Czech President Václav Klaus has left for a week-long visit to Argentina and Chile. Mr Klaus met with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner in Buenos Aires on Thursday; they discussed possible Czech investments into Argentina’s energy sector. The news website lidovky.cz reported the Czech head of state was impressed by the host who recently came to Prague on a private visit. Václav Klaus is set to leave for Patagonia on Friday before arriving in the Chilean capital.
Trade unions have launched a campaign against the government’s pension, tax and heath care reform plans. The confederation of trade unions says the aim of the Open Your Eyes campaign, for which some 80 billboards have gone up, is to convince the government to revise the reforms to be “logical and justifiable”. Main complaints include the transfer of workers’ pension deductions from the state pension system to private savings funds, higher medical payments and tax reform, including VAT, which the unions say will increase the public finance debt by 80 billion annually. Organisers say they are also prepared to call for a general strike.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says that his TOP 09 party will respect the wishes of the coalition leader, the Civic Democrats, and will refrain from further commenting on the ProMoPro scandal involving Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra. Mr Kalousek said Thursday evening that Mr Vondra’s case was the responsibility of the Civic Democratic Party and that his party would not take part in any parliamentary meeting convened by the opposition on the matter. Last week the opposition indeed sought such a meeting, which the coalition staved off with the promise that Mr Vondra would explain his part in the affair and apologize. His speech however fell short of a full apology and Mr Kalousek and others in TOP 09 called for his resignation. The audiovisual company ProMoPro was paid exorbitant sums from Mr Vondra’s office during the 2009 Czech EU presidency.
Prague’s international film festival Febiofest wraps up its 18th year on Friday evening. This year’s festival included 190 films from 56 countries. The winner of the New Europe competition went to director Marcina Wrona for his film “Chrzest”, which is one of the most acclaimed Polish films of this year. Present at the closing ceremony will by Australian director Peter Weir, who will receive the Kristián award for lifetime contribution to international cinema. This year’s festival included a number of venues where films are not usually screened, such as Prague Airport’s Terminal 2, where a series of films on airplanes and airports were shown.
Momentous changes are in store for the Czech Republic, if one is to believe the April Fools’ editions of several Czech media outlets. Most consequential is the revelation of news website Lidovky.cz that the country is to introduce the Euro as of January 1, because the date is easy to remember. The issue that remains is apparently what likeness the tail-side of the Czech Euro coin should take: whether Euro Commissioner Václav Klaus, or the Temelín nuclear power plant. Meanwhile, iDnes.cz reports that plans to insulate Prague’s prominent cathedral of Saint Vitus will result in a peach-coloured makeover. Convincing video interviews relate that the eco-friendly project will see the landmark covered in polystyrene panels, similar to those used in prefab housing. Revealingly, many of those commenting on the article were not the least bit surprised.
The Dukovany nuclear power plant is shutting down its fourth block on Friday to repair a ventilation leak. The plant says that then leak was found on Thursday during an inspection of the measuring instruments; the leak it says poses no danger of any kind. How long the shutdown will last will be known on Sunday. A similar leak and repair shutdown occurred at the plant 20 years ago.
A district court in České Budějovice has convicted two police officers for negligence in the case of a married couple murdered by their son. Both officers were given 18 months’ suspended sentences; a third policeman was acquitted. The victims had complained about the police handling of repeated threats they had been receiving from their son. An internal police inspection found that their subsequent murder could have been prevented. The perpetrator was not convicted, as he was found to have been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the murders, in February of last year.
The life expectancy for Czechs is lower than the EU average according to demographic data published on Friday. The average Czech woman born in 2009 is expected to reach 80.5 years of age while a man should reach 74.3. Both numbers are about two years less than the EU average, a some five years less than Sweden and France. The statistics also point out that the average life expectancy is rising, particularly in former communist states. The average life expectancy in the EU has risen by roughly ten years over the last half century.
Some 40,000 children will be sleeping in schools, libraries and other institutions Friday night for the storytelling event Night with Andersen. The association of librarians that organises the evening says that more than 1,000 venues in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and elsewhere will be taking part this year. Night with Andersen is held every year on the first Friday of April to mark the International Children's Book Day and the birthday of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen on April 2. Many prominent personalities will be reading to the children, among them Education Minister Josef Dobeš and the Danish Ambassador Ole Moesby.
Czech tennis star Tomáš Berdych has dropped out of the Miami Masters tournament in the quarterfinal round, losing to world number one Rafael Nadal of Spain. Seventh seed Berdych has not managed to defeat Nadal since 2006. The score was 2:6, 6:3 a 3:6. Last year Berdych took second place in the Miami Masters, losing only to Andy Roddick of the United States in the finals match.