Former Czech President and human rights advocate Vaclav Havel has
spoken out against the United States' strict visa policy towards the
Czech Republic. Mr Havel said the USA was being pedantic and to some
extent absurd. Millions of Mexicans cross the border with bags of
cocaine and heroin, but the authorities are worried about the Czech
student staying too long, Mr Havel told the CTK news agency.
But unlike foreign minister Cyril Svoboda, Mr Havel believes reciprocal measures against US citizens are not necessary. Instead, Czechs should get the word out by openly talking about it, joking about it, and writing about it in papers, such as the New York Times, Mr Havel suggests.
A replica of a medieval crane that used to be powered by men running inside two large wheels is to be erected at Prague Castle. The crane will be part of an accompanying programme to the Charles IV exhibition that is currently underway. It will be constructed according to images from the famous Wenceslas Bible and similar cranes preserved in the Czech Republic and abroad.
The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have strongly criticised Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek for failing to defend Czech interests at the EU summit in Brussels on Friday. The Czech Republic has backed down from its earlier demand for a stronger directive on the liberalisation of trade in services. The move was criticised at the Civic Democrats' Executive Council meeting in Karlovy Vary. The rival Social Democrats were also scorned for the large number of corruption scandals around the party, a lost arbitration case that could cost the state billions of crowns, and unrest in the health sector.
The Czech government will not interfere in a decision to keep the remains of German WWII soldiers stored in a factory in the northern town of Usti nad Labem, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said on Saturday. The bodies of the Wehrmacht soldiers were exhumed from various graves around the country to be buried at a special cemetery in Prague. The organisers of the project ran out of money, and the remains were stored at the factory instead, where they have been for the last three years.
Students in Belarus, who are thrown out of their universities for taking part in demonstrations against their President Alexander Lukashenko could be allowed to continue their studies in the Czech Republic. The Czech government is to discuss this possibility at its session on Wednesday. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek also plans to discuss the study stays with education minister Petra Buzkova. Massive protest demonstrations are being held in the Belarusian capital Minsk after Mr Lukashenko gained another term in a presidential election last weekend, which is widely believed to have been rigged.
A district court in the Moravian town of Olomouc has adjourned - indefinitely - a case in which the German order of Teutonic Knights has disputed the ownership rights of Moravia's Bouzov Castle. The German plaintiff has called for a return of the Czech state property confiscated in 1948 - but state representatives have argued that the order no longer has claim to the property. The district court ruled on Friday that both sides in the dispute have until next Wednesday to hand in final proposal statements. Bouzov Castle - first mentioned in records dating back to the 14th century - is one of the best known tourist sites in the Olomouc region: it was visited by some 100, 000 people last year.
In related news, former president Vaclav Havel is among those expressing support for Belarusian protestors: in a letter sent to the opposition Mr Havel expressed solidarity and a desire for a democratic and free Belarus. Speaking to journalists in Prague on Friday, Mr Havel said it was necessary to limit all official contacts with the country in order to fully isolate the Lukashenko regime.
Czech figure skater Pavel Verner placed 13th at the World Men's Figure Skating Championship in Calgary, Canada. This is the best placement that the 19 year-old sportsman has ever notched in a world championship. Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel skated to gold, Brian Joubert won silver, and Evan Lysacek from the United States got bronze.
A new poll, conducted in March by the CVVM agency, has suggested that
if elections were held today, the Green Party could get as much as ten
percent of the vote. A number of polls have confirmed a rise in
pre-election support for the party, until recently marginal on the
Czech political scene. The party has never made it into Czech
Parliament. A number of surveys now show the Greens' approval rating
that of the Christian Democrats (at around 6 percent), and drawing
close to the Communist Party (at 12.5 percent).
Most polls still show the country's largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats as first (25.5 percent), followed by the Social Democrats (21 percent).
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has revealed that the Czech Republic
has backed down from its earlier demand for a stronger directive on the
liberalisation of trade in services in the European Union. Speaking at
a press conference in Brussels on Friday, the prime minister said that
it was necessary to find a compromise on the issue. Czech
representatives in the end backed Germany, France and the majority of
EU countries on the European Parliament's much adapted proposal,
lacking the previous "country-of-origin" clause. Countries like
Hungary, Latvia, and the Netherlands were against.
The original clause would have allowed individuals as well as companies to provide services throughout the EU using the laws and regulations of their home country. The Czech Chamber of Commerce has already suggested that without it, any new directive will have little economic effect.