Foreign Minister Jan Kohout has announced that both Saturday and Sunday will be days of national mourning in honor of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and other Polish officials killed in Saturday’s plane crash. Mr. Kohout said on Tuesday that Czech national flags on all official buildings will be drawn at half-mast and added that a minute of silence will be held on Saturday before noon. The government also encouraged mayors across the country to fly flags in their towns and cities at half-mast. Organizers of public, cultural and sports events should hold a minute of silence at the start of such events, Mr. Kohout said. Poland’s official mourning ceremony will be held in Warsaw on Saturday at noon. The funeral of the president and his wife will take place on Sunday in Krakow. Czech President Václav Klaus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be in attendance, US President Barrack Obama’s attendance has not been confirmed by the White House yet.
In related news, Czech President Václav Klaus signed a list of condolences at Prague’s Polish embassy on Tuesday. The president said that the sense of loss and the public’s awareness of the gravity of Saturday’s events have grown even stronger in the past few days. The head of the senate, Přemysl Sobotka, diplomats working at other embassies in the Czech capital and hundreds of Prague residents have signed the list of condolences so far. Many people placed flowers and candles in front of the embassy to commemorate the victims of Saturday’s plane crash.
The Civic Democrats have officially charged Petr Nečas with heading the party until the next party conference to be held after the May general elections. At a meeting of the party’s executive council on Tuesday, the former party leader Mírek Topolánek failed to have two other senior members of the party, election campaign manager Ivan Langer and Prague mayor Pavel Bém, removed from the party’s list of candidates. Both have received negative publicity in connection with possible links to organized crime. Mr. Langer said on Tuesday that the party’s difficult pre-election period had ended and that a hot new election campaign would start this Thursday. Mr. Topolánek was forced to step down from his post in March, after he alienated party members with scandalous remarks made during an interview.
Jan Kohout, the Czech foreign minister, will travel to the Vatican on April 28. Mr. Kohout discussed the trip and relations between the Czech state and the Catholic Church with the new archbishop of Prague, Dominik Duka, on Tuesday. The Czech Republic is the only EU member state that has not yet signed a treaty with the Vatican. On a visit to the Vatican in November, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said that his caretaker cabinet would not be able to resolve the issue. Mr. Fischer said that this was the task of the government that will be formed after the general elections this May.
The supervising board of Czech Airlines has approved a plan meant to restructure the company over the next three years. A spokeswoman for Czech Airlines said on Tuesday that the company would undergo an organizational shake-up and would gradually change into a holding company. The new restructuring plan is now pending approval of the Ministry of Finance and will be discussed by the Czech government in late April. The European Commission is currently investigating if a loan of 2.5 billion Czech crowns given to Czech Airlines by the state company Osinek was a form of illegal state aid.
A new center devoted to cancer research will open within the oncology department of Brno’s Masaryk hospital. The cost for the new research center will amount to about 330 million Czech crowns, a third of that will go into renovating the space where it will be located, a spokesman for the hospital said on Tuesday. The project is financed by EU funds. It will focus on researching various types of cancer such as breast cancer, skin cancer and intestinal cancer and will seek to develop new forms of treatment that are tailor-made for individual patients.
Czech soldiers will be helping to provide security in Estonia on the occasion of an informal meeting of NATO member states’ foreign ministers. The 22 Czech soldiers, who are all members of the army’s biological and nuclear specialists unit, will be traveling to Estonia on Sunday, ahead of the summit which is to take place in Tallinn on April 22 and 23. The Czech experts will be checking the location of the NATO meeting for poisonous and nuclear substances. In the past, Czech soldiers have worked in security and anti-terrorism units at numerous international events, such as the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and NATO summits across Europe.
A special team of Czech and Austrian police officers, who have been collaborating in the border areas since 2009, has uncovered 130 cases of crime so far. A spokesman for the Czech police said on Tuesday that 20 perpetrators, who caused a total of 2.5 million Czech crowns in damages, were arrested by the team in 2009. Theft and burglary accounted for the majority of criminal acts committed by Czechs in Austria. Austrian citizens arrested in the Czech Republic most often were charged with drug crimes and fraud. The biggest success of the special police team was the arrest of two men who burgled a number houses and apartments in the Czech Republic and Austria, causing damages of about 1.5 million Czech crowns.
Czech Radio says it will no longer accept information for its traffic reports from a driver accused of deliberately causing a motorway accident. The motorist, who is 44, stands to go to jail for between five to 12 years after his Škoda Superb was recorded forcing another car off a Czech motorway last month. The second vehicle, a Mazda, turned over several times, though its driver escaped unhurt. The Superb driver then alerted the emergency services to the fact an accident had occurred. The man had contributed information on the situation on the roads to Czech Radio’s Green Wave traffic news; the station said that was particularly unfortunate as its service was based on solidarity and helping other drivers.
The Moravian Bzenec winery won a prestigious award at the international wine competition Vinitaly, held in the Italian city of Verona. The winery, which received a prize for best rosé at Vinitaly three years ago, received the Premio Speciale award for best overall collection submitted this year. A spokesman for the Czech National Wine Center said on Tuesday that the prize highlighted the superior quality of all wines produced by the Bzenec winery, not just of one individual product. A total of 56 wines from 22 wineries in the Czech Republic competed at Vinitaly this year, 16 took home awards.
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