Czech President Václav Klaus has stepped into a row over South Bohemian forests, being the first to sign a petition against the Environment Ministry’s handling of a destructive bark beetle epidemic. The bark beetle has destroyed large areas of forest in the Šumava National Park, worrying both citizens and logging companies. The Ministry of the Environment however has taken a hands-off approach to the issue, saying that such epidemics are a natural part of a forest’s ecosystem.
The Czech Transport pilots’ Union has announced that Czech Airline pilots are prepared to go on unlimited strike due to what they call the airline’s attempts to silence critics. The head of the pilots’ union, Filip Gaspar, was reprimanded on Wednesday for allegedly leaking internal information to the press. Flight technicians and engineers are reportedly also considering striking. Mr Gaspar also stated at Thursday’s press conference that there would be no doubt of a strike in the event of his being dismissed.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer met Thursday with Finance Minister Eduard Janota and the heads of the country’s two largest parties to familiarise them with Finance Ministry proposals for the 2010 state budget. Mr Janota has proposed increasing VAT rates, raising the tax on automobile fuels, and cutting budget spending. Speaking after the meeting, Social Democratic Party chairman Jíři Paroubek said he objects to the Finance Ministry’s recommendation that the measures be approved as a package. Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democratic Party said that it would be up to the post-election government either to approve the caretaker government’s budget or to put forward its own plan. The Ministry of Finance has said that in the absence of the proposed changes, the budget deficit for 2010 could rise to 230 billion crowns.
The Ministry of Regional Development has released data on the use of EU funds in the Czech budget. In the 2004-2006 budget years the Czech Republic received 1.64 billion euros, which constitutes 98% of the amount available for that period. Projects financed from the funds included the creation of nearly 22,000 jobs and new water services for almost 60,000 households. The current 2007-2013 budget period allows financing of up to 26.7 billion euros, of which the Regional Development Ministry has so far requested roughly one fifth, spread out over some 12,000 approved projects.
Archaeologists in Prague have discovered medieval Jewish tombstones at a construction site at the Národní třída station of the metro. Preliminary research suggests that the markers are not components of a burial site, but were instead taken from a former cemetery lying to the south and used as building material. The discovery of a Jewish cemetery on the site of what is to become a multifunctional building would likely be an unpleasant surprise to the building’s investors; 10 years ago, Jewish communities in the Czech Republic and even abroad demonstrated and eventually forced changes to the construction of a parking garage - not far from Národní třída - when a Jewish burial site was found on the site.
The experimental theatre Laterna Magika on Wednesday held the 6000th performance of its show “The Wonderful Circus”, by far the most performed show in Czech history. The Wonderful Circus, a blend of dance, film and black light theatre, first came to the stage in 1977 and many of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists, such as animator and director Jan Švankmajer, have participated in it since that time. The performance marks the theatre’s second important jubilee this year, after its 50th anniversary was celebrated in May.
Police in the eastern Bohemian town of Pardubice have arrested a man for a string of offences that began when he stole a public bus. The man, who was heavily intoxicated, drove off in the bus, finding the keys in the ignition. He then picked up a friend, lost control of the vehicle and drove it into a building before driving off again. When police stopped and boarded the stolen vehicle, both men claimed to be passengers and the driver physically attacked an officer. The police also found that the driver did not possess the appropriate licence to drive a bus, and that his automobile licence had been revoked. If convicted of the all five charges against him, the man faces 3 years in prison.
The “Rock na valníku” Festival began on Thursday in the town of Slaný, to the north-west of Prague. The festival, which is now in its 10th year, showcases a wide range of mainstream Czech musicians and is visited annually by roughly 4000 visitors. This summer’s line-up is set to include performers such as Tři sestry, Sto Zvírat, and Ivan Mládek.
Footballers Tomáš Rosický and Jan Koller will be returning to the Czech national team for a crucial World Cup qualifying match against Slovakia. The announcement, made by coach Ivan Hašek, marks the return of two of the major forces in Czech football. Jan Koller, who is 36, had retired from international football after last year’s European Championship. He is the Czech Republic’s all-time top scorer with 55 goals. Captain Tomáš Rosický has been out of competition since early 2008 due to a knee injury. The Czechs take on Slovakia in Bratislava on September 5, in a game they must win to keep alive their chances of reaching the 2010 World Cup.
State-controlled carrier, Czech Airlines, warned on Wednesday that it is fighting for its very survival. Company president Radomír Lašák said in a press conference that unlike rivals, the airline has no cash reserves to cushion it from the current crisis hitting airlines worldwide. A 10 percent drop in passengers and similar fall in ticket prices has racked up a 1.8 billion crown, around 100 million dollars, loss for the airline in the first six months. It had planned for a loss of just 300 million crowns for the whole year. Mr Lašák outlined a three point programme to save the airline later in the day based upon a 30 percent cut in pilots’ pay, 15 percent wage cuts for other employees and a freeze on other benefits. If unions agreed to the deal then the current board would be willing to step down, he added.