The Czech Republic has seen its largest military parade for more than twenty years. The event comes as the country marks the 90 year anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s foundation as an independent state. The parade, which took place in Prague’s Evropská Street was attended by the Czech president Václav Klaus and also Defence Minister Vlasta Parkánova. An estimated 2000 people were in attendance, with around 200 items of military hardware on display. A number of Gripen fighter jets also flew over the site of the parade. No similar-sized event has been held in the democratic Czech Republic, as the connotations with similar displays during the communist era were thought to be too strong – a much smaller display, however, did occur in 2005. Not only military hardware and personnel were on display, but also members of the police, fire and ambulance services.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, battling a seemingly inevitable leadership challenge at home, has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. During the trip, the PM met with Czech troops serving in the country and awarded several troops honorary medals for their efforts. The visit was made to commemorate the anniversary of the Czechoslovak day of independence – the day in 1918, in which independent Czechoslovakia came into existence. Mr Topolánek visited the Afghan city of Kandahar, where Czech troops are serving as part of allied forces fighting Taliban anti-government forces. The visit is Mr Topolánek’s second to the country, and aides say it was planned well ahead of time but kept secret for security reasons. The PM is expected back in Prague late Tuesday.
The village of Nový Kostel in the Chebsko region of the Czech Republic has been struck by a minor earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale. The earthquake occurred at around 9 in the morning on Tuesday and lasted for about half an hour. It is just the latest in a series of quakes to have struck the same area, the last being a week ago on October 21. Reports suggest that the recurrences have left residents feeling anxious over their future, while seismologists warn that a stronger earthquake in the region is highly unlikely – the recent tremors have only caused very minor damage to some properties, although the shocks were felt in neighbouring districts tens of kilometres away. Chebsko, in the far west of the country is no stranger to earthquakes, with records showing tremors of around 5 points on the Richter scale back in 1903 and also in 1908. More recently, in 1985 and 1986, the region was struck by earthquakes measuring around 4.6.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bém, who late Monday announced his intention to challenge PM Mirek Topolánek for the Civic Democrat leadership, has revealed that he consulted with the Czech president over his decision. President Václav Klaus is the honorary head of the Civic Democrats and is widely viewed as having a fraught relationship with Mr Topolánek. During an interview on the matter, Mr Bém revealed that Mr Klaus had told him that if there were not change in the leadership of the party, it could find itself in electoral difficulties in the future. The conversation apparently took place shortly after the Civic Democrats suffered an overwhelming defeat in recent regional and senate elections. In separate comments, Mr Klaus has also stated that the elections were a referendum on the current PM’s leadership. A leadership contest will likely take place during the planned Civic Democrat party congress scheduled for December.
Czech police are secretly filming German sex-tourists who cross the border in search of prostitutes, reports the German newspaper Bild. The measures are an unconventional step in the battle against sex tourism as the offenders images are often posted online by local councils or police such as in the Czech town of Chomutov. Another measure involves informing spouses back in Germany of their husband’s solicitous acts.
Almost 300 soldiers have taken a simultaneous oath of service in a ceremony that marked the Czechoslovak day of independence. The ceremony took place outside Prague Castle and was attended by the Czech president Václav Klaus. In total, 295 army students from Brno’ Military Academy joined the ranks of the Czech military. On the same day, president Klaus named two new generals Miroslav Žižka and Aleš Opata.
The Bohemian Hall, a Czech social centre built at the end of the 19th century is preparing to reopen its doors. The building, built by Czech immigrants as a major hub for Czech activity in New York’s Manhattan, fell into disrepair during the late 20th century and was ultimately bought by the Czech state. It has invested to renovate the building, and after six years work it is finally set to reopen on Thursday. The building will house, amongst others a Czech consular office and a Czech cultural centre.
A demonstration by members of the far-right Workers Party has led to 13 arrests, according to Czech police. The demonstration took place in the centre of Prague, and reports suggest that members were immediately checked by police, with the 13 arrests made as a result of weapons possession charges. The demonstration was to mark a “day of unity” among members of the party.
The United States plans to abolish long-standing visa requirements for the Czech Republic on November 17. The plans were announced during a visit by the US Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff to the Czech Republic on Monday. Following Mr Chertoff’s meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, Mr Topolánek announced that the news represented a “big day” for him – visa requirements have long been a sore point of US-Czech relations. Under the new system, which will fully come into effect in January 2009, travellers to the US will have to register online at what is known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA system. Critics of the system argue that it is a de-facto visa requirement in that approval to travel must be gained several days before, although no fee is currently charged as is the case with US visas. That said, Czechs may have to pay several hundred crowns, according to Czech media sources.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bém has confirmed persistent speculation and announced that he will challenge fellow Civic Democrat and current Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek for the leadership of the party. The leadership challenge will occur at the party conference to be held in December, as scheduled. Citing reasons for his decision, Mr Bém stated that a recent attack by his opponent on his apparent lack of credentials was a key factor. The mayor also offered to provide his embattled party with a proverbial life raft and chart it towards new territory.