European leaders, including Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, have met in Berlin to discuss ways of tackling the global economic crisis - an attempt by leaders to coordinate Europe’s stance ahead of April’s G20 Summit in London. German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited fellow leaders for the one-day meeting. Participants agreed on a number of steps, above all that new rules will be needed in oversight and regulation of all financial markets “without exception”. Also agreed was the need to implement stimulus measures limiting the distortion to competition to an “absolute minimum” - reaction to recent charges of protectionism. Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy drew criticism from Prague when he suggested French automakers should move foreign production back to France to secure government funding.
The President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas is to visit Prague on Monday to meet with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus. Originally, the meeting was set for the beginning of February but was pushed back due to talks in Egypt on the Gaza conflict. It will be the second time Mr Abbas visits the country. On Friday, the Czech government pledged an additional 10 million crowns towards humanitarian aid in Gaza, bringing the total amount donated by the country to 15 million crowns (the equivalent of around 670 thousand US dollars). The Czech Republic currently heads the rotating EU presidency; following Israel’s recent military operation, it made securing humanitarian aid to Gaza a key priority.
The country’s Interior Minister Ivan Langer has said that a banning of the country’s Communist Party by the Supreme Administrative Court would only prompt its members to re-form under a different name. He made the comment during a TV debate programme on Sunday. A Senate committee investigating the Communist Party’s status had petitioned the government to send the matter to court. But the interior minister made clear a ban would not be a solution; he also indicated that the matter will still be examined by the government before it reaches a decision. Responding on the same programme, Mr Langer’s predecessor František Bublan stressed it would be difficult to find anything in the Communist Party’s statutes that violated the law. The issue of banning has been in the headlines largely because of the ultra right-wing Workers’ Party - which faces possible dissolution. A court decision there is to be taken in March.
Around 100 people gathered at Prague’s Old Town square on Sunday to mark the 61st anniversary of the 1948 Communist putsch which paved the way for one-party rule in Czechoslovakia. A number of speakers at the event warned of the continuing influence of the Communist Party 20 years after the Velvet Revolution. Attendees marking the anniversary also listened to the recording of a speech by Communist leader Klement Gottwald - Czechoslovakia’s first Communist president.
Acclaimed Czech architect Karel Hubáček will celebrate his 85th birthday on Monday (February 23rd). The author of numerous projects, Mr Hubáček is best-known for his design of the futuristic Ještěd hotel and TV tower, atop Ještěd Mountain just outside of Liberec, north Bohemia. The hotel has been featured in numerous publications and is one of the most recognisable buildings in the Czech Republic. The structure was built in 1966 – 1973 and the architect received the prestigious Auguste Perret Award for the design.
Czech shooters have won a gold medal at the European Air Weapons Championships, held for the first time in the Czech capital. The trio of Jindřich Dubový, David Malušek and Martin Pecháček, of the junior team, won the medal in the 10m air pistol category. They defeated closest rivals Poland by 15 points.
Hockey goalie Tomáš Vokoun, of the Florida Panthers, stopped 41 shots by
league leaders Boston on Saturday to lead his team to a 2:0 win. The game
was his third shutout over the last ten days. In the game he also assisted
on his team’s first goal.
In other action, the Canadien’s Roman Hamrlík earned two assists in Montreal’s 5:2 win over Ottawa. Czech forward Tomáš Plekanec, also of the Canadiens, scored the game’s opening goal.
Hooliganism left its mark as the Czech premier football league resumed on Sunday, with Brno and Ostrava fans clashing in Brno’s stadium. Ahead of the match, Baník Ostrava fans broke through to the Brno section, leading to the fighting. The police had to be called in to take control of the situation. One fan was hospitalised in the incident, the internet news site idnes reported. The match was the first to implement new rules which leave individual clubs responsible for hiring private security. Under an agreement signed last week, the police should only be called in when situations get out of hand. The opening game between Brno and Ostrava resumed after a half-hour’s delay.
The Czech presidency of the European Union has condemned planned Israeli
settlement activities in the vicinity of the Adam settlement in the West
Bank. In a statement issued on Friday, the presidency urged Israel to
reconsider the planned construction which would violate international law.
Continued settlement activities represent a major obstacle to peace in the
Middle East, and severely damage the prospect of the creation of a viable
Palestinian state, the Czech EU presidency said.
Israel plans to build another 1,400 housing units near the existing settlement of Adam in the West Bank. According to the EU presidency statement, Israel built more than 1,200 settlement structures last year, nearly 750 of them permanent.
Czech NGOs say the Czech Republic has the highest number of children placed in institutional care of all European countries. Around 23,000 children are growing up in various types of institutions. The NGOs’ representatives told reporters on Saturday that more than half of all children in institutional care were taken away from their families because of poor living and social conditions. This could have been prevented by better social work with such families. The experts also said that Czech children’s care homes should be transformed into family-type facilities with the maximum of ten children, instead of the current 45.