The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, hosted volunteers who have worked with refugees at the Serbian or Croatian borders or directly in refugee camps at the government's Kramář Villa on Tuesday. Jan Piňos of the group Czech Team, who operated on the Serbian-Croatian border, said the PM had shown courage in inviting he and his co-volunteers given the anti-refugee sentiment in the Czech Republic and on a day when the president was appearing with anti-Islam campaigners elsewhere in Prague.
A demonstration expressing support for refugees was held on Prague’s Náměstí Míru on Tuesday. The event entitled This Country Belongs to All - Refugees Welcome was organised by the anti-hate speech group Proti projevům nenávisti and drew hundreds of people. Among the speakers was human rights minister Jiří Dienstbier, who said it was important to stand up for the European values Czechs had professed during 1989’s Velvet Revolution. Demonstrators later marched to the Albertov area of the city, where they were separated from an event organised by Bloc Against Islam by hundreds of riot police.
Wreaths have been laid at Prague’s Národní třída on Tuesday at the site of the start of the Velvet Revolution. Among those who marked the anniversary at the historical spot was the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, who said not all of people’s expectations in 1989 had been met. His view was echoed by the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, who also told reporters that the state holiday should not be used to divide society; some politicians are taking advantage of the day to create a profile or campaign, he said. Alongside political leaders thousands of regular citizens paid their respects on Národní třída, with many lighting candles to mark the anniversary.
An estimated two to three thousand people took part in a demonstration in front of Prague’s National Museum on Tuesday afternoon entitled For Our Culture and the Security of the Country. Many carried green cards expressing support for President Miloš Zeman, who on November 17 last year was the target of opponents bearing red cards. Among those who spoke at the event, which caused the closing of the main road through Prague, was anti-immigrant politician Tomio Okamura of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party.
In a speech at an event organised in his support by Bloc Against Islam, the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, said opponents of migration should not be dubbed “extremists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, racists or fascists”. Speaking on the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the execution and mass arrest of Czech students in 1939, Mr. Zeman told a crowd of supporters at Prague’s Albertov that nobody would dictate to the Czech people what to do. He said he was the president of the nation but not the president of the media, who he accused of “massaging” the migration crisis.
Strong winds are expected in the Czech Republic on Tuesday night and on Wednesday with gales of up to 110 kilometres an hour likely in mountain areas, according to a warning issued by the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute. The windstorm should culminate on Wednesday morning before easing off later in the day, forecasters said.
Fear of terrorists must not be turned against refugees, says the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka. Speaking at a memorial event honouring Czech students victims of the Nazis at Prague’s Hlávka Dorms on Tuesday, Mr. Sobotka said populists and hate-mongers were feeding off people’s concerns as a wave of migration comes to Europe. He said it was not possible to make little of the fears of Czech citizens, which needed to be answered with practical solutions to the current crisis, including the EU becoming more decisive and ensuring that the external borders of the bloc function once again.
Events are being held in the Czech Republic on Tuesday marking the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the execution and mass arrest of Czech students in 1939. November 17 memorial ceremonies are being held at a number of places, as are cultural events and political demonstrations, including against and in support of migrants. Police will be out in force in Prague on the state holiday, partly as a response to the recent atrocities in Paris.
The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer has warned that Czechs are too reliant on antibiotics. Use of antibiotics has risen by a quarter since 1989 although resistance of diseases is increasing as is the bill for health insurers. He pointed out that the Czech Republic is above the European average for antibiotics use. It is estimated that around 25,000 Europeans die every year because antibiotics are no longer effective against the diseases they are prescribed for.
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said security on the Czech-Slovak border will be stepped up. He said the move had been provoked by information that one of the persons linked to the Paris attacks crossed the border twice. Those movements apparently took place five and seven years ago. Sobotka said the information was passed on by French sources. The details were made public by the prime minister following a meeting with Czech security officials. Current stepped up security will be maintained at the same level in the country, the prime minister added.