The opening concert of the 70th edition of the Prague Spring International Music Festival took place at the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House on Tuesday evening. The North German Radio Symphony Orchestra played at the curtain-raiser, becoming the first German ensemble to do so in the history of the Czech Republic’s biggest classical music event. Under the baton of Thomas Hengelbrok the orchestra performed a rapturously received My Country by Bedřich Smetana, which traditionally opens the Prague Spring.
The Czech Army is planning to create a unit that will include a task force cooperating with existing special forces and specialists in information and psychological operations. It will be focused on new threats such as hybrid warfare, which blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare. The unit should be up and running in two years’ time, a spokesperson for the Czech Army said on Tuesday.
The Czech and Slovak prime ministers, Bohuslav Sobotka and Robert Fico, have reiterated their countries’ opposition to the idea of European Union states being required to take in compulsory quotas of asylum seekers. The European Commission is reportedly planning to propose such a system on Wednesday. Speaking after a joint session of the two states’ cabinets in Prague, Mr. Fico said the EU’s position should be based on a voluntary approach and the decisions of individual countries. For his part, Mr. Sobotka said states knew best what kind of measures they could introduce within the framework of solidarity.
There has been a marked increase in the percentage of Czech 15-year-olds who have tried alcohol, according to a freshly published international report from the OECD. While in 2002 the figure stood at 70 percent, in 2012 it had risen to 94 percent. The Czech Republic had the worst record in this respect of the 36 states surveyed in the report. The average Czech consumed 11.6 litres of pure alcohol in 2012, compared to an OECD average of 9.1 litres.
Staff at the Government Agency for Social Inclusion have suspended a strike begun on Monday. Employees at the agency, which is aimed at helping integrate Romanies into mainstream society, say they will now await the outcome of a meeting with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka planned for next Tuesday. The dispute arose after the minister of human rights, Jiří Dienstbier, dismissed the head of the agency.
A unique exhibition of photographs of Czechoslovak legionnaires returning from Russia in 1919 has opened at the YMCA Palace in central Prague. The 50 or so pictures are the work of legionnaire Václav Balcar, who was among the soldiers as they crossed Asia and America. The exhibition The Path from War, which was prepared by the photographer’s grandson Vladimír Balcar, runs until July 15.
One of three people who President Miloš Zeman has refused to make a professor, Jan Eichler, says he has successfully undergone three security screenings. Mr. Zeman accuses Mr. Eichler of having been chief ideologue of the Communist Party prior to 1989, a charge rejected by the academic. Another of the three, art historian Jiří Fajt, again rejected Mr. Zeman’s argument that a private company was paying him bonuses as National Gallery director. Mr. Fajt said he had decided against accepting such sponsorship after consulting the minister of culture.
The 70th Prague Spring International Music Festival got underway on Tuesday morning with a memorial ceremony at the tomb of Bedřich Smetana at the city’s Vyšehrad cemetery. Dozens of people turned out to honour the composer on the anniversary of his death in 1844. Smetana’s My Country will, as is traditional, be performed at the opening concert of the Prague Spring at the Municipal Hall on Tuesday night, on this occasion by the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, has thanked the Czech government for its help in bringing Slovak citizens back from earthquake-hit Nepal in April. Fourteen Slovak tourists were delivered to Bratislava by a Czech government plane returning from Nepal after dropping off rescue workers and a shipment of emergency aid in the South Asian state. Mr. Fico said the move was proof of the unusually good relationship between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, adding that his country would return the favour at the first opportunity.
Former health minister and regional governor David Rath has been ruled fit to appear in court on corruption charges. Mr. Rath arrived at the Regional Court in Prague on Monday, two weeks after he said he had been in a bicycle accident. His lawyers had argued that he was still unable to attend the hearing but this claim was dismissed by judges, who cited an expert opinion. The former Social Democrat politician was arrested in 2012 on suspicion of accepting bribes to rig contracts. Several others accused alongside him have been found guilty in a separate trial.