Prague City Hall has drastically cut the amount of money allocated for a publicity campaign to become an official candidate country to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The initial budget of 100 million crowns has been slashed to just over 14 million crowns by Prague City Hall. The move fuels speculation that Prague’s hopes of hosting the Olympics are slim at best. The official candidate countries will be chosen in June, but the mayor of Prague Pavel Bém has publicly conceded that a European city is unlikely to be offered the Games. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized the apparent U-turn stating that the government should stick to a commitment that it previously made to support the 2016 campaign.
Miroslav Grebeníček, the predecessor to current Czech communist party leader Vojtěch Filip could return to his former position as leader of the party, according to reports. Grebeníček, who led the party between 1991-2005, has been nominated as a potential candidate in the party’s leadership vote which takes place between 17-18 April in the Czech town of Hradec Králové. Grebeníček is seen as a hardliner, whereas his successor Vojtěch Filip is viewed as being more moderate. The party has seen internal division in recent months about its future direction, which increased following the re-election of President Klaus in February. Official candidates for the leadership include Mr Filip, MP Stanislav Grospič and Euro MP Miloslav Ransdorf.
Former presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has announced that he will not be running for a senate seat in the near future. Mr Švejnar has been the subject of heated debate about a potential political career in the Czech Republic ever since his presidential run in February. Most recently, Mr Švejnar, who resides in Michigan, had been mulling a senate run, something which he has now decided against.
The parents of a pair of baby girls who were accidentally switched at birth in a hospital in the Czech town of Třebič are undertaking a fight for compensation. Lawyers representing the parents of one of the children are demanding compensation which totals 12 million crowns from the hospital involved. The children in the case were only reunited with their biological parents ten months after they were born.
A new poll by the STEM polling agency gives the Social Democrats a more than seven point lead over the ruling Civic Democrat party. The poll gives the Social Democrats 31.2%, the Civic Democrats 23.4% and the communists 11.3%. The poll not only gives cause for concern to the ruling party, but also key coalition partner the Christian Democrats, who only poll at 5.5%. The other coalition member, the Greens, fare relatively well with 9.2%. STEM polls have had the Social Democrats leading against their Civic Democrat rivals since November 2007.
The Ministry of Culture has announced that the southern Bohemian town of Jindřichův Hradec is its “historical town of 2007.” The award is given to towns that demonstrate an extraordinary dedication to the preservation of their cultural and architectural heritage. Runners up in the competition were the towns of Šternberk and Uherské Hradiště. The winner was announced at Prague castle today and will receive a million crown award.
The Czech defence ministry denied on Tuesday that it was seeking help from the United States to modernize its armed forces in return for it hosting an anti-missile radar. Public broadcaster Czech Television reported on Monday, citing a deputy defence minister, that Prague was seeking Washington’s help to acquire two mid-range tactical transport planes and improve its air defences, possibly with Patriot missiles. Deputy defence minister Martín Barták said in front of the cameras that Prague had asked the US for cooperation in the acquisition of two mid-range tactical transport planes, a request which he said would be raised within the framework of anti-missile defence negotiations. But on Tuesday, the defence ministry said there had been a misunderstanding. The US could help in some way with obtaining Hercules aircraft, a spokesman said to AFP, but he denied that this would be linked in with talks about hosting the radar system.
The graves of over 320 Holocaust victims have been desecrated on the site of a former concentration camp in Terezín, Northern Bohemia. The bronze name plates of 327 victims of the Holocaust have been stolen in an attack which appears not to have been an act of anti-Semitism, but of theft. According to the news website Novinky.cz, the theft happened last week, and on Tuesday, the local police appealed for witnesses to come forward. The cemetery is not monitored by surveillance camera, but instead by regular police patrols. Those responsible, if caught, could face up to eight years in prison.
The minister for human rights and minorities Džamila Stehlíková is in hot water after making comments which have offended members of the country’s Roma population. In an interview for a local paper, Mrs Stehlíková said that the Czech Roma minority were prone to disrespect the property in which they lived, because they had not had to work for it. She was also quoted as saying that in the cases of Romany children underperforming at school, it was the parents who should be blamed, as they sent their children out to steal and not to learn. Mrs Stehlíková said that her comments had been misconstrued and that she was asked questions which set her up to answer in such a manner. She stressed that she did not think this was the case in all Roma households and apologized for sounding as if she was making generalizations.
The editors in chief of five of the Czech Republic’s biggest newspapers have sent a joint letter to Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič, calling on him not to sign a controversial press law recently passed by the Slovak parliament. Last week Slovakia’s seven leading dailies published a blank front page in protest against the law, which guarantees those who feel they have been slandered or defamed the right to reply within the offending paper. In the letter of protest, editors of five leading Czech publications said that this was pushing an individual’s right to reply to absurd lengths. The law has also been criticized elsewhere in the foreign media and by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Many fear that Slovak newspapers, which will be fined should they refuse to print the response to their article, will become cluttered up with individuals’ reactions and therefore difficult to read. The law will come into effect when it is officially signed by President Ivan Gašparovič.