Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has rejected claims that his ruling Civic Democratic party had betrayed its policy programme. Speaking at a weekend party conference devoted to policy matters, the prime minister said the Civic Democrats had not lost sight of their goal, although they had had to modify their plans in order to accommodate their partners in government. Mr. Topolánek said that in his view the goal justified the means and that his party was determined to fulfil its goal. He said that if his party won the next general elections he would guarantee that in ten years' time the Czech Republic would figure among the top ten EU countries.
Two dozen Czech followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong on Saturday gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Prague to stage a peaceful protest against human rights abuse in China. Petr Šváb, one of the organizers of the event, said that Falun Gong was planning to step up its awareness campaign in the run up to the Olympic Games in Beijing. He said Falun Gong had proof of at least 2,000 arrests of political activists in China since the beginning of last year and of over 100 people dying in labour camps or being tortured to death. Šváb said the Chinese regime had two faces –one which it showed to the world and another to its own people.
Prague mayor Pavel Bém has rejected claims that town hall officials have proposed Vyšehrad as an alternative site for Jan Kaplický’s controversial design for the Czech National Library. The mayor’s statement came in response to an article in Saturday’s Lidové noviny which said that Prague councillors and the National Library’s management have discussed the possibility of building the so-called Octupus in Prague’s Vyšehrad district, close to the Prague Congress Centre. The futuristic purple-and-gold design for a new National Library, which was to have been built on Prague’s Letná Plain has caused a storm of controversy, with Prague town hall claiming that it would ruin the panorama of the city. Its future remains uncertain.
The Communist party has asked the government to consider holding a national referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The communists, who are the only parliamentary party to reject the Lisbon Treaty outright, claim that the treaty will restrict the country’s sovereignty and weaken its integrity and should thereby be sanctioned by the people. The government is to debate the proposal on Monday, but its chances of winning approval are close to nil. The Lisbon Treaty is now being debated by both houses of Parliament. The Czech Senate has moreover asked the Constitutional Court to ascertain whether the Lisbon treaty is in harmony with the Czech constitutional order.
Czech President Václav Klaus has criticized the choice of Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as the EU anthem, saying that it was a false symbol of artificial brotherhood, Mladá fronta Dnes writes in its Saturday edition. In a speech made at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Berlin last Wednesday Mr. Klaus said that Europe needed to respect its diversity in which case he would deem Arnold Schoenberg’s cacophony a more appropriate symbol of the EU.
The Military Hospital in Prague is working on a study that should reveal the extent to which soldiers serving on foreign missions suffer from so called “war-syndrome” – a range of psychic disorders such as chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, headaches, indigestion and insomnia. The hospital has requested cooperation from several hundred veterans. The outcome of the study is expected in three years’ time.
The Moravian town of Šumperk has enforced a ban on alcohol consumption in public places. The town hall said its intention was to create a cleaner, friendlier environment for both locals and visitors. The regulation is directed primarily against homeless and out-of-work people who congregate in public places and spend the day drinking and pestering passers-by. A number of other Czech towns have taken similar action, banning alcohol consumption in residential areas, in the vicinity of hospitals, schools and playgrounds.
An opinion survey conducted by AXA Retirement Scope suggests that Czechs are not worried about the government’s plans to raise the retirement age to 65. Sixty-two percent of respondents said that they planned to remain active until around 70 years of age, if their health allowed. The survey shows that 22 percent of pensioners in the Czech Republic currently work full-time. Thirty-four percent of pensioners in Prague are employed.
The Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office has concluded that the Ostrava Transport Authority should have alerted it to previous near-misses on a local tram route which saw a deadly collision this month. Three people died when two trams crashed head-on two weeks ago. Last week the Ostrava Transport Authority hinted there had been close calls in the past along the area of track in question. The recent tragedy happened after a tram driver failed to wait along a loop of track before heading out. The spokesman for the Rail Safety Inspection Office said on Friday that if authorities had been aware of the problem, preventative measures might have been taken. The Ostrava Transport Authority could now be fined tens of millions of crowns.