Nearly a week after receiving Sir Nicholas Winton, Czech President Vaclav Klaus played host to the British Princess Royal, Princess Anne, on Sunday evening. On the menu was traditional Czech fare, including duck and dumplings, said one of the president's aids. Several other dignitaries were invited to the dinner, including the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, who is, genealogists say, a distant relative of the princess. Princess Anne arrived in the Czech Republic on Sunday, and will be in the country for three days. On Sunday, she watched the Velka pardubicka steeplechase in east Bohemia, and over the next couple of days she is expected to pay visits to schools, homes for the elderly, and Lany, another one of the president's residences.
The Czech Republic has come joint eighteenth, alongside Hungary, in an EU integration index released on Monday. The index judged 25 EU member states (but not Bulgaria and Romania), alongside Norway, Switzerland and Canada, on how well they catered for and integrated immigrants into their society. The Czech Republic came in with a score slightly below average, gaining 48 points out of 100 overall, with the average being 54. The Czech Republic was identified as lagging behind in two key areas in particular - it was deemed particularly difficult to get a long-term residency permit in the Czech Republic, and the country scored second-worst when it came to protecting immigrants against discrimination. Top of the index was Sweden, with 88 points.
Over a half of children raised in Czech children's homes will go on to commit a crime, suggest figures released by the Interior Ministry on Monday. The figures come from a study commissioned by the Ministry, and looking at around 17,500 children, over a period spanning from 1995 to 2004. Interior Minister Ivan Langer reacted to the statistics by saying that the current system was not working, and that children raised in such homes were not being properly integrated into society. The study criticized what it called the 'fragmented' system of care for children in the Czech Republic. It also concluded that the child-care system was too bureaucratic. The government has promised to draft new legislation to tackle the problem by the end of the year.
And finally, the Czech Rail carrier Ceske Drahy released a statement on Monday, refuting allegations that passenger safety was threatened when twice Formula 1 world-champion Emerson Fittipaldi took over the controls of one of their Pendolino trains. Mr. Fittipaldi gave one of Ceske Drahy's flagship Pendolino trains a test-run last Thursday while making the journey from Prague to Brno, where he was attending a grand prix. Photos were released of the racing driver behind the controls, which has prompted an enquiry to be held by the Czech Railways Inspectorate. In the statement released on Monday, Ceske Drahy insisted that the train-driver had been in control of the locomotive throughout Mr. Fittipaldi's test-run, and that the train was on autopilot anyway, when Mr. Fittipaldi sat behind the controls. The investigation continues.
According to the British Embassy, the condition of Sir Nicholas Winton, the British man who saved 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovak children from the holocaust, has improved. Mr. Winton, who is 98, was admitted to hospital on Sunday, during a visit to Prague, with a fever. Relatives of Mr. Winton were unwilling to discuss his condition with the press, but a spokesperson for the British Embassy told journalists on Monday that, having been prescribed a course of antibiotics, Mr. Winton's condition was improving. He is expected to be released from hospital in two or three days.
The Czech Communist Party would in theory be willing to support any one of Vaclav Klaus' three potential rivals for the presidency, said Communist MP Pavel Kovacik on Monday. The three names being touted in connection with the presidency are those of the former Foreign Minister, Jiri Dienstbier, Academy of Sciences Chairman, Vaclav Paces, and economist Jan Svejnar. Mr. Klaus is the only one to have officially announced his candidacy so far. All parties except the ruling ODS have agreed that they do not want Vaclav Klaus to remain president for a second term, though they have so far been unable to unite on any one candidate. On Monday, Communist MP Pavel Kovacik said that he would personally favour Jiri Dienstbier's nomination as, he said, Mr. Dienstbier has a proven track-record in politics. But, Mr. Kovacik said, the Communist Party would be open to negotiation and does not exclude Mr. Paces, nor Mr. Svejnar from the race.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Environment Minister Martin Bursik are in New York on Monday, drumming up support for the Czech Republic at the United Nations. On Tuesday, there will be a vote on which country should gain a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The Czech Republic is eyeing the post, which would span a period of two years and start in 2009, but it is up against Croatia in Tuesday's vote. The Czech Ambassador to the UN, Martin Palous has said that he is 'cautiously optimistic' about the Czech Republic's chances. These sentiments have been echoed by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
On Monday, Skoda Transportation announced that it was working on a new type of tram, the 15T, to be integrated into the Prague public transport system by the end of 2009. Prague Public Transport Company has ordered 250 of the new trams, and is cooperating with the manufacturers on the design of the tram, said Skoda Transportation's General Manager, Tomas Krsek. The 15T will supersede Skoda's 14T tram, which was designed by Porsche. Skoda Transportation are investing 300 million CZK (15 million USD) into the development of the new 15T. Meanwhile, the Porsche-designed 14T has been criticized in some quarters for its stuffiness and the 'whistling' sound it makes when in motion.
Czech-born architect Jan Kaplicky has warned that other world-renowned
architects will now be wary of undertaking projects in the Czech Republic,
following the turmoil over a proposed new National Library building on
Letna Plain. He made the comments during an interview on TV Nova on Sunday.
Plans for a new library building, designed by Mr. Kaplicky, have been
halted in response to growing opposition from city councilors belonging to
the Civic Democratic Party. The project's opponents have a majority in
Prague City Hall and could easily scupper the project.
On Sunday, Prague mayor Pavel Bem said that the design might fit another less historic district of Prague, but on Letna Plain, beside the castle, the building would be 'unsympathetic' and 'show no respect for its surroundings'.
In related news, Interior Minister Ivan Langer told journalists on Monday that the government was to spend 400 million CZK (20 million USD) over the next four years on crime prevention. Interior Minister Langer also called for a more regional approach to the tackling of crime. The money is to be spent, according to the Interior Ministry on crime-prevention schemes in schools, and CCTV systems in particular. Funds will no longer be administered centrally, said Mr. Langer, but by regional councils instead. In its new crime-prevention initiative, the government has given priority to lowering rates of violent crime and property crime in particular. Target groups identified include school-children and the socially-excluded.