Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia were received by British Queen Elisabeth II in the Buckingham Palace on Thursday. British Princess Anne was also present at the ceremony. The Queen was given six Moser goblets with the same monogram as on the service presented to her by the Czechoslovak government 60 years ago. "Our talk was friendly, both personal and about relations between our countries", president Klaus said after the reception. During his visit to London, the Czech head of state also met British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Among the topics on their agenda was the Czech EU presidency.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel presented his latest play Odchazeni (The Leaving) in book form at a Prague theatre on Wednesday. Mr Havel said the story of a man leaving a high-ranking position had nothing to do with his own departure as Czech president in 2003, as he had started to write it in the 1980s. Vaclav Havel's play is to premiere at Prague's Na Vinohradech theatre in late May or early June with his wife Dagmar Havlova starring in one of the leading roles.
The unemployment rate has reached its lowest level in nine years. According to data released by the Labour Ministry, 5.8 percent of Czechs were out of work in October. There were 350,000 jobless last month, almost 90,000 fewer than the same month in 2006. On average there are 2.4 applicants for every vacancy. Analysts attribute the positive development to an increasing number of new jobs. On the other hand, Czech companies are facing shortage of employees.
Fares on Prague's public transport system could rise significantly as of
January next year. According to a proposal by the Prague Public Transport
Company, the price of a period travel card could increase by 39 % while a
single transfer ticket would cost 30 CZK, which is a rise of 50 %.
According to the head of the transport authority, Martin Dvorak, the
reasons behind the tariff increase are higher energy prices as well as
investment in public transport services.
The Prague Public Transport Company is also considering whether to bring ticket-barriers back into operation in the capital's metro system as a means of reducing the number of passengers currently travelling without a ticket. The Prague underground network had a system of turnstiles up until 1985, when they were removed to lessen congestion in the metro.
The Czech Republic is likely to be the last country in Central Europe to adopt the Euro, economists from the "Euro Team", a network of speakers on the Euro, said on Wednesday. The country is expected to join the eurozone in 2013 or 2014. The Czech government approved an updated strategy for Euro adoption in late August without setting any date. According to the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek no date could be fixed without reforms of the pension and health care systems.
The final approval of the extension of the Schengen area without inner border checks will be a mere formality, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer indicated on Thursday after the EU interior ministers agreed on the Shengen expansion as of December 21. At present the Schengen zone includes 13 EU countries, plus Norway and Iceland. The border-free area will be joined by nine new EU member states, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Czech far-right extremists insist on marching through Prague's Jewish
quarter on Saturday, the anniversary of the Nazi pogrom of 1938 known as
Kristallnacht, despite the official ban. Earlier on Thursday, Prague City
Court refused to lift the ban issued by Prague Town Hall. The Jewish
Liberal Union has already reserved the venue for its own event to pay
tribute to the victims of the pogrom and to prevent the neo-Nazis from
marching through the Jewish quarter. Prague Town Hall has declared it will
dissolve the extremists march on the spot.
The Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday that the Czech Republic would be cooperating with other countries ahead of any potential unauthorised demonstration. Some 1,400 police officers will be deployed on Saturday to prevent street fights. There have been suggestions that extremists from neighbouring Slovakia and Germany may try to attend the march.
In related news, the Czech government members assured the Jewish community on Thursday that they consider all form of attacks on its members as completely unacceptable. The director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlat, said the extremists plan to abuse the Kristallnacht anniversary will eventually have a positive effect, showing that civic society and democratic principles function.
Slavia Prague drew 0:0 with Arsenal in the group stage of the Champions League on Wednesday night. The Czech league leaders had the better of the chances against an under-strength Arsenal side, but lacked the cutting edge to take advantage of them. Nevertheless, Slavia restored some pride after a 7:0 defeat to Arsenal in London, and the point earned gives them a decent chance of coming third in Group H and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
Czech military instructors will probably participate in the training of the Iraqi tank forces and in combat vehicle battle exercises next year, Czech Deputy Defence Minister Martin Bartak said on Thursday. The training is to take place in a province north of Baghdad and some 20 Czech instructors are to take part. According to Mr Bartak, their main task will be training of both the army and the police. The Czech military has already been participating in the training of Iraqi soldiers at the international command of the NATO training mission in Baghdad.
President Klaus has started a three-day visit to Britain, during which he will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leader of the opposition David Cameron. According to a presidential office spokesperson, President Klaus will also be meeting Queen Elizabeth II during his stay in Britain. Upon Mr Klaus' arrival, he was taken to the Brookwood military cemetery, where he paid homage to Czech fighter pilots who fought with the British RAF during the Second World War.