The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Prague mayor Pavel Bem and wife of the Czech president Livia Klausova have taken over the symbolic Bethlehem Light from scouts in St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. On Saturday, scouts distributed the Bethlehem Light by train all over the country. Until Christmas Eve people can come to light their own candles in the cathedral as well as in the lobby of the Czech Radio building in Prague. The Bethlehem Light tradition was established by the Austrian radio station ORF in 1986. In the Czech Republic, this tradition started after the fall of communist regime in 1989.
A Czech operational programme aimed at drawing EU funds for support in the field of science is likely to be the last of all EU countries’ programmes to be approved by the European Commission. Czech officials will negotiate the details of the programme in late March at the earliest. The operational programme will make the Czech Republic eligible for up to 54 billion crowns (the equivalent of roughly 3 billion US dollars) in EU subsidies. Delays in the implementation of the programme forced Dana Kuchtova of the Green Party to step down as education minister in October.
Most Czechs believe that the post-war decrees of the then Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes, which stripped local Germans of Czechoslovak citizenship and property rights, should continue to be valid. However, the number of those advocating this opinion has been steadily declining in the past five years, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. The results also suggest that the number of those who regard the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia as a just step has been on decline as well. In the recent poll 48 percent of people said that that the expulsion of Sudeten Germans was a right step. Five years ago this opinion was expressed by 60 percent of respondents.
The popularity of Czech presidential candidate Jan Svejnar is increasing, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency. The results of the poll suggest that 34 percent of respondents would like to see the incumbent Vaclav Klaus re-elected to the post. However, the same number of people would prefer to see his rival Jan Svejnar in the post. In a poll conducted in November, almost half of respondents didn’t know Jan Svejnar at all and only 15 percent wanted to see him as president. Mr Klaus’s popularity may be falling due to his unwillingness to participate in a televised debate with his opponent. He recently rejected Mr Svenjar’s offer of a one-on-one debate on the grounds that his views were well known and he had already proved himself in the office.
The highest building in the Czech Republic located at Prague’s district of Pankrac has been finished and it is ready for its first tenants. The City Tower building is 109 metres high, with 27 floors and 800 underground parking places. The construction of the building started in 1983 and it was originally to become the main centre of the former Czechoslovak Radio. It was bought in 2000 by its current owner, the ECM developer.
A new baby box for mothers who want to give up their unwanted babies was installed in Pelhrimov, south Bohemia. Local councillors decided to establish a baby box after a child had been found abandoned at a hospital toilet earlier this year. Ten babies have been left in a baby box since they were established two and a half years ago. The last baby was placed in a baby box in Prague last week-end. Until now, five baby boxes have been operating in the country and three more are to be set up next year.
Churches will probably receive 267 billion crowns (some 14.5 billion US dollars) from the Czech state in compensation for their property confiscated by the former communist regime, Mlada Fronta Dnes reports. Last week members of the ruling coalition and churches agreed on financial compensation worth 83 billion crowns. The state won’t be able to pay out the sum in a one-off payment as it would threaten the state budget, Finance Minister Miloslav Kalousek told the daily. The compensation will therefore be paid out gradually throughout a period of sixty years. The cabinet will discuss the planned compensation for churches at the beginning of next year. If it passes through the parliament, the churches will start receiving the payments as of 2009.
President Klaus is refusing to be drawn into a live televised debate with his sole rival for the presidency Jan Svejnar. Mr. Klaus recently rejected Mr. Svejnar’s offer of an American-style one-on-one debate about crucial domestic and foreign policy matters on the grounds that his views were well known and he had already proved himself in office. Pressed by the opposition Social Democrats to accept the challenge, Mr. Klaus said it would be more to the point if the Social Democrats were to present Mr. Svejnar as their presidential candidate and tell the nation why they had chosen to back him.
Moscow and Prague remain at loggerheads over the US plan to site a US tracking radar on Czech territory and interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland within its missile defence system. Visiting Russian commissioner for relations with the EU Sergei Yastrzhembsky said he had not heard a single logical argument in support of the plan. However he said he was pleased to find that the Czech Republic was very open to negotiations and committed to resolving the conflict. I found no anti-Russian prejudice and that is a good platform for cooperation, Mr. Yastrzhembsky said. Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs Alexander Vondra said once again that the radar base was not aimed against Russia and that the Czech Republic regarded Moscow as a partner.
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