More than fifty percent of Czechs believe that the European Union should have a common constitution, according to a recent poll carried out by the CVVM polling agency. Six out of ten respondents said that a referendum should decide on the approval of the EU constitution in the Czech Republic and an absolute majority of respondents said that they were not informed about the content of the European constitution at all. The new government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek announced that the ratification of the EU Constitution was its top priority.
The Czech football club Bohemians Prague have been saved from bankruptcy, team representatives announced on Monday. The club was stripped of its professional licence and knocked out of the second football league several weeks ago because of crippling debts. At a news conference on Monday representatives of the recently-formed AFK Vrsovice company said they had taken over the club. According to the club's website, British company New Europe Entrepreneurs Counsellors is the full owner of AFK. Bohemians, who were founded in 1905, won the Czech title in 1983 and in the same year reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup.
The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the chairman of the lower house, Lubomir Zaoralek and other top officials have unveiled a statue of the second Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes in front the Foreign Ministry at Prague Castle. Mr Zaoralek said that President Benes stood at the birth of democratic Czechoslovakia and stood firmly on the side of those who fought Nazism. Mr Zaoralek also dismissed criticism of President Benes coming from some Sudeten German groups. For example, Bavaria's state premier Edmund Stoiber said at the weekend's meeting of the Sudeten German Landsmanschaft that the unveiling of President Benes's statue was a provocation. Mr Stoiber again criticized the so called Benes decrees which formed a legal basis for the expulsion of over 2.5 million Sudeten Germans from post war Czechoslovakia.
Around 2,000 Czech war veterans have been awarded by the Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War, as WWII is called in Russia. The Russian General Consul in Brno Viktor Sibilev said the awarded Czech veterans had fought in the Red Army or in partisan resistance units. The Russian diplomat, who on Monday presented the medals to 44 veterans from the eastern Vysocina region, said Russia had been putting together the list since November.
A crowd of around 20,000 ice hockey fans welcomed the Czech ice hockey team who arrived in Prague on Monday afternoon after winning the Ice Hockey World Championships in Vienna on Sunday. The Czech team beat the Canadians 3:0, breaking Canada's bid to win a third consecutive championship. The win handed Czechs their fifth title in ten years. Vaclav Prospal opened the scoring in the first period, while Martin Rucinsky scored in the 2nd, and Josef Vasicek added an empty-netter in the final seconds of the game.
Bavaria's state premier Edmund Stoiber has criticized the so called Benes decrees which formed a legal basis for the expulsion of over 2.5 million Sudeten Germans from post war Czechoslovakia. Speaking at a meeting of the Sudeten German Landsmanshaft, an association of expellees, Mr. Stoiber said the wrongs of the expulsion had not been righted and that Europe had missed a unique chance to resolve the sensitive issue on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. The Czech Republic has refused to revoke the Benes decrees on the grounds that they are part of a larger post-war settlement package adopted as a result of the outcome of the war.
A very special ceremony took place on Prague's Charles Bridge over the weekend. The deputy mayor of Prague Jan Burgermeister inserted a casket containing a message to future generations into the ninth pillar of Charles Bridge. The casket contains basic information about the Czech capital, its history and its inhabitants in the year 2005. There is a map, a film about Prague on DVD, a copy of the Constitution, the Czech currency in coins and banknotes and other memorabilia. "I cannot help wondering who will find this, in how many centuries from now and what the world will be like then," Mr. Burgermeister told journalists. Many Prague churches, spires and pillars allegedly contain "messages to future generations".
Over 800 politicians, cultural figures, war veterans and members of the public attended a commemorative gathering at Terezin, the former Nazi concentration camp for Jews. Of the 140, 000 people who were interned at Terezin between 1940 and 1945, 33,000 died and 87,000 were transported to Nazi death camps elsewhere. Of those 15,000 were children. They came from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Holland and Denmark. Speakers at the commemorative gathering recalled the horrors of Terezin and stressed that everything must be done to ensure that history would not repeat itself.
The Czech Dentists association says that patients should have a greater share in covering the cost of treatment. At present patients pay for only 20 percent of treatment directly, the rest is covered by health insurance companies. Czech dentists would like patients to cover at least 40 percent of the cost, arguing that in most EU states up to 60 percent of dental care is covered directly by the patient. This would require a change of legislation which the present government, in particular health minister Milada Emmerova is not inclined to support.
Over one hundred members of the ruling Social Democratic Party met in Prague on Saturday to establish a leftist faction within the party and agree on forms of cooperation. Among the founders of the leftist faction are Jan Kavan and Vladimir Lastuvka, two rebellious back-benchers who threatened to withhold their support for the coalition government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek just two weeks ago. Mr. Kavan said the leftist faction did not aim to destabilize or break up the party, but rather to deepen party democracy and make sure that the Social Democrats remain true to their policy programme. No reforms at the expense of the poor, Mr. Kavan told the press.