The former Czech president Václav Havel has stated that he wonders if the Velvet Revolution was not “pointless.” The comments were made in an interview with the Czech daily Lidové Noviny and were specifically referencing the news that the Social Democrats are likely to enter into coalitions with the Communist Party in several local governments – the first time the latter party is going to govern since 1989. In the interview, Mr Havel noted “Sometimes I wonder if what we did back then wasn’t completely pointless.” But Jiří Dientsbier, a fellow former dissident rejected Mr Havel’s take on the Communist Party arguing that the pre-1989 communists were little more than an instrument of Soviet imperial politics.
The two main political parties, the governing Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats have begun talks over the impending Czech presidency of the European Union. The move is widely viewed as a temporary ceasefire between the two rivals. According to media reports, both parties have dispatched two emissaries who will be tasked with agreeing on a series of principles that the rival parties can agree upon - including approving the Lisbon Treaty - as the Czech Republic assumes the presidency of the EU on January 1. However, the move has been met with criticism from Pavel Bém, the mayor of Prague who is set to challenge the current head of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek for his leadership post later this year. Mr Bém described the talks as a kind of second “opposition agreement” referring to the notorious pact between the two major parties which enabled the minority Social Democrats to govern between 1998-2002 with the tacit backing of the then opposition Civic Democrats. However, this comparison has been dismissed by those involved in the talks.
A high speed train has collided with a car near the town of Kolín, just west of Prague. The incident occurred at a rail crossing at around eight in the morning on Saturday. The driver of the car is believed to have been killed, with no injuries reported among the passengers of the train. The driver of the train along with a fellow member of staff was also injured and both have been taken to a nearby hospital. The train in question was heading to Prague from the city of Brno, with services in the area suspended until the incident is investigated. Early reports also suggest that the train has been partially derailed, with estimates of the total damage coming in at around half a million crowns.
The Czech president Václav Klaus, along with his wife Livia are to face to a court proceeding over an apartment the couple owns in Prague’s Libeň district. The action has been launched by a housing co-op in Prague 8, which believes that the Klaus’ did not obtain the apartment fairly. The co-op is seeking the return of the apartment, which the presidential couple obtained back in 1998, before Mr Klaus became president. The court action centres on the transfer of rights to the flat from its previous owner Ivan Přikryl – a close colleague of Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek - to the Klaus couple. Mr Přikryl’s wife has since complained that she was a co-owner of the flat and that her husband’s deal with the Klaus couple was done without her knowledge. The court action undertaken by the co-op along with Přikryl’s wife is seeking to nullify the ten-year-old ownership agreement between the Czech president and Ivan Přikryl.
A new survey by the Median polling agency suggests that only a fifth of Czechs would accept a return to some form of government by the Czech Communist Party. According to the poll, around three-quarters of Czechs would not like to see a return to pre-1989 conditions, while 14 percent specifically would – roughly the same percentage of the electorate that votes for the Communist Party. Further, according to the poll around a quarter of Czechs believe that the Communist Party is legitimate, while another quarter view it as legitimate but would not like to see it in government. Another 20 percent would like to see the party banned all together. The poll comes as negotiations continue between the Social Democrats and Communists over coalition governments in several Czech regions following recent elections.
There has been a mixed response to recent comments made by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy regarding a proposed US missile defence system to be located in the Czech Republic and Poland. On Friday, Mr Sarkozy signalled his opposition to the plan, saying that it would not help European security. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reportedly welcomed the comments – Russia remains a vocal opponent of the plan, threatening to install its own Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if the system goes ahead, something that many fear will lead to a new Cold War. On the other hand, former Czech president Václav Havel stated that he was surprised and worried by the French president’s opposition.
General Vlastimil Pick, the head of the Czech army, has been awarded the Légion d'Honneur by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The French Order of Chivalry is the highest military honour that the French state can give and was awarded to the highest Czech military official in honour of the work Lieutenant General Pick has done to bring the Czech and French armies together during various ventures, including work in Afghanistan. The award was presented in Paris on Friday.
Talks have been taking place on Saturday over the future of the healthcare reforms proposed by Health Minister Tomáš Julínek. The talks took place at the Health Ministry with representatives from the minor coalition parties the Greens and the Christian Democrats in attendance. Both parties are said to have issues with the current direction of Mr Julínek’s reforms. No details have been released regarding the specifics of the talks.
A rare 395-year-old Bible, written in the Czech language, has been put on display at the Dakota Territorial Museum in Yankton. The 1613 “Melantrichova Bible” is of Bohemian Protestant origin and is only one of only 55 ever produced. It was translated and printed just 67 years after Martin Luther's death. The ancient Bible is 10 inches wide, 16 inches long and 5.25 inches thick.
The state attorney has filed charges against communist MP Josef Vondruška, a former prison guard, who stands accused of maltreating political prisoners in the early 1980s. Mr Vondruška is charged with abuse of office, having allegedly beaten inmates while working as a warden at the Minkovice jailhouse. The Communist MP allegedly targeted political prisoners such as dissidents Jiří Wolf and Vladimír Hučín. He denies all charges. Late last year, Czech parliamentarians decided to strip Mr Vondruška of his political immunity and hand him over to the police for investigation. If found guilty, he faces three to ten years in prison.