The title of Czech Village of the Year 2016 has gone to Kašava in the Zlín region of south-eastern Moravia. Second in the competition was Prysk in northern Bohemia, followed by Kozojídky, which is in southern Moravia. The Village of the Year competition is intended to encourage people not only to beautify their homes and surroundings but also to get involved in local traditions and the social life of their municipality.
Anti-Muslim activists and supporters of refugees held gatherings on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Saturday. The former held a rally at the top of the square while the latter assembled at Můstek at the lower end of the capital’s main thoroughfare. Tomáš Ortel, the leader of the controversial nationalist rock group Ortel, performed a brief set by the statue of St. Wencelas at an event attended by around 300 people entitled Czexit – The Struggle for the Culture and Security of Our Country. Just a few dozen people turned out for the second event; afterwards they set off for the top of Wenceslas Square carrying an anti-fascist flag and were separated from the other group by a police cordon.
Thousands of people turned out on Saturday for the first day of the weekend-long NATO Days and Czech Airforce Days military show at the Mošnov airfield near Ostrava. Among those who visited the event was the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, who said he was there as it was the largest security show in Europe and security issues were at present highly topical. Mr. Sobotka said he was glad that the 2017 budget to be approved by the government next week included defence spending of CZK 52 billion, CZK 4 billion more than the figure for 2016. He said the world today was not a safe place and the Czech Republic needed to be aware of that and take appropriate measures. Over 250 pieces of military hardware, including various fighter planes, are on show at the free event.
The Czech tennis player Kateřina Siniaková has reached the final of the Japan Women’s Open in Tokyo. After a 6-3 6-0 victory over Shuai Chang of China on Saturday the 20-year-old is hoping to lift the first WTA title of her career. She will face Christina McHale of the US in the final. Siniaková, ranked 65th in the world, was beaten by Laura Siegemund of Germany in her only previous WTA final, in Sweden’s Bastad in July.
Traditional “vinobraní” wine harvest festivals are being held at a number of places in the Czech Republic this weekend. While some of the events – at which visitors can sample wines and burčák (young wine) – got underway in towns such as Znojmo and Litoměřice on Friday, others, including at Prague Castle, are starting on Saturday. Restrictions have been introduced at the Prague Castle “vinobraní”, with gardens adjacent to President Miloš Zeman’s Villa Lumbe residence and vine-growing gardens being closed to the public for the first time.
Concerns linked to migrants who fail to win asylum in Germany has led to the introduction of spot checks on the Czech-German border, the news website iDnes.cz reported. Speaking at the Svatý Kříž border crossing, the Czech minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, said it was likely that asylum seekers rejected in Germany would head for another European Union member state and try again there. Similar spot checks have already been in place on the Czech Republic’s borders with Slovakia and Austria for some time.
The Czech team at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro have taken their first gold medal through swimmer Arnošt Petráček in his category in the 50 metre backstroke. Meanwhile Běla Třebínová finished second in a women’s 50 metre backstroke event on Friday to add to her previous bronze medal in a 50 metre freestyle event. Czech archer David Drahonínský also took silver, bringing the country’s medals tally to six.
The country’s Communist Party this week put forward a constitutional referendum bill in which the country’s citizens would vote on whether or not the Czech Republic would stay in NATO, the Czech News Agency reports. The Communists, long opposed to NATO membership, have slammed the alliance and justified the bill for, in their view, increasing military tensions in Europe and for allegedly “going back on the principles on which NATO was founded”. Critics who have hit back include the chairman of the lower house Jan Hamáček said he considered NATO and EU membership “key pillars for the country’s sedcurity”. The bill is not likely to gain broader support.
The last leader of the former Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, who introduced the reforms of perestroika and glasnost in the 1980s eventually leading to the fall of communism in Europe, has expressed serious concerns over world affairs, from the migrant crisis and terrorism to economic sanctions and worsening ties between Russia and the West. Mr Gorbachev spoke via a video address to attendees of a two-day Prague conference on security and Russia. The 85-year-old had himself been due to attend but in the end declined on doctor’s orders due to health problems. Mr Gorbachev said it was not possible to “hide behind sanctions”, saying that responsibility lay with everyone involved. Russia has been hit by continuing sanctions following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Mr Gorbachev said that in order to overcome the crisis it was necessary to start with Europe – including Russia.
Some 150 Czech soldiers will serve three months in Lithuania at the beginning of next year, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický confirmed on Friday. The Baltic states and members of the Visegrad Four (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) agreed on year-long exercises over fears about Russia – following its annexation of Crimea. The NATO alliance is preparing multinational battalions to boost security along its eastern borders; Czech soldiers will not, for the moment, be joining, for capacity reasons. The Czech Defence Ministry is considering sending soldiers to join the emerging NATO force in 2017.