The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has called the Russian invasion of Georgia a violation of international law. The comments came as he attended an emergency summit of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels designed to address the current crisis in Georgia. The Czech Foreign Minister also pledged to persuade the Czech government to provide 150 million crowns in aid for Georgia. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also attended the summit, pressing European countries to adopt a tougher line against Russia. One proposed measure was freezing the six-year-old NATO-Russia Council, which unites 27 governments for discussions about issues such as international security and counter-terrorism. However, members at today’s meeting pulled in various directions – with some favouring a tougher line, while others urging caution against “knee-jerk” reactions. The Czech Republic is believed to favour a tougher line against Russia. Following the meeting, Condoleezza Rice is set to visit Warsaw to sign a missile-defence agreement with that country – a move which Russia believes is a deliberate provocation.
The company which was responsible for the maintenance of the bridge near the city of Ostrava which collapsed on the 8th August, leading to a major train accident, is to pay out compensation to the victims. The compensation will total 250,000 crowns to the families of the seven victims as well as smaller amounts to those that were injured in the crash. A similar compensation package was announced by Czech Railways last week, while another company involved in reconstructing the bridge - Bögel & Krýsl - is also set to announce its own compensation package. The current moves by the company Dopravní stavby Ostrava are not viewed as an admission of direct liability. Meanwhile, two Bögel & Krýsl engineers accused of responsibility for the accident have denied the charges.
For the last six months, the Czech crown has topped lists of the world’s fastest strengthening currencies. Now, in a stark reversal, the Czech crown has flipped to being the second fastest weakening currency in the world – second only to the currency of Zimbabwe, according to new data from the Czech National Bank. In late July, the Czech crown reached a peak against the Euro trading at less than 23 crowns to 1 Euro, amidst increasing concerns that the strong currency was beginning to damage the country’s economy. Since that time, the currency has fallen to around 24.30. However, analysts still note that the Czech currency is relatively strong, and the recent sharp fall has only lessened this slightly – further strong falls are not forecast for the remainder of the year.
The Czech president Václav Klaus has won widespread praise from the Russian media for his recent controversial comments that “Russia was not the aggressor and Georgia is not the victim” in the conflict over South Ossetia. In comments made by the Russian station NTV, Klaus received applause for rejecting a so-called “black-and-white view of the world” and also for rejecting the positions of allies such as Poland and Ukraine which have been harshly critical of Russia. This is not the first time that the Czech president has caused controversy. Previous comments critical about the role of NGOs or the existence of man-made climate change have been disavowed by successive Czech governments.
The Czech environmental NGO Hnutí Duha has made a formal complaint to the European Commission about Austrian logging practices on the southern Czech border. The organization believes that the Šumava region has been severely damaged by Austrian logging their side of the state boundary. The NGO has complained that the Austrian land-owners in the area, a company called Schlägl have created vast swathes of bare land both in Austria as well as in neighbouring Germany that literally directly frame the Czech border. While the Czech side is a protected national park, much of the land south of the border is not protected.
The “Blue Mauritius” an ultra-rare two-penny stamp from the mid 19th century is to be displayed in Prague in September, according to the Czech Post Office. The exhibition will form part of “Praga 2008” which will showcase stamps from around the former British Empire. The entire collection is currently insured at around one billion Czech crowns.
Rescuers operating in the High Tatra mountains in Slovakia have recovered the body of a 63-year-old Czech man missing in the area since last week. The man went missing during a hike; police were alerted after he failed to make contact with his spouse. This led to an intensive six day search, which was concluded today. Rescuers believe that the man died as a result of a fall. More than 100 rescuers were involved in the search effort.
A police officer in Prague has been arrested on suspicion of raping a minor, according to the Czech Interior Ministry. The as yet unnamed officer was arrested on Monday and is believed to have committed at least one rape of a minor. If convicted the man could be jailed for between five to twelve years.
A newly released survey from the STEM polling agency suggests that most Czechs have not forgiven Russia for invading their country in August 1968. The invasion by Warsaw Pact forces was undertaken under the mantra of helping a brotherly nation, although the actual aims were to suppress growing democratic tendencies in the former Czechoslovakia. The findings of this latest survey suggest that 64% have not forgiven Russia for their “assistance”. The Czech Republic will mark the formal 40 year anniversary of the invasion on Thursday.