Czech President Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Jan Fischer and archbishop
of Prague, Dominik Duka, attended the funeral of the late Polish president
Lech Kaczynski on Sunday. They left the Czech capital early on Sunday by
train for the border town of Bohumín, where they continued by car to
Krakow. Flights were disrupted because of the cloud of volcanic ash. The
conservative Polish president and his wife, Maria, were buried on Sunday
afternoon in a crypt at the Wawel castle, the traditional resting place of
Polish heroes and royalty.
The presidential pair and 94 others were killed when their government plane crashed in western Russia just over a week ago. Many world leaders were forced to stay away from the funeral because flights were grounded. President Klaus said it was unforgivable that some European and EU leaders had not attended.
Former leader of the right of centre party, the Civic Democrats (ODS), Mirek Topolánek and the leader of the party’s faction in the European Parliament Jan Zahradil, also attended the funeral of the former Polish president. Lech Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) was in the same right of centre grouping in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, as the ODS. They shared similar views in particular on the future development of the European Union. The PiS Party was founded by Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother, Jaroslaw.
The grounding of all flights in and out of Czech airports was extended for a further 24 hours on Sunday morning. That means that flights out of Prague, Central Europe’s busiest airport, and regional airports will not resume until noon on Monday at the earliest. Airports were closed soon after midday on Friday as volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano spread eastwards across the continent. Hopes of an early renewal of flights have been dashed by a resumption of volcanic activity. Many travellers have been forced to take advantage of extra long distance buses and international train services.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said on Sunday that the Czech Republic was in talks about possibly hosting a command and control centre for a future NATO missile defence system in the country. Mr Kohout said in a television interview on Sunday that talks had been opened with the US about such a possibility. The idea of radar or interceptor missiles being sited in the Czech Republic had not been broached, he added. Their location would be the subject for future discussions once the architecture of a new anti-missile system was better established, he said. The US announced at the end of last year that it had dropped plans for developing an anti-missile defence system bilaterally with the Czech Republic and Poland. The plans had been fiercely opposed by Russia. But Washington still wants to proceed with a NATO system for Europe.
Separately, Mr. Kohout said there was a minimal chance of the Czech contingent in Afghanistan being increased before the summer. The government wants to increase the current contingent numbering 535 but has not been able to win approval from the lower house of parliament. Left-wing parties are mostly opposed to the move. Current conditions in the lower house did not favour a proposal being made to boost the contingent by a further 55, Mr. Kohout explained. The government had been mulling changing the format and mission of the extra forces to make them more acceptable. Afghanistan was one of the main themes when US President Barack Obama met with leaders from Central Europe during his Prague visit on April 8.
Prague city council should discuss on Tuesday a Japanese offer to restore Czech painter Alphonse Mucha’s Slav Epic series of paintings in return for their exhibition in Tokyo. The Japanese want to exhibit the massive series of 20 paintings for three months in 2012. The paintings were bestowed to Prague by the artist but are now exhibited at a castle in Moravský Krumlov. Mucha has been credited as the inspiration for many current Japanese manga or comic strip artists.
A requiem mass will be held in Prague’s St. Vitus’s Cathedral on Monday for Czech-born cardinal Tomáš Špidlík. The death on Friday of the theologian, philosopher and writer, at the age of 90 in Rome was announced over the weekend. The mass was announced by the Czech Bishops’ Conference, the Catholic Church’s top decision making body in the country on Sunday. Cardinal Špidlík was known as one of the foremost experts on the eastern church. He was appointed a cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, who counted Špidlík as one of his friends. Cardinal Špidlík was born near Brno in 1919 and later studied Czech and Latin at the city’s Masaryk University. He left Czechoslovakia after the communists took power in 1948, first to study at Maastricht University and then left for the Vatican. He worked for Vatican Radio but later pursued his academic studies.
Czech popular music prizes, the Ceny Anděl 2009, were dominated by the group Charlie Straight on Saturday night. The group was awarded the prize for discovery of the year, album of the year and video clip of the year. The prize for male singer went to Tomáš Klus and 16 year old Ewa Farna was chosen as female signer of the year. Group of the year was the already established Monkey Business.
Foreigners living outside the Czech Republic had their last chance on Sunday to register to vote in the elections to the lower house of parliament on May 28 and 29. Czechs abroad have two possibilities to vote. The first is to be included on the voters’ list at a specific consulate or embassy abroad. The second is to get a voter’s pass which allows voting at any location abroad and in the Czech Republic. This is recommended for those on short trips with a longer time period allowed for registration. Last time in 2006 around 5,000 took advantage of being included on the voters’ lists abroad. Foreign votes are channelled into one Czech region chosen by ballot. This time round it will be the South Bohemian region.
Pardubice took a lead in the first match of the Czech Extraliga ice hockey final on Saturday night. The east Bohemian team beat Vítkovice 5:1 in front of a home crowd. Pardubice were ahead 2:1 at the end of the first period. Vítkovice had chances to level at the start of the second period but eventually conceded three more goals without reply in the final two periods. Forward Petr Sýkora scored two goals and made one assist for Pardubice. The second match will be played on Sunday evening.