The Prague Municipal Court has issued a preliminary ban against a nationwide strike by the transport unions which had been set for Monday. On Saturday, the court ruled that organisers – who hoped to protest the government’s planned reforms by paralysing public transport in the capital and other major towns - failed to give due warning. Under the law, the strike had to be announced at least three days in advance, allowing for appropriate steps to be taken to lessen damages. Union representatives received copies of the decision as they arrived for last-minute negotiations with the centre-right government. The talks, consequently, did not take place.
In response union leaders criticised the government for petitioning the court and have so far warned that the strike will go ahead. If it does, it is expected to paralyse public transport in Prague, Brno and other major towns and cities, as well as on the country’s railways and at points on a number of key routes. Under the court ruling, however, the unions can be held accountable for resulting damages and the prime minister has warned they will be. Union lawyers are examining the decision and an announcement by the strike committee is expected on Sunday.
The chairman of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, an organisation representing Sudeten Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II, has called on President Václav Klaus to apologise for injustices committed by Czechs against ethnic Germans in the period after the war. In a speech in Augsburg on Saturday the organisation’s Franz Pany highlighted Queen Elizabeth II’s recent visit to Ireland, where the monarch spoke of a regrettable past between Britain and Ireland and offered her deepest sympathies. The Landsmannschaft head questioned why such a move, as he saw it, had not been taken by Prague. Some 2.5 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war under the Beneš decrees. Prague considers the issue of the decrees long addressed and a closed chapter in the nations’ shared history.
In related news, Anděla Dvořáková, the chairwoman of an organisation representing Czech freedom fighters, criticised the government on Saturday for taking too accommodating a stance to Sudeten German organisations. She charged that apologies to Germans were continually being asked of the Czechs, while they themselves – in her view – “received none”. She made the statement during a speech at a ceremony marking 69 years since the destruction of the village of Lidice – razed to the ground by the Nazis on June 10, 1942. Its destruction was revenge for the assassination of the acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, the ‘Hangman of Bohemia’, by Czech patriots. All the men in the village and boys over the age of 15 were shot, while the women and many of the children were sent to concentration camps.
Thirty-four Prague museums and galleries will take part on Saturday in the eighth annual Prague Museum Night, offering free admission from 7 pm until 1 am. The evening will offer visitors not only a chance to view permanent exhibits but also accompanying events both for children and adults. These include performances such as a jazz concert as Vítkov hill or a fencing show, complete with pyrotechnical effects. This year the National Museum remains closed as it is under renovation. Special transport, also free of charge, is being provided. The highly-popular event saw 180,000 visitors last year.
The Czech hard rock group Wanastowi Vjeci, led by sole remaining band member Robert Kodym, has begun performing again after a hiatus. On Friday the band played Prague’s Mlejn club with around 300 in attendance. The evening saw some of the band’s best-known hits performed but also a number of songs by Lucie, of which Kodym was a key member in the 1990s. Both bands, following the Velvet Revolution, left a major mark on the Czech music scene. Mr Kodym said that in the past Wanastowi Vjeci was a side project but stressed that the band for him would now be front and centre. The rock group, in a new line-up that includes Radek Havlíček on bass, is currently working on a new album.
A 56-year-old man was killed early on Saturday morning when the hang glider he was piloting crashed in Syrovice near Brno. The accident took place at 8 am. The glider crashed in a local field. Rescue workers, in an ambulance and helicopter, arrived quickly at the scene but could do little for the pilot. The cause of the accident was not reported.
Czech transport unions have called a day-long nationwide strike on Monday expected to paralyze public transport in Prague, Brno and other cities and towns. The country’s railways will also be affected. No trains, busses, or trams in the capital are expected to run. Blockades have also been planned on the D1 motorway and other major routes. The announcement on Friday followed a last-minute meeting between the unions and the finance minister a day earlier. The strike is aimed against the government’s reforms, including changes to health care and an overhaul of the country’s pension system. It is not clear how many union members will take part. It is set to begin in the early hours of Monday.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas, meanwhile, responded to the unions on Friday by saying the government will not budge in the face of protests which he said took citizens hostage. He did say the government was prepared to discuss some parameters of the reforms. In a statement released by the Office of the President, President Václav Klaus also criticised the move by the unions, calling it “political blackmail”.
In related news, the country’s police have made clear they will be out in force on Monday to try and maintain the flow of traffic despite plans by the miner’s union – which is joining the strike – to block key motorways and inter-city routes. The police will also try and maintain order if situations become heated. Because Monday is a regular work day the force has said it will begin implementing necessary steps a day earlier. Sunday regularly sees heightened traffic as weekenders return home. During the strike, the police will be relying on the force’s helicopters to also help monitor developments.
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