The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says he will sign a decree conferring the title of professor on Martin C. Putna. However, he will not hand it over in person but have the minister of education, Petr Fiala, present it to the literary historian. Mr. Zeman made the announcement after talks with Mr. Fiala on Wednesday. The head of state had sparked broad condemnation by saying he would not name Mr. Putna professor; at first he refused to say why, but he later said it was because of a provocative placard the academic had carried in a gay pride march. Mr. Zeman also says the power to appoint professors should be removed from the president.
Martin C. Putna told reporters on Wednesday that he accepted being presented with the decree by Minister Fiala and that he regarded the matter as closed. However, he said, receiving the document did not end the fight for freedom of academic expression. Mr. Putna said academics and activists would continue to be manipulated, obstructed and threatened, adding that similar or worse things would happen to people who were less well known than him. The literary historian also thanked all of those who had supported him since the dispute with Mr. Zeman began.
The head of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew I, begins a four-day visit to the Czech Republic on Wednesday evening. The patriarch is coming to the country in connection with celebrations marking the 1150th anniversary of the arrival in Moravia of the Orthodox missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius. Patriarch Bartholomew blessed a church in Šumperk in 1998 and returned to the Czech Republic the following year to attend Forum 2000 at the invitation of then president Václav Havel.
The Civic Democrats have said they will not give up any of their five seats on the Prague city council. The party are locked in a power struggle with TOP 09, who insist they should receive one of those seats and have seven seats to the Civic Democrats’ four. Moreover TOP 09, who came first in the last municipal election, say a candidate of theirs should replace the Civic Democrats’ Bohuslav Svoboda as mayor of the Czech capital. TOP 09 say the Civic Democrats have until later on Wednesday to accept a revised coalition agreement. However, the two sides said no breakthrough had been made during talks in the morning.
The funeral has taken place in Prague of Valtr Komárek, who was one of the leaders of the Velvet Revolution and briefly served as deputy leader of Czechoslovakia’s first post-Communist government. Speaking at a memorial service for the left-wing politician and economist, who died last week at the age of 82, President Miloš Zeman said no party should abuse his name in order to promote themselves. Mr. Zeman said that while Mr. Komárek had been honorary chair of the Social Democrats, he had maintained his own views. The president was himself head of the Social Democrats and has mixed relations with its leaders today.
The Dalai Lama is due to appear at this year’s Forum 2000 conference in Prague in mid September, the event’s organisers said on Wednesday. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has been to the Czech capital several times and was close to the late president Václav Havel, who co-founded Forum 2000 as a platform for debate on issues facing the world. The theme of this year’s conference, the 17th, will be social transformation. While he is in Prague, the Dalai Lama is also expected to deliver public lectures.
This year’s Prague Pride parade will not be able to follow its usual route, as opponents of the gay event March for the Family and the Young Christian Democrats have already won permission to hold their own gatherings on sections of the route leading through the centre of the Czech capital. Organisers say they are considering a number of alternative routes for the third Prague Pride, which is scheduled to take place on August 17.
An exhibition of clothing, photos and other items linked to screen legend Marilyn Monroe may not go ahead in Prague after one of the trucks carrying the materials from Italy was stolen on Tuesday night. While many of the stolen items were exhibition furniture such as display cases and pedestals, some original photographs were also taken. The lorry was found empty near Mělník in Central Bohemia on Wednesday morning. The travelling exhibition, simply entitled Marilyn, is scheduled to open its doors at Prague Castle’s Riding School next Wednesday.
Ten people were slightly injured when two trams collided in Prague on Tuesday evening. A spokesperson for the transport authority said human error was likely to blame for the collision, which occurred between the Červený vrch and Veleslavín station in Prague 6 shortly after 19:00. The injured, who included both drivers, mainly sustained cuts and bruises.
Civic Democrat councilors are holding an emergency meeting on the crisis at Prague City Hall. The future of the city’s administration lies in the balance after TOP 09 pulled out of the coalition and is demanding the lion’s share of powers in local government. TOP 09 is pushing for a new coalition agreement with the Civic Democrats under which it would get seven seats on the eleven member council and the post of mayor. The party has been increasingly critical of overpriced city projects such as the Blanka tunnel or Opencard and in future wants to oversee key areas such as public transport, property and financing. It has offered its right wing coalition partner just four council seats and made it clear that if the offer is rejected it would approach the Social Democrats or seek support for a broad coalition. The Civic Democrats have said they are not prepared to relinquish the post of mayor.