President Miloš Zeman’s proposal to move the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has evoked widespread criticism in the Czech Republic. The president made the suggestion in an interview for the daily Jediot Achronot ahead of a two-day visit to Israel, saying that he would try to get the Czech government to consider the idea. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok immediately distanced himself from the notion, saying his cabinet had no intention of debating it and noting that the president’s statement could temporarily worsen relations with the Arab world.
The Czech Foreign Ministry issued a public statement on Saturday reiterating the country’s support for the Middle East peace process. Prague supports the two-state solution as the only possible means for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security. We firmly believe that through direct peace negotiations the parties will come to an agreement on all disputable issues, including security, borders, Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem, the ministry said. The statement came just hours after Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat voiced a strong protest against President Zeman’s proposal saying it undermined the Middle East peace process and thwarted efforts made so far to reach agreement.
Greenpeace activists in Prague on Saturday staged an event in support of colleagues who are currently behind bars in Russia after protesting at an Arctic oil rig. Greenpeace is collecting signatures on a petition for their release and has urged supporters to write to the Russian embassy and send messages to the detained activists. On September 18, the environmental organization's icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise, approached the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea, owned by a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, and its activists tried to scale the platform in protest against drilling in the Arctic. Russian authorities detained all 30 members of the ship’s multinational crew, comprising citizens of 19 countries, including Argentina, Finland, Sweden, UK, Ukraine and the US. Courts in Murmansk have ordered the activists to be kept in custody until November 24.
The Lebanese authorities are investigating the death of a Czech tourist as a case of criminal negligence. The 46-year-old-Czech reportedly died after falling into a ravine in bad weather. His call for help on the emergency line 112 went unheard and he died of his injuries several hours later. The police have detained two people in connection with the incident. The Lebanese Interior Minister Marvan Sarbil has promised a thorough investigation of the affair. He said that while the lapse may have been caused by a language barrier the operator should have responded to the emergency.
The Příbram rally was cut short by a tragic accident on Saturday. One of the racing cars crashed killing co-driver Jan Jinderle junior. The organizers immediately announced the rally would be cut short in its seventh round. The title will go to Vaclav Pech who was in the lead in the first six rounds.
Fifty-five percent of Czechs believe that the country’s membership in the EU threatens Czech national interests, according to the results of a poll conducted by the STEM agency. Forty-one percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the country’s EU membership, the lowest support rating since the Czech Republic’s EU accession in 2004. Two thirds of Czechs nevertheless consider themselves Europeans, the poll results show.
This year, for the first time in its fifteen-year history, the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 Prize has been awarded in memoriam to mathematician, philosopher and editor of samizdat literature Jiří Fiala. Since 1999 the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 has awarded significant thinkers whose work exceeds the conventional framework of scientific knowledge. Jiří Fiala dealt with the history of mathematics and logics, authored several books on programming languages and translated a number of philosophical works. He took part in various dissident activities, gave underground lectures and translated texts for samizdat under the communist regime. The Vize 97 award is annually presented on October 5, on the late president’s birthday.
A Palestinian leader has hit out a suggestion by the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, that the Czech embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In a statement, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s Saeb Erekat said the proposal interfered with the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and wrecked efforts to reach an agreement. Mr. Erekat called for the Arab League and other organisations to convene a special session to discuss the matter. Mr. Zeman put the idea forward at a festival of Israeli culture in the Czech city of Hradec Králové on Monday. No countries have embassies in Jerusalem as the status of the city is a key issue in the conflict. President Zeman, who is known for his support of Israel, begins a state visit to the country on Sunday.
The Ministry of Education plans to ask public broadcaster Czech Television to broadcast more programmes on its children’s station in English. It made a statement to that effect following a meeting on Friday between the minister of education, Dalibor Štys, and representatives of the Czech Secondary School Union. The students’ group recently made headlines with a call for a reduction in the number of dubbed shows on TV screens in the Czech Republic, which they say would improve people’s language skills.
The Czech Office for the Protection of Competition has revoked a contract that Czech Railways signed with Austrian Federal Railways for 11 locomotives, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Friday. Czech Railways leased the Siemens Taurus locomotives from the Austrian rail operator in 2008. However, the Czech anti-trust agency said the deal was in fact a purchase that was concluded without a public tender. Czech Railways now face a fine of up to CZK 4 million.