A Viennese court has satisfied the demand of Swiss company Diag Human to freeze the transfer of three Czech artworks being held in judicial limbo as collateral for damages. The two paintings and one sculpture by Czech modernist artists will therefore not be returned to the Czech Republic until the company’s appeal is reviewed. Diag Human is suing the Czech state for over 500 million US dollars for allegedly thwarting its blood plasma business in the country in the 1990s. The Viennese court seized the artworks as compensation, but later overruled its decision on the grounds that they were exempt from seizure as cultural property. The works of art had been on loan for an exhibition in Vienna when they were seized.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is preparing to submit a new foreign policy proposal to the government at its next meeting on July 20. His previous policy statement was shot down primarily by the prime minister and Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, who saw the text as being too “pro-European”. To what extent the new policy statement will deal with the EU is unclear, as Mr Nečas’ office is now preparing its own materials. Mr Schwarzenberg countered criticism of his previous version of the document, saying that the relationship with the EU was no longer a question of “us and them”.
The Ministry of the Interior has launched a website that is to serve as a centre for reporting cyber-attacks. The government-level gateway – govcert.cz – is intended to increase the security and reliability of the internet. The ministry also reports it has completed a strategy for Czech Cybernetic Security for the years 2011 to 2015 which the government will discuss. The key themes of that strategy ate coordination, timeliness and comprehensive solutions for cyber-security issues.
A powerful thunderstorm that hit Bohemia on Wednesday uprooted more than 20,000 trees in the Šumava National Park. The park management reports that the destruction marks the worst calamity in the national forest since hurricane Kyrill struck in 2007.Most of the trees were spruce and more than half of them fell in a single area near the village of Srní. The fallen timber can however also be used in the fight against the bark beetle that has ravaged the park; managers say they will leave the wood on the ground until the beetles take hold and remove it then. Wednesday’s storm also brought an unusually high number of lightning strikes; the meteorological institute recorded some 60,000 flashes of lightning, nearly half of the monthly average.
Elsewhere in the Šumava, environmental activists have begun a campaign of physically blocking certain areas to prevent the logging of bark beetle infested trees. The Hnutí Duha organisation says that the park management does not have the exemption required to cut in the forest but has already marked some 3000 trees in the area. The organisation says there is a risk of large clearings being left in area inhabited by threatened species. The park management and the Environmental Ministry have rejected the criticism. Police visited the site of the protest Friday and found no violation as the activist sit waiting for loggers to arrive in coming days.
A child has been born to a woman with a transplanted heart for the first time in the Czech Republic. Both the baby girl and the mother are in good health, the Czech Press Agency reports. The 30-year-old woman underwent a heart transplant two and a half years ago due to cardiomyopathy, by which the muscle of the heart deteriorates and ceases to function. She had not intended to conceive as she had been warned that pregnancy could endanger her life and also the health of the baby due to the medicines she took. In the end the pregnancy was unplanned. According to her doctors, around a hundred women worldwide with transplanted hearts have given birth.
Violin virtuoso and National Artist Josef Suk has been laid to rest in his family tomb in the Vyšehrad cemetery. The world-renowned musician died on July 7 at the age of 81 after a prolonged illness. Final respects were paid by the public in Prague’s Rudolfinum palace on Thursday. The burial was accompanied by Johan Sebastian Bach’s orchestral suite no 3. Among the speakers at the mass led by Cardinal Miroslav Vlk was President Václav Klaus, who noted that Josef Suk had brought world-wide fame not only to himself, but to his country. The great-grandson of Antonín Dvořák and grandson of composer Josef Suk is often credited with setting a standard for how Czech music is performed.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says his government has passed its initial test in the first year in office. Writing in the daily Lidové noviny a few days prior to its first anniversary, the prime minister says that in spite of much squabbling the government has succeeded in pushing all of its plans through Parliament. The cabinet, he says, has worked hard and has been able to arrive at reasonable compromises, implementing responsible budget policies while not fearing temporary drops in popularity. The Civic Democratic chairman went on to describe free health care and the vision of a welfare state that looks after everyone as “crumbling icons" evinced by the economic situation in Greece. The centre-right, tri-party government came to power after general elections in May of 2010 and enjoys a comfortable majority of 118 deputies in the 200-member lower house. Its popularity, however, has fallen to a mere 20% and it has been rocked by a series of scandals and internal disputes.
The junior coalition party, Public Affairs, has objected to next year’s draft budget, submitted by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. The party’s economic expert, Michal Babak, told the Czech Press Agency that the party was surprised that the information submitted at a meeting of economic ministers last night had “changed everything” in the government’s coalition agreement. Public Affairs chairman Radek John said that the budget versions he saw were disastrous, and that he rejects VAT being raised to more than the coalition had agreed upon. Public Affairs tabled its budget demands during coalition negotiations on the future of the government, however the other parties rejected the inclusion of the budget in the new coalition agreement.
A survey of MPs conducted by the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports that 116 will vote to withdraw immunity from Public Affairs MP Vít Bárta. Police have requested that the de facto leader of the junior coalition party be given up for investigation on suspicion of corruption; the report suggests that the lower house will apparently grant that request. TOP 09 party members agreed earlier to vote in unison against Mr Bárta, and a large majority of left-wing MPs followed suit. Mr Bárta was forced to leave his cabinet post as transport minister earlier this year when he was accused by two former party colleagues of paying them large sums of money for their loyalty and silence on party finance issues.