With the onset of sub-degree temperatures city halls are securing various forms of night shelter for the homeless. The town of Mladá Boleslav says it is putting up a heated military tent which will be ready for use on Monday night. Prague has room for 400 people in night shelters and for another 200 in heated tents. The city hall said in mid-December that in the event of dire need it would open up the lobby of the Prague metro to give the homeless protection from the cold. There are an estimated 4,000 homeless people in Prague.
The draft of a new foreign policy concept outlined by the Czech Foreign Ministry and leaked to the press has evoked criticism from opposition parties and the media. According to the weekly Respect, which has acquired the document, the planned changes reportedly include a change-of-guard at ambassadorial posts in London, Beijing, Paris and Washington. The Czech ambassador to Ukraine, who has been criticized by President Zeman, is also to be replaced. The weekly says the new foreign policy concept fails to draw on the legacy of the country’s first post-communist president Vaclav Havel. The Foreign Ministry has refused to comment on the document until it has been finalized and officially unveiled.
Czech famers are increasingly concerned about the planned scrapping of milk quotas for European farmers as of April 2015, and the dramatic fall in milk prices that the step is likely to bring, Czech Television reports. Czech milk producers have already had to lower the price of milk by one crown per liter as a result of the EU-Russia sanctions and small and medium dairy producers fear that a milk glut in Europe would force them out of the market. According to Czech Television the Czech Agriculture Ministry is preparing some form of compensation but no details have yet been released.
The Czech Justice Ministry is planning a broader use of electronics bracelets which were originally to have enabled the courts to use alternative means of punishment in the form of house arrests. Deputy Justice Minister Vladimir Zimmel told Czech Television that the ministry would like to see the bracelets used in cases of psychiatric patients who are allowed to leave mental homes for a certain period or in the event of transportation of prisoners to a workplace or hospital outside the prison facility. The purchase of around 1,000 bracelets has been delayed due to a series of problematic tenders.
Pyrotechnics clearing the munitions depot in Vrbětice, Moravia, are having to deal with the complication of fresh snow on the ground which is hampering the operation. Despite the fact there is now five centimetres of fresh snow on the ground clean-up work continues, though a series of controlled explosions which were to have destroyed damaged munitions found on the grounds have had to be put off. Originally experts warned that the operation would have to be called off with the first snow but pyro technics are pushing ahead with clean-up work of the main roads in the hope of opening the way for the planned transport of undamaged munitions to a new site in January.
A number of Czech towns and cities, including the capital city Prague, will have to operate on a provisional budget in the coming weeks. This is due to the fact that following the change-of-guard in the wake of October’s local elections many newly-installed administrations have been unable to approve next year’s budgets on time. Operating on a provisional budget means that these municipalities will only be able to finance the town’s basic needs and will not be able to make any new investments. Prague is expected to remain on a provisional budget at least until the end of February.
The commercial radio station Frekvence 1 has announced it will be taking over the tradition of broadcasting live interviews with President Miloš Zeman four times a year. The regular interviews from Lany Chateaux broadcast by Czech public radio are being discontinued after the radio management insisted on pre-taping the shows. The move came in the wake of a scandal surrounding the last live broadcast during which the president peppered his answers with vulgar language. The new interview slot on Frekvence 1 is to be called The President’s Pressclub and is to be hosted by Lubos Xaver Vesely.
Taxi services for seniors subsidized by local city halls are proving increasingly popular. The town of Bohumín which provided the service to seniors over 70 has now broadened the offer to people aged over 65. Seniors use the taxi service for trips to their GP or hospital paying a symbolic 15 crowns for the ride. The town hall subsidizes the service with around 30 thousand crowns a month. Other Czech towns and cities have latched on to the idea, such as Plzen and Karvina.
Prague City Tourism is preparing to conduct an extensive three-year survey among tourists to Prague to find out why they chose to spend time in the Czech Republic and the level of satisfaction with services offered. The agency plans to address some 1,500 visitors from different countries twice a year. According to the agency’s spokeswoman Prague City Tourism needs more comprehensive data about visitors to Prague in order to attract more tourists and improve services. At present it relies on information provided by the Czech Statistics Office.