Politicians, army officials, and others marked the 67th anniversary of the start of the Prague Uprising on Saturday, remembering those who raised arms and risked or laid down their lives in the final battle against the Nazi occupiers. In Prague alone in the final days of the war, some 3,700 people were killed. A commemorative event took place at the historic town hall on Old Town Square. One of those to speak, the chairwoman of the lower house Miroslava Němcová, honoured patriots and noted the dark chapter that followed the war, when many of the country’s most courageous were imprisoned by the Communist regime or sentenced to hard labour or marginalized in society.
An audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers has uncovered serious flaws in the running of Šumava National Park from 2009 to January of this year, the news site idnes reports. According to idnes, there are revelations in the audit of possible criminal misconduct: wasteful spending, the holding of non-transparent tenders, and the unclear sales of hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of lumber where pricing decisions depended on a single individual. The audit also suggested that under former park head Frantíšek Krejčík some commissions may have purposely been spread over several months to avoid having to legally call public tenders – something heavily criticised by local mayor Antonín Schubert, who was shown the material this week. South Bohemia’s governor, Jiří Zimola, has said that the results of the audit should be given immediately to the police, so as to assess the seriousness of the findings under the law.
Three presidents of the Visegrad 4 (Slovakia, the Czech Republic, & Poland) are taking part in a two-day summit in Slovakia. Issues to be discussed by the heads-of-state at their meeting in the High Tatras include the European Union's Eastern Partnership Program, the upcoming NATO summit and issues such as tourism. Hungary’s freshly-elected president, János Áder, excused himself from the summit, which last year was held in Visegrad in his home country. Last year’s focus was largely on nuclear energy.
A long-time chauffeur to Jaroslav Barták – a doctor charged with having severely abused his female assistants – will disclose what he knows to the state prosecutor, the news website idnes reports. The chauffeur said that Mr Barták’s victims were terrified of him (he had warned them he had friends in high places) and were afraid to go to the authorities; according to the site, the driver was present during an incident in which one of Mr Barták severely beat an assistant who had been attempting to escape. Known only as ‘Josef’, the driver made clear he owed it to the women ‘to talk’. Jaroslav Barták faces six charges of rape, as well as charges of sexual harassment, criminal threats, limiting personal freedoms and the illegal production of drugs; if found guilty, he could spend up to 12 years in prison.
At least 7,000 people took part in the Million Marijuana March in Prague on Saturday in support of legalising marijuana. The event began at the city’s Charles Square before arriving at a park known as Parukářka, where two podia had been set up for music, along with numerous stands selling items including hemp products. Some NGOs also have stands set up; part of the programme is a number of presentations and debates. Police monitored the march - there were no incidents. Marijuana is the most widely-used illegal drug in the Czech Republic; according to sources, more than half of Czechs between the ages of 15 and 34 have tried it.
Membership in Czech parliamentary parties has been decreasing, idnes reports, with the highest number of departures proportionally coming in the splintered Public Affairs (until recently in government) and the Civic Democrats. A spokeswoman for Public Affairs said the party currently had an official membership of 813 – 12.5 percent less than last year; the Civic Democrats, meanwhile, had almost 28, 350 – dropping by 8.7 percent since last March. The trend in the opposition Communist Party is similar, losing around 5,000 members since last December, while the Social Democrats and centre-right TOP 09 appear to have more stable memberships, political pundits suggest. Membership in parties requires payment of an annual fee; some members fail to renew. Membership in parties has been in general decline for several years, the daily says.
Organisers are hoping to attract a record 1,000 would-be zombies to the annual Prague Zombie Walk – an event celebrating the genre originally founded by American filmmaker George A. Romero. His films The Night of the Living Dead and the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead – earned popularity by showing the difficulty of survival in apocalyptic scenarios; the genre has since inspired numerous comic and TV series (such as The Walking Dead, or the dark comedy Zombieland). Zombies in Prague, as well as some of their ‘victims’, will walk from Malá strana’s Kampa and over Charles Bridge to the Rudolfinum Concert Hall. The walk is linked with several events including a concert and after party.
The Czech Republic won its opening game at the world championships underway in Sweden and Finland. On Friday, the hockey team defeated rivals Denmark by a score of 2:0. Czech goalie Jakub Kovář, who premiered in his first big tournament, stopped 26 shots in the match-up; the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomáš Plekanec assisted on both goals. Aleš Hemský got the Czechs on the scoreboard with seconds left in the second period, while Petr Tenkrát added a second goal in the third. The Danes, although tough defensively, were unable to respond.
Friends of the late former Czech president Václav Havel have founded the Václav Havel Library Foundation in the United States. Its mission is to promote the late leader’s ideas and his work, as well as the organization of events centered around his literary and political heritage. Among its supporters are the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright as well as former US ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton. The first event organized by the new foundation is set to take place in New York City’s Lincoln Center on Monday. The US-based foundation is also planning to collaborate with the Prague Václav Havel Library.
Representatives from the country’s umbrella trade union organization ČMKOS met in Prague on Friday to discuss a nation-wide strike set to take place on May 23rd. Union leaders have said that they may organize an additional union protest event a day prior to the strike. The unions have slammed the government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas for its reform package and far-reaching austerity measures. Last week, union leaders announced that they would no longer be attending tripartite meetings with the current government.