In a 50-minute address to the lower house of the Czech Parliament on Tuesday, President Miloš Zeman said that a system to support solar power had amounted to the greatest robbery in the history of the Czech state. He said “solar barons” had cheated the state out of around CZK 200 billion and called for a commission to look into the background to the scheme, which has been scaled back considerably. In his first speech to the Chamber of Deputies, the head of state also discussed the issue of Czech envoys, over which he is locked in a dispute with the minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg; he said the cause of the disagreement was his support for what he called “economy diplomacy” and made a number of digs at Mr. Schwarzenberg, who he defeated in January’s presidential election.
A lawyer at the centre of a dispute over who prepared an amnesty declared by former president Václav Klaus has said he will not attend a meeting that the minister of justice called with a view to clearing up the matter. Pavel Hasenkopf, who current president Miloš Zeman says co-drafted the document, said he had no reason to participate in a meeting with the media organised by Minister Pavel Blažek. Mr. Hasenkopf, a one-time advisor to Mr. Zeman’s predecessor, denies being behind a controversial section of the amnesty that halted the prosecution of several long-running cases, many involving alleged large-scale corruption in the privatisation era. Mr. Klaus has repeatedly said that he is the sole author of the amnesty.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is holding an open day on Wednesday, which is the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and a state holiday in the Czech Republic. Visitors will be able to enjoy a rare opportunity to view the interior of the Černín Palace, including what was once Jan Masaryk’s apartment, between 10 AM and 4 PM. The building’s gardens will host an event featuring live music celebrating Croatia’s accession to the European Union in July. The Senate will also be open to the public on Wednesday, from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Forty-five people have died in the Czech Republic as a result of drinking illegal spirits containing the poison methanol, a police spokesperson said on Tuesday. There were a series of deaths last summer, causing the minister of health to impose a ban on the sale of all spirits for a fortnight. Over 130 people have suffered health problems, including blindness, as a consequence of drinking the bootleg booze. After the introduction of safety measures, the number of cases fell, though seven have been recorded since the start of this year, with most resulting in death. In all seven people are being investigated in connection with the matter; they face jail terms of 12 to 20 years, or even life, if found guilty.
Car sales fell by 14 percent year-on-year in the Czech Republic in the first quarter of this year, the country’s car importers association said on Tuesday. Škoda, the most popular manufacturer on the Czech market, saw a fall of 18 percent in sales between the start of January and the end of March. Analysts said both households and companies were reluctant to purchase a car in an uncertain economy; they expect a return to growth at the end of the year.
A conference is to be held in Prague next month aimed at re-evaluating Czech architecture from the four decades of Communist rule. Organisers say they want to show that buildings created between 1948 and 1989 were highly diverse in terms of style and that many have been viewed from a political perspective and as a result wrongly stigmatised. The conference will take place on June 13 at the former Federal Assembly building in central Prague, which was completed in 1973.
The Czech Republic has seen a lower than average amount of sunshine since the start of the year, the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute said on Tuesday. In April there was 137 hours of sunshine, which is 88 percent the average amount for that month. The last month that saw above average values in this regard was December. In the winter months, the Czech Republic typically gets between 50 and 60 hours of sunshine; in June and July that figure rises to around 200.
The Czech opera star Magdalena Kožená performed a much-anticipated recital at the Spanish Hall at Prague Castle on Monday evening. Accompanied by her regular collaborator, pianist Malcolm Martineau, the mezzo-soprano performed a programme of songs by Ravel, Hayden and Bartok that she will repeat on Wednesday at London’s Barbican. Led by Czech Philharmonic director David Mareček, the audience at the sold-out Spanish Hall sang Happy Birthday for Kožená, who turns 40 later this month.
Goaltender Ondřej Pavelec has recovered from an ankle injury and will be fit to play for the Czech Republic in their next game at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Sweden, a meeting with Denmark on Thursday. While Pavelec’s replacement, Alexander Salák, has been praised for his performances, the team have been disappointing so far; since beating Belarus in their opening game at the tournament, the Czechs have lost to Sweden and Switzerland and have only scored five goals in total.
The Prague State Attorney’s Office has filed charges against lobbyist Roman Janoušek for his role in a hit-and-run last year in the Czech capital. In the incident, the suspect is alleged to have struck a fellow driver who had gotten out of her vehicle after he hit her car from behind. Under the influence of alcohol (later shown in a breathalyser test) he then sped from the scene. Mr Janoušek has been charged with attempted murder and endangering the public due to intoxication; if found guilty in the case Mr Janoušek could face up to 18 years in jail.