Jiri Kolar, one of the Czech Republic's most famous and influential artists is dead. After a series of illnesses that left him weak and exhausted, he died in his apartment in Prague on Sunday at the age of 88. Mr Kolar is mainly known for his poetry and unique collages. After the rise of Communism in 1948, he went through a decades-long struggle to be allowed to publish and exhibit. His refusal to compromise resulted in a nine month prison sentence in 1950, which led him to sign the Charter 77 human rights declaration along with other opposition figures such as the current Czech President Vaclav Havel. In 1980, Mr Kolar emigrated to France, where he stayed until the collapse of Communist rule in 1989. Mr Kolar had several exhibitions in western Europe and the United States, including a 1981 show in New York's Guggenheim Museum.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla called a state of emergency in five regions in Bohemia on Monday. In a public address on Czech Radio, Mr Spidla stated that the damage caused by heavy floods in Prague, Central Bohemia, South Bohemia, and the Pilsen and Carlsbad districts was extensive enough to threaten the property, health, and lives of citizens. The state of emergency has been called to run from 1800 hrs on Monday to midnight on August 22nd, meaning that anyone other than rescue workers is prohibited to enter restricted and evacuated zones and evacuated citizens are compelled to report their temporary places of residence to the authorities.
Meanwhile in Prague, meteorologists expect the flooding in the city lying downstream on the Vltava river to be the worst since 1890. Whilst several low-lying streets and islands have already been flooded, the Prague crisis committee warns that a new wave could lead to the Vltava river spilling into more of the city overnight. The new wave threatens to be much bigger, possibly bringing in twice as much water as the damaging wave that reached the city on Friday. Several districts of Prague are without electricity and some 70 patients had to be evacuated from the Na Frantisku hospital on the Vltava embankment and transported to four other hospitals on Monday afternoon. With more rain forecast in the next few days, the crisis committee fears further flooding due to the soil's inability to hold any more water and the failure of dams containing the flow.
Several towns have been cut off and many villages flooded as new rain continued to swell rivers in south-central Bohemia. Whilst firemen and soldiers have already evacuated a number of towns and villages, the regional governor in central-Bohemia called for people living around the Berounka and Vltava rivers to prepare for further evacuation. People have also been told to leave parts of the UNESCO-protected town of Cesky Krumlov - the second most popular tourist destination after the capital city, Prague. Jan Bauer, the mayor of the southern town of Prachatice, told Czech Radio that the flooding had left trains and buses not running because bridges have fallen and roads are damaged. Whilst floods sweeping across Europe have killed more than 60 people in the last week, the Czech Republic has reported four casualties so far. Another three people - including two voluntary firemen - died of heart attacks during rescue work.
The lawyer for the former Foreign Ministry official accused of trying to kill an investigative journalist has said his client is suicidal and wants to starve himself to death in prison. The lawyer said Karel Srba, former Foreign Ministry General Secretary, had not accepted food or liquids since Friday, although prison authorities say Mr Srba ended his hunger strike on Sunday afternoon. Mr Srba is being held in isolation at the Bory prison in Plzen. He was arrested several weeks ago and has been charged with attempted murder, fraud and corruption.
A restaurant-owner in the North Moravian city of Ostrava stood trial at the Regional court on Friday, after a Roma couple sued him for not serving them in his restaurant because of the colour of their skin. The man defended himself by saying his Club Vegas was a private one which only its members are allowed to enter. Despite the fact that there was reportedly a notice on the door announcing this, a witness told the court he was not a member and had always been served. Markus Pape from the European Centre for Roma Rights has described the incident as disguised racism.
The 13th round of British immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne airport was discontinued on Tuesday. As of July 20th, British officers refused 78 people entry to the United Kingdom. In the previous round 82 people were denied entry to the UK. The controls, agreed upon by the Czech and British governments, are meant to prevent people from abusing the British asylum system. They were first introduced last summer after several waves of Czech Roma arrived in Great Britain in order to seek political asylum. This year, the asylum seekers are travelling by coaches rather than by air and many have been returned from the Czech-German border by German border authorities.
The centre-left coalition led by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is trying to muster support for a parliamentary vote of approval, expected later on Wednesday. According to its policy statement released on Tuesday, the new government wants to secure Czech membership of the European Union by holding a referendum next year and carrying out legislative and institutional reforms to bring the Czech Republic in line with EU standards. The Czech Republic has closed 26 of the 30 chapters of legislation necessary for EU membership. Negotiations on the remaining chapters, which include agriculture and government finance, are expected to end by December. Although the Civic Democrat and Communist opposition who hold 99 of the 200 seats in parliament say they will not give it their support, the statement is expected to get the vote of confidence thanks to the government coalition's one-vote majority in the lower house.
A poll conducted in neighbouring Austria by the Austrian Society for European Policy showed that the Czech Republic is the least popular post-Communist candidate for EU enlargement. Whilst 61% of respondents supported Hungary's accession to the EU, only 41% accepted the Czech Republic and Poland as future EU member states. According to the Austrian Society for European Policy, the main reason stated for the low support was the lack of contact in the past. Prague was also not forgiven for supporting EU sanctions against Vienna after the far-right Freedom Party joined the Austrian cabinet in 2000.
Former foreign minister Jan Kavan has said he is to resign from his post in the European Union Convention, the body laying the foundations for EU expansion and reform. The resignation comes two weeks after one of Mr Kavan's former aides was arrested in an alleged plot to kill a journalist, although Mr Kavan denied there was any connection with the case. He said he was giving up the post to allow more time for his positions as chairman of the U.N. General Assembly and M.P in the lower house.
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