Czech officials have congratulated Barack Obama on his election victory. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said Barack Obama had run an inspirational campaign and raised the hopes of millions of people not just in the United States but around the world. There are many pressing challenges facing the international community, including the global financial crisis and climate change and it will be interesting to see how President-elect Obama and his team tackle these issues, the Czech prime minister said. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek welcomed Barack Obama’s election victory saying America had made an historic choice and Mr Obama represented hope not just for the United States but for the whole world. Czech president Václav Klaus also congratulated Mr Obama on his election victory, and invited the President-elect on an official visit to Prague.
In related news, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, has said he wants to stage Barack Obama’s first meeting with EU leaders in Prague in the spring. As of January 1, the Czechs take over at the head of the European Union, and so the first EU-American summit will fall during the Czechs’ presidency. On Wednesday, Mr Vondra did not specify when exactly he hoped to hold the meeting, but did suggest that it should coincide with the NATO summit to take place in Kehl and Strasbourg early next year.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has reacted to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s plan to deploy missiles in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad by calling the move ‘unfortunate’. On Wednesday, the Russian president said that he would deploy missiles on the territory bordering Poland in reaction to US plans to build an anti-missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Czech foreign ministry spokesperson Zuzana Opletalová said the step would not contribute to the dialogue that the Czech Republic wanted to lead with Moscow. Russia says that US plans for a missile defence shield threaten its security, dismissing America’s insistence that the shield is directed against ‘rogue states’ such as Iran.
Prague City Hall has rejected a report by the Czech Culture Ministry according to which the reconstruction of Charles Bridge had wrought irreparable damage to Prague’s most famous historical landmark. A team of heritage experts commissioned by the ministry criticized the ongoing reconstruction on several counts, including that stone cutters had failed to meet the hand-craft quality of the original 14th century blocks. Jan Kněžínek, head of the Cultural Heritage Department at Prague City Hall, said on Wednesday that he strongly disagreed with the ministry’s conclusions, saying that the reconstruction of Charles Bridge had been planned in great detail under the supervision of several expert commissions and was being fully adhered to. City Hall says it will post a formal response within 48 hours.
Top Czech carmaker Škoda Auto said on Tuesday that it would cut production again in November and December because of lower demand caused by the global financial crisis. Spokesman Jaroslav Černý said the shutdowns would reduce Škoda’s output by another 18,000 cars in addition to the 13,000 cut in September and October. Škoda Auto last week announced a 24.7 percent drop in net profit for January-September, with revenue down 2.2 percent.
The Interior Ministry is seeking to outlaw the far-right Workers’ Party, a ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. Václav Henych confirmed that the Interior Ministry will ask the country’s Supreme Administrative Court to rule on the legality of the political party. The Workers’ Party has made headlines recently for forming its own vigilante groups to patrol areas predominantly populated by the Czech Republic’s Roma minority. A spokesperson for the party said that he had been aware of the ministry’s attempts to outlaw the organization for a while, and that he hoped the Supreme Administrative Court would rule in the party’s favour.
Civic Democrat Přemysl Sobotka has been reelected head of the Czech Senate. Following the recent Senate elections, the Czech Upper House was reshuffled on Wednesday. The Civic Democrats, who have maintained a slight majority in the Senate, came out of the restructuring holding onto five of the Senate’s nine committees. The Social Democrats, who made great gains in last fortnight’s Senate elections, were made head of the remaining four committees.
It has been a day of record temperatures around the Czech Republic this Wednesday, with the hottest November 5 since records began measured in Opava and Brno, among other towns in the east of the country. Meterologists in Opava measured temperatures of 21.7 degrees Celsius, some 1.7 degrees higher than the previous record. In Brno, temperatures this afternoon reached 19.1 degrees – 0.7 of a degree higher than the previous record set in 1963. More warm weather is expected over the coming days.
The Czech national ice hockey team thrashed Slovakia 7:0 on Tuesday night, in a game commemorating 100 years of the Czech Ice Hockey Association. Goals were scored by Jaromír Jágr and Roman Červenka among others in the course of the friendly, which took place in Prague’s O2 Arena. Shortly before the match, some 41 Czech ice hockey legends were inducted into the country’s Hall of Fame, which is also housed in the Prague stadium. The Czech team’s victory sets them in good stead for this week’s Karjala tournament in Helsinki, where they are set to play Russia, Sweden, and home nation Finland.
In more sports news, Czech national goalkeeper Petr Čech has defended his Golden Ball title for the fourth year running. The Golden Ball is awarded each year to the best Czech footballer as decided by a committee of the country’s sports journalists. Second in this year’s competition came Tomáš Rosický, with Marek Jankulovski coming third. The results were announced in Prague on Wednesday morning.