Railway and municipal transportation in the Czech Republic came to a near standstill on Thursday due to a nationwide strike protesting government reforms. The 24-hour strike, which began at midnight Wednesday, closed Prague’s metro system for the first time ever; however, some bus and tram routes remain in operation after the Prague City Transit Authority reached a deal with unions to allow drivers who wish to work to do so. Limited municipal transit is also operating in other cities. The national railway service was completely paralysed; the government dispatched 150 army buses and drivers to cover a small number of routes. The strike is to end at midnight.
No major complications have been reported in Prague, Brno and other major Czech cities on Thursday as many people cycled or walked to work while others stayed at home or left cities ahead of time. No traffic jams have been registered in the capital as most city streets are unusually quiet. Prague’s Ruzyně international airport is handling all departures and arrivals according to schedule and has organized a shuttle bus service from city centre. Hospitals in Prague are also fully operational. Several banks closed some of the branches in the city but most have remained open for business.
Around 1,000 trade union members and their supporters staged a march through the centre of Prague on Thursday. On their way to the seat of the government, the protestors stopped at the Finance Ministry and threw tomatoes at Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek who came out to talk to them. Addressing the rally, union leaders criticized the government’s reforms for being socially insensitive and for failing to tackle corruption. The head of the transportation workers’ union, Luboš Pomajbík, said the strike was a great success as few tram and bus drivers went to work on Thursday. Police have detained a man without a valid ID and a woman who reportedly attacked a member of the police anti-conflict team.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Thursday that his government was ready to negotiate with the trade unions about changes to the individual reform steps but would continue implementing systemic reforms. Mr Nečas also said the strike only caused financial losses and increased political tension in the country, adding it was a victory for the Czech people who coped well with the transport limitations imposed on them by the trade unions. For their part, trade union leaders said the strike was a great success, particularly for the employees of Czech Railways who stopped trains across the country for the whole 24 hours.
The lower house of Parliament passed a motion on Thursday calling on Prime Minister Petr Nečas to dismiss Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra over his role in a scandal related to the country’s 2009 EU presidency. Mr Vondra, who oversaw the organization of the presidency in his former role as minister for EU affairs, is blamed for wasting around 350 million crowns of public money on overpriced audio-visual services. Mr Vondra told MPs at Thursday’s special session of the lower house that he saw no “fatal failure” in the organization of the presidency. The motion, which is not binding for the prime minister, was passed with votes of opposition MPs. Deputies from the coalition TOP 09 and Public Affairs parties abstained from the vote; however, they effectively enabled the session to go ahead.
The Czech government’s refusal to host part of the US early warning system is a success for Russia, the country’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told the news agency Interfax on Thursday. Mr Rogozin said the Czech decision was 50 percent a result of Russian diplomacy and the other 50 percent the result of an overall change to the planned US system in Europe. Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra announced the decision after meeting with US Deputy Secretary of Defence William Lynn in Prague on Wednesday; Mr Vondra said the Czech Republic would not look for other ways to participate in the system.
The number of direct foreign investment projects in the Czech Republic increased last year by 16 percent, according to a survey by the consultancy firm Ernst & Young released on Thursday. In 2010, there were 71 such investments projects in the Czech Republic, placing the country 14th among other European nations. Ernst & Young’s Magdalena Souček said good infrastructure and qualified workforce continued to attract investors. The Czech government’s CzechInvest agency last year intermediated foreign investments of around 16.2 billion crowns, mainly in the country’s manufacturing and IT sectors.
Czech model Alena Šeredová and Italian footballer Gianluigi Buffon were married in a Prague church on Thursdaym after a six-year relationship. The couple was originally planning to tie the knot at St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle but the transport strike forced them to relocate the ceremony to a church in the Vyšehrad neighbourhood. Ms Šeredová, who came in fourth in the 1998 Miss World pageant, met the Juventus Torino and Italian national football team goalkeeper in 2005. They have two sons, aged two and four.
A newlywed couple was shocked to find a metre-long python regius in the toilet of their home in the western city of Karlovy Vary on Thursday, upon their return from their honeymoon, a police spokeswoman said. The couple called the police which sent a patrol to the apartment; one of the police officers caught the non-venomous snake, the spokeswoman said. The reptile had reportedly gone missing from the next door apartment a year ago; its owner apologized to the newlyweds and offered them compensation.
The Boston Bruins, with Czechs David Krejčí and Tomáš Kaberle, won the Stanley Cup after beating the Vancouver Canucks 4:0 in the seventh game of the final series on Wednesday. Defenseman Tomáš Kaberle won the cup five years after his older brother František who triumphed with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. With 12 goals and 11 assists, the 25-year-old forward David Krejčí became the NHL playoffs leading scorer, as the first Czech in the league’s history.
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