President Klaus has warned against escalating tension over Canada’s reported intention to reintroduce visa restrictions for Czech nationals. Speaking to journalists on Monday the president said he hoped there was still space for negotiation with the Canadian authorities which could prevent the re-introduction of visas. He criticized the force of the Czech reaction, saying that it was premature to speak of retaliation. A Czech TV report claiming that Canada had already decided to reintroduce visas for Czechs and would make the announcement publicly on Tuesday, elicited a sharp response from Czech political leaders over the weekend, with the Social and Christian Democrats suggesting the Czechs should ask the EU to respond in kind or for the Czech Republic to take the matter to a European court. Ottawa is thought to want to reintroduce visas due to the high number of asylum claims it has been receiving, predominantly from members of the Czech Republic’s Romany community.
A search is on for a fifty-year-old woman who went missing in the flash floods that hit north Bohemia on Saturday. The woman was from Benešov nad Ploučnicí, and was last seen by neighbours in her backyard when the town was hit by a two meter flood wave. Police and firefighters are combing the vicinity for her. She may be the only victim of the floods in the north of the country. Nationwide the floods claimed 14 lives and caused over 6 billion crowns in damages.
The health authorities have started inoculating children in the flooded regions against hepatitis. In the next few days over 3,000 children in the north, south and east of the country are to be vaccinated free of charge. Epidemiologists have warned people involved in clean up operations to take extra precautions in order to prevent the spread of disease. Many areas remain on emergency water supplies and thousands of homes are still inhabitable.
Representatives of the two strongest parties in parliament, the Civic and Social Democrats have proposed an amendment to the expropriation law which would make it easier to expropriate property for just compensation when it is in the public interest. The proposal is to ease the construction of roads and highways and is believed to be linked to the planned construction of the R35 highway from east Bohemia to Moravia which has run into difficulties. The proposal deals with possible complications which are not addressed in the present legislation such as expropriating property which has been rented out long-term. It is not yet clear if the amendment has enough support to pass through the lower house.
Masses were held around the country on Monday commemorating the legacy of
the 15th century reformer priest Jan Hus who was burned at the stake on
July 6, 1415. Jan Hus (John Huss) was a Catholic priest and rector of the
University of Prague who was strongly influenced by the teachings of the
English reformer priest John Wycliffe. He translated Wycliffe’s works
into Czech and proposed to reform the church in Bohemia just as Wycliffe
had in England. He was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1411 before
being condemned as a heretic and executed in Constance four years later.
July 6th is a public holiday in his memory and the event is marked by religious services, concerts, exhibitions and even theatre performances. This year the festivities were low key due to the floods but thousands of people attended the mass in his birthplace Husinec and in Prague’s Bethlehem Chapel were he preached.
It has been a tragic weekend on Czech roads with ten people killed and thirty seriously injured in the past two days. Overall traffic police dealt with 330 accidents and 170 people were injured in the space of 48 hours. The police ascribe this to the increased amount to traffic at the start of the school holidays but warn that the number of deaths and injuries is twice higher as compared to last year’s figures.
French actress Isabelle Huppert received a standing ovation at the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival where she was presented with the Crystal Globe award for her contribution to world cinematography on Sunday night. The award ceremony took place shortly before the screening of her 2009 movie Villa Amalia, attended among others by the French ambassador to Prague Charles Fries. The film festival, now in its third day, has attracted close to 8,000 film fans and over a hundred filmmakers. Among the VIP guests this year are US actor John Malkovich and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas who are expected to arrive mid-week.
The 15th annual music festival Rock for People in Hradec Kralové winds up on Monday night with a concert by the British group Placebo. Bloc Party, Underworld and the American group Gogol Bordello are also expected to make an appearance. The organizers report a record attendance of over 25,000 visitors.
More flash floods struck the Czech Republic on Saturday evening, this time in north Bohemia. Families were evacuated from their homes in Markvartice, Kunratice and Benešov nad Ploučnice. As water levels fell on Sunday morning, local authorities started to calculate the damage done, which is thought to run into millions of crowns. Local politicians said that the floods could not be compared with those which hit other Czech regions just over a week ago, leaving 14 dead and leading to a state of emergency being declared. No houses will have to be knocked down as a result of these latest floods, though roads remain blocked and inhabitants of the areas affected remain displaced.