The former and present rectors of Prague’s prestigious Charles University have declined an invitation from the president to attend a ceremony at Prague Castle on the occasion of Czechoslovak Independence Day on October 28, the country’s most important public holiday. Charles University rector Tomáš Zíma and his predecessor, newly-elected senator Václav Hampl have refused to attend the ceremony in a show of solidarity with two rectors who failed to receive invitations to the event for the second year running now over past disagreements with the president. The board of the Council of Higher Education Institutions has criticized the head of state for breaking with centuries-old tradition and his "unwillingness to rise above petty disputes". The president has defended his right to decide on the guest list for this prestigious ceremony.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday welcomed the outcome of elections in Ukraine, saying that they would enable the formation of a strong, legitimate government in Ukraine, the country’s political stabilization and its future democratic development. The Czech Republic is ready to cooperate closely with Ukraine’s new leaders, to assist the country’s reconstruction and gradual accession to the EU, Mr. Sobotka said. He added that the election result should now prompt Russia to sit down to the negotiating table with Ukraine’s new leaders and resolve the conflict by diplomatic means.
Social services providers are to get more money from the state next year. Responding to an urgent request from the Labour Ministry the government on Monday earmarked an addition 335 million crowns for organizations providing services for elderly and disabled people. At present social services are provided by some 2,600 organizations, of which more than half are non-profit. Without the additional funds services for close to 15,000 clients would have had to be scrapped due to a lack of funds.
Police are investigating a case of attempted blackmail of the state by unknown culprits who are threatening to spread the Ebola virus in public places if they do not receive one million euros. According to commercial TV Nova the money is to be paid in the digital currency bitcoin and sent to three different electronic addresses. The deadline for the first payment is 9pm on Monday night. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed outrage over the demand at a press conference in Prague, saying that an intensive search was on to find the culprits. The prime minister moved to dispel public concern saying the government was not underestimating the threat. He called on the media not to resort to exaggeration in presenting the story in order to avert panic.
The Czech Republic will send two teams of doctors to Jordan to help treat Syrian refugees, the ctk news agency reports citing the Office of the Government. The mission was approved by the Czech government within the Medevac humanitarian aid programme. The two teams will include heart specialists and orthopaedists. Originally the plan was to have treated some of the injured refugees in the Czech Republic, but this was abandoned in view of the fact that some of them could present a security threat.
The government has approved a plan to establish a central register of misdemeanours in order to more effectively fight petty crime, the ctk news agency reports. According to Interior Minister Milan Chovanec the present manner of documenting such offenses is inadequate and works in favour of chronic offenders. Under the interior ministry’s proposed amendment to the law the new register would enable repeat offenders of petty thefts or disturbing the peace to be detected around the country and given higher fines.
The BIS counter-intelligence service also warns of the high number of Russian and Chinese spies operating in the Czech Republic. BIS experts say that in addition to the high number of foreign intelligence officers working in the country as diplomats, there is a growing number of those who come here under the guise of academic or business interests or who operate here briefly as tourists. Their aim, BIS says, is to consolidate and increase their influence in the county. Russian spies allegedly also try to gain the Czech media in support of their goals.
On a visit to China, President Milos Zeman on Monday met for talks with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping. The Czech head of state assured his host that the Czech Republic fully respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity including Taiwan and Tibet and will not interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Mr. Zeman’s four day visit to China, the first by a Czech head of state in ten years, comes as part of the government’s efforts to reset relations with Beijing and open the way to intensified business and trade. During the four day visit the Czech president said he would welcome Bank of China’s entry into the Czech Republic and promised that Prague would push for an easing of the EUs visa regime for China.
Over a hundred people were evacuated from their homes in a Pilsen suburb early on Monday due to a bomb threat. The police closed off part of a residential area close to a shopping mall after an anonymous caller warned that there was a grenade planted just outside the mall. Pyrotechnic experts later found a functional F-1 grenade on the premises. Police are now checking footage from security cameras in the vicinity and questioning witnesses.
Heightened ethnic tensions in some regions of the Czech Republic are the biggest threat for Czech democracy, according to an annual report for 2013 by the BIS, the country’s intelligence service. Anti-Romany sentiments harboured by sections of the Czech public could be a bigger threat for the security of the state than more extreme but less numerous groups of far-right radicals, the report says. Last year saw another series of often violent anti-Romany rallies, fuelled by frustration felt by inhabitants of areas with strong Romany presence. This could lead to increased scepticism towards the country’s democratic principles, the BIS reports concludes.