The Czech Republic will be dispatching aid to China in the wake of a devastating earthquake that hit its Southwestern provinces. Beijing rejected a Czech offer of emergency crews with sniffer-dogs, saying that financial aid would be more appropriate at this stage, due to the lack of funds for medicines and emergency supplies. The Czech Foreign Ministry says it is consulting various forms of assistance with the Chinese authorities. Monday’s earthquake in the Sichuan province is believed to have killed over 10,000 people, leaving many more homeless.
Environment Minister Martin Bursík says the Czech Republic can halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. At a press conference in Prague on Tuesday Mr. Bursík presented the results of an in-depth analysis according to which this would be possible at moderate cost. The reduction could be reached by replacing coal with gas, a wider use of biogases and the introduction of energy-saving measures in companies and households. If consistently implemented such a policy would cut carbon dioxide emissions from 114 million tons in 2006 to 46 million tons in 2020. The minister said he was planning to draft a new long-term policy plan outlining specific reduction projects.
Český Krumlov chateau has won a 10,000 euro award for cultural heritage protection from the EC and the Europa Nostra Foundation. The chateau, a valuable historical compound comprising buildings from various periods, won the prize in the heritage-conservation category for the restoration of the southern wing of the chateau. The jury praised the restorers for using traditional materials and methods, thanks to which the chateau has retained its authenticity.
An activist of the Czech civic group No to Bases has gone on a hunger
strike in protest against US plans to install a missile defense radar on
Czech territory. Jan Tamáš said he was taking radical action because the
Czech government was completely ignoring growing public opposition to the
radar. He expects others to join his hunger strike and draw more attention
to the problem. His hunger strike will be documented on the No to Bases
The Czech and US governments are winding up negotiations on the radar and the resulting bilateral agreements are expected to be signed in June of this year. However the missile defense project would still need to be approved by Parliament.
A Prague court has sent a former police officer to 18 months in prison for producing child porn. The former policeman had photographed his live-in girlfriend’s five-year-old daughter in pornographic positions and stored the photos in his computer. The man pleaded not-guilty, saying he had never made the photos and had been framed by his former girlfriend as a revenge for his adultery. The former officer has been banned from working with children for a period of ten years.
Former Czech president Václav Havel will travel to Israel this week to take part in festivities marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state. Israel celebrated the anniversary on May 8 in line with the Hebrew calendar but further events are planned, including an international conference where political leaders and prominent thinkers will discuss the future of Israel in a global context.
A court in the Czech Republic has been hearing testimony in a case surrounding Czech Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek. The court is seeking to determine if the Justice Ministry, including former state representative and current Social Democrat shadow Justice Minister Marie Benešová, pressurized those investigating Mr Čunek’s alleged bribery case. Zlatuše Andělová, a state representative from Ostrava gave testimony today, which suggested that the Justice Ministry exerted political pressure on investigators in the hope of assisting the position of Mr Čunek, who temporarily resigned due to allegations of bribery.
A planned high-speed luxury rail link between the Czech cities of Prague and Ostrava has been thrown into uncertainty as its backer considers shifting the project to Slovakia. The company behind the project, Student Agency, which has hitherto specialised in coach travel, is reportedly considering the shift abroad because of a controversial decision by the government to funnel transport investment financing through a state owned company known as the Rail and Transport Authority or SŽDC. Specifically, a 12 billion crown government investment into the Czech rail network has bought harsh protests from Student Agency, which has threatened to make a complaint at the European Court, stating that this form of government support is harming the private sector.
A new poll for Czech Television suggests that almost two-thirds of Czechs are opposed to the placement of a US anti-missile radar system on Czech soil, with only 18 percent in favour and 17 percent undecided. According to the poll, Czechs also expressed strong opposition to international observers in the country, with most opposed to a Russian presence linked to the radar. Polls consistently show most Czechs are against the proposal, albeit the figures in this poll suggest the trend is increasing. Conversely, a new poll by the agency STEM suggests that most Czechs support the idea of some kind of missile defence shield in Europe. The Czech government expects to formally sign a treaty on the radar base this summer.
The 63rd Prague Spring international music festival gets underway in the Czech capital on Monday evening. As is traditional, the opening concert will feature Má vlast by the great Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. Five prestigious foreign orchestras are taking part, including the BBC Symphonic Orchestra led by the Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek and Britain’s longest-established professional symphony orchestra, Manchester’s Halle Orchestra. This year’s Prague Spring features 50 concerts and seven theatre performances and runs until June 4.