Czech President Václav Klaus is hosting his counterparts from Slovakia, Croatia and Serbia at the Lány castle near Prague for a two-day meeting. On the agenda are EU-issues such as Croatia’s EU accession and Serbia’s long-term plan to join the union. The four heads of state had decided to hold this meeting at a session of the United Nations‘ General Assembly a year-and-a-half ago.
Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka was elevated to cardinal at a ceremony in
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Saturday morning. The Prague archbishop
is one of 22 new cardinals that Pope Benedict XVI created in the ceremony.
Hundreds of Czech pilgrims were in attendance. Dominik Duka was presented
with a scarlet biretta and a gold ring, the traditional symbols of the
title. As a cardinal, Dominik Duka will be among those clerics authorized
to elect a new pope.
On Saturday afternoon, the Prague archbishop led mass for Czech Catholics at Rome’s Church of Saint Gregory VII. The head of Czech diplomacy, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, was in attendance. On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI will be celebrating a special mass with the 22 newly named cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica. Archbishop Duka is the 11th Prague archbishop to be named cardinal.
At a party meeting on the weekend, the opposition Social Democrats put
forward their two potential candidates for the post of president in the
2013 direct presidential elections. Both economist Jan Švejnar and the
party’s deputy chairman Jiří Dienstbier were determined possible
nominees; a final decision is expected in May. Mr. Švejnar and Mr.
Dienstbier are set to travel across the country to speak to potential
At the two-day meeting, high-ranking party officials will also be discussing the upcoming regional and Senate elections, which party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka has labelled “a referendum on the government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas“. Following the ratification of a new bill, Czechs will be able to elect their head of state in a direct vote for the first time in 2013, when President Klaus’s second term in office expires.
Several dozen protesters from the Workers’ Youth movement, an organization connected to the far-right Workers’ Party for Social Justice, marched the streets of the city of Jihlava, in the Vysočina region, on Saturday. According to organizers, the march was held to express support to Serbia and protest the “forceful removal” of Kosovo from the country. Some 200 people were trying to block the far-right extremists’ march; police kept the situation under tight control and prevented clashes between extremists and those protesting the march.
World-famous Czech-American director Miloš Forman is celebrating his 80th birthday on Saturday. Around the world, Czech Centers are honoring the filmmaker with exhibitions of posters for his films and screenings of his popular works. Mr. Forman, who was born in Čáslav in 1932, left his native Czechoslovakia after the Soviet-led invasion of his home country in 1968. He settled in the United States, where he established himself as one of the most successful directors alive today. His films “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984) were awarded five and eight Academy Awards, respectively.
English singer-songwriter Sting will be performing at Prague’s Congress Center on Saturday evening. The former frontman of the rock band Police is currently touring Europe with his Back to Bass tour. The concert in the Czech capital has been sold out for weeks. Along with his band and jazz singer Jo Lawry, Sting will be performing classics such as “Every Breath You Take“ as well as new material in front of some 3000 visitors. Back to Bass, which marks the 25-year-anniversary of his solo career, kicked off in the UK on February 5th.
Police found the body of a 24-year-old woman, who had gone missing in January, in the city of Liberec on Friday. A police spokeswoman said Saturday that a suspect had been arrested in connection with the case. The young woman had had been missing since January 23. A neighbor had informed police of her disappearance.
President Klaus on Friday signed into law a bill on direct presidential elections. The president, who technically does not have the right to veto the constitutional bill, signed it despite his negative stand to the proposed change. Mr. Klaus recently said a popular vote would turn the presidential election into an expensive superstar contest. Parliament still needs to pass a law clarifying the details of the new electoral procedure. Once this is done Czechs would be able to elect the next head of state in a direct vote. The next election is due in March of 2013 when President Klaus’ second term in office expires.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday a reform of the education system was essential for the country to remain competitive and would be implemented, despite protests from the academic community. Addressing a conference of rectors the prime minister said that one could not forever revise planned reforms and that action was long overdue. He stressed that the reforms made would not infringe on academic freedoms or threaten the autonomy of universities. In reference to the most controversial part of the planned reform –the introduction of tuition fees – Education Minister Josef Dobeš said he would once again consult the matter with the finance minister.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin next Thursday to discuss the Czech stand to the EU’s fiscal treaty. Mr. Nečas who joined British Prime Minister David Cameron in refusing to sign up to the compact, will also be meeting for consultations with his British counterpart ahead the fiscal union treaty summit on March 1st. Despite criticism from coalition partner TOP 09 and the opposition Social Democrats the Czech prime minister insists that the Czech Republic has nothing to lose since it can join the treaty anytime in the future and argues that in any case such a move should be preceded by a referendum since the treaty transfers certain national powers to the European level.