars
The district court in Zlín on Monday extended an earlier decision remanding three main suspects in the ‘Methanol Affair’ in custody. Two of the men - Rudolf Fian and accomplice Tomáš Křepela – are suspected of having concocted the deadly mix of enthanol and methyl alcohol that led to an outbreak of poisioning across the Czech Republic in mid-September. The third man, Jiří Vacula, was allegedly involved in passing the tainted product on to other distributors. The Zlín state prosecutor explained that if the suspects were released there was danger they could try and evade justice. The trio face between 12 to 20 years behind bars if found guilty. Thirty-eight people died of poisoning after the outbreak; the authorities have issued warnings ahead of the holiday season asking consumers not to drink any hard liquor of unknown origin ie. not containing new excise stamps. It is thought that some 5,000 litres of poisoned alcohol may still be in circulation on store shelves or in households.
Slovak president visits Prague weeks before anniversary of split
The Slovak president, Ivan Gašparovič, visited Prague on Monday. His arrival in the Czech capital came ahead of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia on January 1 1993. Mr. Gašparovič was expected to discuss developments since the split with his Czech counterpart, Václav Klaus, who received the Slovak head of state at Prague Castle. The two presidents agreed there were no painful or unresolved issues between the two states. Mr. Klaus is to visit Bratislava in February, a month before he steps down as Czech president.
Viewegh undergoes emergency operation
Bestselling author Michal Viewegh is recovering in hospital after suffering serious health complications at the weekend, news website idnes has reported. The 50-year-old writer, who was home alone on Saturday, called an ambulance after experiencing chest pains, the daily writes. In hospital, a doctor learned the author had suffered an apparently small tear to his aorta; similar conditions are often fatal. Mr Viewegh underwent an emergency four-hour emergency operation; his publisher Martin Reiner confirmed the author is in stable condition.
President: Czech absence in Oslo "not worth discussion"
Czech president Václav Klaus said on Monday that the Czech absence in Oslo at the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU was “not worth discussion”, saying if the media hadn’t drawn attention “nobody in Oslo would have noticed”. The European Union, as a body, was awarded the peace prize this year, a move that the Czech Republic’s euro sceptic president called a tragic mistake. Three top EU representatives, President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Oslo accepted the award on behalf of the EU. Representatives of a majority of member states also attended. Mr Klaus has maintained that the award makes sense when given to a person - not to an institution.
Communist show-trial prosecutor dead at 96
Former Communist-era prosecutor and judge, Karel Vaš, a key figure in show trials in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Czechoslovakia, is dead at 96. The news website iDnes was the first to report the story. After 1989, the former judge was charged with, as the main prosecutor, having contributed to the judicial murder of General Heliodor Píka in 1949; he was never punished as the case fell under the statute of limitations.
The police labelled the trial of Píka (a representative of the anti-Nazi resistance) a judicial farce. An investigation found that a fake document was added to General Píka’s file ‘proving’ he had worked for British intelligence. Karel Vaš joined the Communist Party at the age of 17 and became a prosecutor and judge after the Communists assumed power in Czechoslovakia in 1948.
Cold spell kills seven
A cold spell in the Czech Republic, with temperatures dropping well below zero, claimed seven lives since Friday. Five of the victims, who died from exposure, were from Moravia and two were from Bohemia, the majority of them believed to be homeless. The latest victim, a man, was found at 4 am on Monday near a bridge in Ostrava. An autopsy has been ordered. The homeless community is the most at risk section of society in freezing temperatures and shelters in various parts of the country have reported being filled to capacity. Sunday night was the coldest so far, with temperatures in places falling to -12 and even -20 degrees Celsius.
Twelve people arrested for involvement in car theft and falsification of documents
Twelve people, including three civil servants in the department of transport at the town hall in Kolín, central Bohemia, were arrested last week on suspicion of having legalised, on at least 44 counts, vehicles or parts from cars, stolen in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Two of the three civil servants have been remanded in custody. The police believe the system was facilitated by the three at city hall, in return for bribes. Those arrested, if found guilty, could face up to 10 years in prison. The police say the ring of suspects could still be broadened.
Poll puts opposition parties in front
A second opinion poll released over the last week or so has suggested that if the national election were held today, the opposition Social Democrats and Communist Party would come in first and second, with the head of the current coalition, the Civic Democratic Party finishing third. According to the poll, conducted by ppm factum, the Social Democrats would secure 25.6 percent of the vote, the Communists 16.3 percent, and the right-of-centre Civic Democrats 15.7. The two opposition parties would win a combined total of 112 – a more than comfortable majority in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.
The survey suggests that three other parties would make it into the lower house: TOP 09 (10.5 percent), the Christian Democrats (6.4) and Zemanovci (5.7).
Gabriel tickets to go on sale Thursday
Organisers have confirmed that British rock musician Peter Gabriel will perform in Prague next October. The musician is going on tour performing material in its entirety from his acclaimed album So – 25 years after the original record was released. Petr Novák of Live Nation, organising the Prague concert, said tickets for the show will go on sale on December 13th, ranging in price from 1,090 to 1990 crowns. Peter Gabriel’s solo career began after he departed from Genesis; other highly-regarded albums include 1980’s Melt and 1982’s Security, which featured the hit song Shock the Monkey.
Zoo to receive millions, aims to build new parrot pavilion
City councillors are to decide on the future of 10 million crowns as well as around 50 million crowns worth of property left to Prague Zoo by 81-year-old Stanislav Rákos, who died in September. The zoo would like to use the cash funds donated to build a new pavilion for large parrots (birds the late donor loved). City councillor Helena Chudomelová told the Czech news agency she saw no reason why the donation should not be approved, saying such gestures were once in a lifetime