The Czech EU presidency said on Monday the EU would consider increasing
its sanctions against the Burmese regime after the junta put opposition
icon Aung San Suu Kyi on trial. Speaking ahead of a meeting of foreign
ministers in Brussels, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said the EU would
first call on the Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi and go
forward with sanctions if the appeal went unanswered. In view of the
restricted impact of such sanctions the EU wants to try to persuade other
states, particularly China, to also apply pressure. The matter is expected
to be brought up at an EU-Chinese summit in Prague this Wednesday.
On Friday the former Czech president Václav Havel urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to use his authority to secure the release of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. In an open letter published by the čtk news agency, Mr. Havel called on the UN chief to personally intervene in the matter in order to prevent a show trial. The 72-year-old playwright, dissident and hero of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, said many people in Burma were in need of help since the junta had imprisoned more than 2,100 political detainees.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, is facing five years in jail on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her off-limits lakeside house in the capital Yangon.
Former Czech president Václav Havel has come out in support of the Green Party lead by Martin Bursík, calling the party the authentic and true proponent of green ideals. The Czech Green Party has recently split, with rebel Green MPs now standing for the newly-founded Democratic Green Party in upcoming European elections. On Monday, former president Václav Havel came out in support of Martin Bursík’s Greens, calling the party an alternative to the two main parties in the Czech Parliament, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats. Mr Havel said that while the two main parties were very similar in their ‘technocracy’, the Greens were the only party concerned by matters aside from economic growth. These are some of the strongest remarks that Mr Havel has made in favour of one particular political party. The Greens are one of around 30 parties standing for election in June’s European parliamentary vote.
At the same press conference on Monday, former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg also spoke out in support of the Greens. According to Mr Schwarzenberg, without the Green Party, the Czech political scene would be ‘more boring’ and more vulnerable to the influence of various lobby groups. At Monday’s press conference, director Ladislav Smoljak and actress Eva Holubová also appeared in support of the Greens.
The Czech Green Party has handed a petition to interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer calling for human rights observance to be discussed at the upcoming EU-China summit to be held in Prague. On Monday morning, Green deputy Kateřina Jacques and head of the Czech branch of Amnesty International Daša van der Horstová handed the petition to the new prime minister and Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Michael Kocáb. Jan Fischer, who is set to have bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao before the summit which will be chaired by president Václav Klaus, said that he would read the petition thoroughly before making up his mind whether to raise the issue of human rights violations with the Beijing delegation. Ms Jacques and other members of the Friends of Tibet parliamentary group already tried to hand the petition to Czech President Václav Klaus who refused to receive them on Friday.
The Supreme Court in Brno released a statement on Monday explaining why it rejected the appeal of Petr Zelenka, the so-called ‘heparin killer’ who was sentenced to life in prison in 2008. According to court chairman Vladimír Veselý, a life sentence was the only possible punishment for Mr Zelenka who, he said, ‘showed no respect for human life’. Mr Zelenka gave lethal injections of the blood-thinner heparin to patients while working as a male nurse at a Havlíčkův Brod hospital between May and September 2006. He was sentenced to life in prison for seven murders and 10 attempted murders.
The number of overnight stays at Czech hotels fell in the first quarter of this year by 8.7 percent to 7.3 million, the Czech Statistical Office said on Monday. The number of guests checking into Czech hotels and pensions was down by 8.4 percent to 2.3 million in the first three months of 2009. According to the Statistical Office, the drop in visitor numbers can be partially explained by the fact that Easter fell late this year, and so tourist numbers for the Easter period will become clear when data for the second quarter is released later this year. In fact, the number of Czechs staying at hotels and pensions in this country was up by around one percent in the first quarter of this year. The Statistical Office suggested that this rise in domestic tourism could have been caused by the good skiing conditions that Czechs enjoyed at the start of the year.
Nearly one in two Czechs fear for their jobs in light of the current economic downturn, suggests a poll conducted by the CVVM agency and released on Monday. Over 40 percent of respondents said that they feared redundancy while one third of Czechs said they feared a pay cut in the coming months. Some 62 percent of those questioned said they thought the current economic climate was having a negative impact on their household. The poll suggests that the current economic climate in the Czech Republic is being viewed pessimistically by Czechs. Fifty-seven percent of respondents to the survey said that they thought the government was not reacting well to the financial situation.
Former Interior Minister Ivan Langer has criticized Czech President Václav Klaus for having a ‘lack of memory’ and speaking out against those who twice elected him head of state. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Langer said he did not know whether it was age, memory loss, or a Freudian complex which had lead the Czech president to turn his back on those who had twice supported his bid for president. Last week, Václav Klaus said he had been ‘disappointed’ by the government of Mirek Topolánek, of which Mr Langer was a part. Last year, Mr Klaus left the Civic Democratic Party, which Mr Topolánek leads, over a disagreement about the EU’s reform Lisbon Treaty.
The annual outdoor cinema on Prague’s Střelecký Ostrov will not be opening this year, Monday’s edition of Lidové noviny reported. The cinema has been displaced by ongoing work to regenerate the island, the newspaper wrote. A petition to save the open-air cinema in the centre of Prague has not succeeded and, for the first time in 12 years, the island will not be transformed into a summer-long cinema and concert venue. According to Lidové noviny, it is not certain that an open-air cinema will return to Střelecký Ostrov in the coming years.
Slavia Prague have won the Czech football league for the second season in a row. With two more rounds remaining, they achieved an unassailable points lead at the top of the table after beating Viktoria Žižkov 3:1 away on Monday evening, though a draw would have secured them the title. Slavia were particularly strong in the first half of the season, and at their own Eden stadium in Prague 10.