Prime Minister Petr Nečas, senior parliament officials and cultural figures on Thursday attended a commemorative event at Czech Radio marking the 66th anniversary of the start of the Prague Uprising. Officials recalled that turbulent period of Czech history and laid wreaths in front of the station’s main building under a plaque bearing the names of those who lost their lives defending Czech Radio. On the morning of May 5, 1945, Czech Radio called on Prague citizens to rise up against the Nazi occupiers, four days before Soviet troops liberated the city. During a battle for control of the station around 90 people were killed. Around the city, some 30,000 people took part in the uprising, of which over 1,600 died. A number of other commemorative events are taking place elsewhere in the city.
Speaking at a conference marking the 60th anniversary of RFE broadcasts to Czechoslovakia, Prime Minister Petr Nečas highlighted the station’s role in toppling communism in central and Eastern Europe. He said that RFE had torn down the information barrier erected by the communist regime and served as a beacon of light, raising public awareness of democratic values and providing truthful information about what was happening behind the Iron Curtain. The conference opened with RFE’s familiar signature tune and the voice of announcer Ferdinand Peroutka who was among those who first addressed Czechs and Slovaks over the airwaves on May1st, 1951.
Czech Radio is marking the 60th anniversary of the launch of Radio Free Europe broadcasts with a series of special events held in cooperation with RFE, Charles University, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Czech Senate. The events, which cover the stations 60-year-long history, will be attended by former RFE journalists who were with the station from the outset, broadcasting from its headquarters in Munich. The public has been invited to attend workshops and lectures on freedom of speech and the role of Radio Free Europe in helping to topple the communist regime in central and Eastern Europe. Other events include an exhibition entitled “Freely” on the grounds of the Czech Senate and a concert by Czech Radio’s Symphonic Orchestra. On Wednesday a mass was celebrated in St. Ludmila’s Church in Prague in memory of deceased RFE employees.
The head of the Šumava National Park is reported to have ordered the use of powerful insecticides to fight bark-beetle infestation without permission. The Environmental organization Friends of the Earth alerted the authorities to the problem highlighting the danger to other insects as well as to frogs and birds which feed on them. The insecticides were reportedly used in no-intervention zones with which man should not interfere. The Czech Inspectorate for Environmental Protection says the claims have been confirmed and the park management may receive a fine of up to one million crowns. The park’s management is pushing for radical measures in the fight against the bark beetle and was recently disappointed when the Environment minister refused to authorize massive logging, allowing only manual felling of trees which must be left to lie.
The Czech military has grounded its CASA transport planes due to a technical defect that was revealed after one of the planes ran into trouble on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the military’s general staff said a team of experts were investigating the cause of the defect. The CASA planes which the army purchased in view of their possible deployment in Afghanistan where Czech soldiers are taking part in the ISAF peacekeeping mission have been a disappointment. This is the third technical problem revealed since the beginning of the year and plans to deploy the aircraft in Afghanistan had to be put off after it emerged that the anti-missile protection system supplied by the Czech firm Omnipol was not functioning properly. Omnipol has asked for the postponement of the deadline by which it was to solve the problem from late April to mid-June.
The Czech National Bank said Thursday it had revised its growth forecast for 2011-2012 down on austerity measures planned by the centre-right cabinet, and kept interest rates steady at record-low levels. The bank now predicts GDP will grow by 1.5 percent this year against a previously forecast 1.6 percent, and by 2.8 percent in 2012 instead of 3.0 percent. The centre-right government said last month it would pin its future on badly-needed health and pension reforms accompanied by spending cuts designed to bring the county's public finances back on track. The Finance Ministry predicts the Czech economy to grow by 1.9 percent this year and by 2.3 percent in 2012.
Civic Democrat deputies in the lower house will elect a new deputies’ group leader next Wednesday. The group’s long-time leader Petr Tluchoř is unlikely to defend his post after coming under severe criticism for his role in the recent government crisis. A proposal to replace him immediately was recently shelved but the party has brought forward the term of elections to the post, originally planned for June. It is not yet clear who will challenge him for the post.
One in three Czechs say they would not want a Romany as their next door neighbor, mainly because they regard them as noisy and problematic, according to the results of an opinion survey conducted by the STEM polling agency. Respondents also expressed reservations with regard to Arabs and Chechens, for fear of terrorism, while they are gradually coming to accept Vietnamese and Chinese nationals as quiet and problem-free neighbours. STEM, which conducts these polls regularly, says mistrust of some foreigners remains high though Czechs are gradually getting used to a multi-cultural society.
A bout of cold weather during which night time temperatures dropped to minus 13 degrees in places is said to have seriously damaged orchards around the country. Farmers predict a lower fruit harvest this year with pear and cherry trees having suffered the most damage. Meteorologists say that the night frosts are the worst in thirty-six years.
The reigning world champions Czech Republic beat Finland 2-1 in their final preliminary match in Group D on Wednesday evening, at the world championships in ice hockey in Slovakia. Milan Michalek and Jaromír Jágr both scored for the Czechs, who had to fight off a number of power plays by the Finnish squad. Goalie Ondřej Pavalec almost earned his second consecutive shutout. He allowed a goal only in the final minute, after the Finns had pulled their goalie to allow an extra man on the ice. The Czech team finished top in Group D with full points and will play Slovakia on Friday.
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