US President Barack Obama met with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus on
Friday, capping a two-day trip to the Czech Republic which saw the signing
of a landmark nuclear arms treaty between the US and Russia. Prague Castle
was the venue a day earlier for the signing of the new deal by Mr Obama
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. By signing the treaty Russia and the US
have agreed to reduce their nuclear stockpiles by 30 percent more than in
previous deal, but in order to come into effect the treaty will still have
to ratified by legislators in both countries.
Mr Obama’s meeting with Václav Klaus shortly before heading back to the US on Friday was brief but Mr Klaus said the two had discussed important issues, including the naming of a new US ambassador to Prague, as well as the planned completion of the Czech Republic’s Temelín nuclear power plant. That is a project in which US-based company Westinghouse is hoping to bid. On the whole, Mr Obama spent around 26 hours in the Czech capital, a year after his first visit when he first outlined his administration’s plans for reducing nuclear weapons.
In related news, on Thursday evening Barack Obama hosted a dinner in
Prague for 11 leaders from central and eastern Europe. Czech Prime
Jan Fischer said the main issue discussed was the NATO mission in
Afghanistan and energy security. Many countries in the region are heavily
dependent on Russian gas and oil and fear being blackmailed by Moscow as a
The informal event had been seen as an opportunity for President Obama to reassure regional leaders that Washington is not deserting its allies because of the decision to reset relations with Moscow. That fear has been expressed frequently following the decision by the US at the end of 2009 to ditch plans for an anti-missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland following Russian protests. But Mr Fischer said this was not one of the main issues.
The spokesman for public broadcaster Czech TV, Ladislav Šticha, has revealed that 1.5 million local viewers watched a live broadcast on Thursday on the signing of the new Start treaty at Prague Castle by the US and Russian presidents. By comparison, the figure is lower than the number of those who tuned in for coverage of last year’s visit by Pope Benedict XVI – more than 2.3 million, or the number of those who saw Barack Obama’s speech outside Prague Castle last year, in which he outlined his vision for a world free of nuclear weapons. That was seen by 1.7 million people.
Negotiators for the government have reached an agreement with Czech farmer Ludmila Havránková to buy up three hectares of land which will allow for the D11 highway to be extended up to the town of Hradec Králové as early as the end of next year. Currently the roadway ends three kilometres before the town; the dispute between the state and the property owner lasted sixteen years. In exchange for selling her property, Ms Havránková will receive three hectares of property elsewhere as well as an additional 130 hectares in a long-term lease. The government is expected to back the agreement in two weeks.
The Czech jobless rate has fallen by 0.2 percent ending a 15-month-long
rise in unemployment. Official data released on Friday put the current
at 9.7 percent in March, down from 9.9 one month earlier. The country had
seen a steady rise in unemployment as the global financial crisis hit a
year and a half ago. A little more than 556,000 people in the Czech
Republic remain out of work. Analysts have said that the coming months
could see further slight improvement but expect that the turnaround on the
labor market will be slow.
Separate data by the Czech Statistical Office, meanwhile, has confirmed a pick-up in the industrial sector, which has been growing for the last three months. Overall, the Finance Ministry expects the Czech economy to rebound with 1.3 percent annual growth this year, after it contracted by a little over 4 percent in 2009.
President Václav Klaus and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk met for talks on Friday, discussing the cardinal's successor, Dominik Duka, who will be inaugurated as the new head of the Czech Catholic Church on Saturday. Other topics included in the discussion was the Prague summit between Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev held on Thursday that saw the signing of a landmark treaty on the reduction of nuclear weapons. The president reportedly discussed the two head-of-states’ interest in St Vitus’ Cathedral, which is a part of the Prague Castle site. Cardinal Vlk was the head of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic since June 1991. In February of this year, Pope Benedict accepted his resignation and appointed Bishop Duka as his successor. Bishop Duka is the 36th Archbishop of Prague.
Former Czech president Václav Havel has told Czech TV that the filming of his play Leaving should begin in June and that the feature film would most likely premiere in Czech cinemas next March. The play, which examines the difficulty of giving up power, will star Mr Havel’s wife Dagmar as well as other well-known actors: Josef Abrhám, Jaroslav Dušek, and Eva Holubová. The play Leaving premiered at Prague’s Archa Theatre two years ago and has also seen foreign productions and translations into numerous languages. The screen version will mark Mr Havel’s debut as a film director.
A Prague hospital that refused to admit a woman giving birth in a nearby ambulance on Thursday evening has said it had a freeze on new admissions and was unable to accept her as a client. Bulovka Hospital, in Prague 7, also said its professionals were busy with two other childbirths, one of which was extremely difficult. The woman who was turned away ended up giving birth in the ambulance itself, aided by one member of the hospital staff. Other than the unusual location, there were no complications. The mother and her newborn have since been admitted and are recovering in the hospital’s care.
Czech hockey club Pardubice completed a 4:0 sweep of their series against Liberec on Thursday, earning a berth in the Extraliga playoff final. In the final game of the best-of-seven series, Pardubice won by a score of 4:1, with legendary hockey goalie Dominik Hašek in goal. In the other semifinal match-up Prague team Slavia will try to stave off elimination by Vitkovice in Game 5.
In the NHL on Thursday Czech players David Krejčí a Vladimír Sobotka earned an assist each to boost the Boston Bruins’ chances of extending the season into the playoffs. Boston defeated Buffalo by a score of 3:1 and jumped three spots in the standings to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers. The New York Rangers are currently below the cut-off, in ninth spot.