A record 190 delegates attended the 13th annual Czech-German conference of politicians, journalists and scientists, which came to an end in the town of Jihlava on Sunday. The three-day event, organised by the Bernard Bolzano Foundation, aims at promoting discussion and finding solutions to various problem areas causing friction in Czech-German relations. Conference participants shared the view that, concerning the period following WWII, Czechs and Germans will most likely never come to an agreement. However, according to Czech historian Jan Kren, besides agreeing to disagree, both sides need to acknowledge each other and be prepared to listen to the other's arguments.
A Czech Airlines (CSA) flight carrying 116 passengers from Prague to Amsterdam was forced to turn back on Sunday after experiencing technical difficulties. A spokesperson for the national carrier said the plane, a Boeing 737-400, suffered problems with its engine, forcing it to return to Prague's Ruzyne airport shortly after take-off. CSA management says the passengers on the flight were never in any danger and has attributed the growing number of technical problems experienced in the past few months to the significantly larger number of flights offered this year.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has expressed surprise at the failure of Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan to win the first round of direct presidential elections, which were held in neighbouring Slovakia on Saturday. The election results see the former controversial prime minister, Vladimir Meciar, and his former right-hand man Ivan Gasparovic (both opposition candidates) advance to the second round on April 17. Mr Spidla added, however, that he was convinced Czech-Slovak relations would continue to blossom, no matter who is elected president.
The Czech book "Labyrintem Revoluce", which translates into "Through the Labyrinth of the Revolution", a view of the Velvet Revolution and the political development that followed, has won the Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award. The winners of the Magnesia Litera book awards for the best Czech books published in 2003 were announced at Prague's City Library on Saturday night. Book of the Year author, Jiri Suk, also won the first prize in the non-fiction category.
Latest figures released by the Czech Statistics Office show that exports to EU states have risen significantly in the first two months of this year. Czech exports to the European Union have increased by 8.7 percent year on year to amount to 165.6 billion Czech crowns. The demand for Czech products mainly rose in Belgium, Italy, Austria and Germany. Exports to France, on the other hand, have decreased.
The Social Democratic Party was the only party brave enough to lead the Czech Republic into the European Union, Social Democrat Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Saturday. Speaking at a meeting of party liners on the Central Bohemian Rip Hill - the place where the first Czechs are believed to have settled - Mr Spidla said all other parties were too weak and lacked the courage to prepare the country for the EU. He added that the results of the next parliamentary elections will only be in his party's interest if its members believed in themselves and their political manifesto, a programme which allows the average Czech to make an honest living.
The US editor and columnist Alan Levy is dead. Mr Levy, lived and worked in Prague since the 1960s, passed away at the age of 72 years on Friday after a brief and courageous battle with cancer. Mr Levy first came to the Czech capital from New York as a journalist in 1967. He was editor-in-chief of The Prague Post, a popular English-language weekly, since its founding in 1991, when he was hired by the owners to help launch the newspaper. His column, "Prague Profile," introducing personalities from all walks of life, was one of the paper's most-read features and appeared 549 times. During his journalistic career Mr Levy interviewed personalities such as former Czech president Vaclav Havel, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the Beatles, and authors Graham Greene and W.H. Auden. He also chronicled the Prague Spring reform movement and the Warsaw Pact invasion that followed in numerous articles and a book called "Rowboat to Prague".
Bohumil Hrabal fans came together in Prague on Saturday afternoon to commemorate the famous Czech novelist with the setting of a foundation stone for the Bohumil Hrabal Centre at Prague's Liben district. The centre, which will have a bookshop, gallery and a tavern, is to be built on Na Hrazi street, where Hrabal lived between 1950-1973 and where he wrote several of his earlier books. Close to three million copies of his books were printed during his life-time and he was translated into twenty-seven languages. Bohumil Hrabal's contribution to modern European literature includes "Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age" and "Closely Watched Trains". Mr Hrabal died on February 3, 1997.
Health ministers from fifteen current and future European Union member states have agreed to join forces to discourage patients from one country from seeking health care in another after the EU expands in May. The ministers agreed to regularly exchange information on patients who seek cross-border medical care at the end of a two-day conference in Senohraby, 30 kilometers south of Prague. Studies have indicated that patients from Western European countries could be tempted by cheaper health care costs in the ten nations joining the EU. The "Prague Declaration", a document calling for measures to be taken if the health care system of any one country was threatened, was signed by the health ministers of the ten new EU nations (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) as well as the five current members (Austria, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands).
The Czech Republic is launching its first large international television advertising campaign aimed at attracting more tourists to the country. Regional Development Minister Pavel Nemec said on Friday that the advertisements would be seen by around 150 million viewers around Europe. The ads emphasise that the country is 'pleasant and calm', characteristics which research showed tourists associated with the Czech Republic.