The number of Czech troops in Afghanistan should remain unchanged at its current total of 525 over the next couple of years, the new Czech defence minister, Alexandr Vondra, told reporters on Thursday. Mr Vondra said he was not planning to reduce the number of Czech troops on foreign missions, according to a plan he would present to the lower house of Parliament in the autumn. However, the new minister also said he was not going to ask MPs to approve the sending of 55 more soldiers to Afghanistan, a plan mooted by the previous government of Jan Fischer.
The Czech Finance Ministry slightly upped on Thursday its forecast for economic growth this year from an original 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent. But the ministry also cut its prediction of next year’s growth by 0.1 percentage points to 2.3 percent. Ministry officials said the improving economic conditions abroad should outweigh the restrictive effects on growth from domestic cost-cutting. The ministry expects the jobless rate to drop to 7.6 percent by the end of this year.
The conductor Sir Charles Mackerras died in London on Wednesday at the age of 84. He was a champion of Czech classical music and was particularly associated with the composer Leoš Janáček, whose international profile he did much to raise. Sir Charles also worked with the Czech Philharmonic for five decades. He first came to Prague in 1947, and studied conducting under Václav Talich. Sir Charles Mackerras last visited the Czech capital in April, when he was presented with an award by the Czech Culture Ministry for promoting the good name of Czech culture.
The centre-right cabinet of the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs is expected to ask the lower house of Parliament for confidence on August 10; the speaker of the house convened the MPs for a session on that day. The coalition government of PM Petr Nečas is likely to receive confidence smoothly as it enjoys the support of 118 MPs in the 200-member lower house.
Police are going to file criminal chargers against 10 people in connection with a train crashed that killed eight passengers near the town of Studénka, north Moravia, in August 2008, the head of the investigation team told reporters on Thursday. Another 95 five people were injured in the accident. The accused will face sentences of up to 10 years in jail. The accident occurred when a Prague-bound international train crashed into a bridge that had collapsed onto the rail tracks. Police said the crash was caused by a combination of negligence and failures.
Hundreds of people blocked an international road between the Czech Republic and Slovakia near the small town of Hradec in north-east Moravia on Thursday morning, in protest against heavy traffic. Long columns of cars and trucks formed on the road as a result. They ended the blockade before noon. Local inhabitants protested by walking slowly across the road on a pedestrian crossing; some of the drivers were aggressive and tried to get through the crowd. One of the protesters said the situation was unsustainable and that heavy truck traffic between the two countries made it impossible for them to sleep at night.
Contrary to popular belief, the legendary 15th century Czech military leader Jan Žižka allegedly fought alongside the Teutonic Knights against the Poles in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, a representative of the order told the daily Lidové noviny on Thursday. Žižka, who later became the leader of the Hussite army fighting against the Catholics in the Czech lands and beyond, was hired as a mercenary, the order’s representative said, citing archive documents. Most Czech historians believe that Jan Žižka did take part in the battle, but on the side of the Poles against the German knights; some point out however that Bohemian and Moravian mercenaries fought on both sides.
Several dozen people protested on Thursday the removal of Alphonse Mucha’s monumental Slav Epic from the Moravian town of Moravský Krumlov. The art nouveau artwork, composed of 20 large canvasses, has been on display there for nearly 50 years. However, its owner, the city of Prague, is planning to move it to the Czech capital.
Roman Šebrle, who holds the word-record in the decathlon, will not compete in the 2010 European Athletics Championships to be held in Barcelona later this month. Due to injuries which have been plaguing him throughout the season, the decathlete has decided against asking the Czech Athletic Federation for a wild card. However, he will still be attending the championships, since he is preparing to apply for membership in the athlete’s commission of the European Athletic Association. Šebrle, who is 35, said he does not intend to retire in the near future.
Baník Ostrava beat WTI Georgia 6:0 in the first leg of the second qualifying round of UEFA’s Europa League in Tbilisi on Thursday. The Czech side first scored some 15 minutes before the end of the first half but added five more goals within 20 minutes in the second. The home side only came close to scoring in the 37th minute but the header missed the goal. The second leg is scheduled for July 22 in Ostrava.