Václav Klaus has been sworn in for a second five-year term as Czech
president, following his successful re-election in February. The
inauguration ceremony took place at Prague Castle on Friday. Invited
witnessing the ceremony included former president Václav Havel as well as
MPs, senators and other representatives. The inauguration was followed by
21-gun salute on Prague’s Petřín Hill. In his speech afterwards Mr
Klaus said he would act in accordance with the Czech constitution. He
stressed that the Czech Republic would face the presidency of the EU in
near future and added that “he would like the government and president
act jointly” in this period.
Prior to Friday’s swearing in, Mr Klaus honoured the memory of Czechoslovakia’s first head of state, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Mr Klaus is the Czech Republic’s 2nd president following Václav Havel. His term in office ends on March 7, 2013.
In NHL action on Thursday Czech forward Rostislav Olesz scored his 20th goal of the season to help the Florida Panthers defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins. The final score was 5-2. In other games, Tomáš Plekanec – the most productive Czech player in the NHL – opened the scoring for the Montreal Canadiens against the Phoenix Coyotes. Montreal went on to win 4-2. Czech defenceman Zbyněk Michálek scored once for the losing team. In another notable game, defenceman Tomáš Kabrle notched up two assists for Toronto, with the Maple Leafs trouncing the Boston Bruins 8-2.
Police from the country’s unit on organised crime have arrested two Ukrainian nationals suspected of trading in humans. The spokesman for the unit made the news public on Friday. The two individuals – both permanent residents in the Czech Republic – were arrested in South Bohemia. They are suspected for having lured fellow nationals to the Czech Republic on the pretext of secure jobs. Those who accepted were reportedly forced to work in unbearable conditions – with no chance for proper rest or sick-leave benefits - while the suspects retained a profit. The suspects are thought to have illegally made millions of Czech crowns.
A new poll conducted by the STEM agency for public broadcaster Czech TV has suggested that around 38 percent of Czechs consider the Mašín brothers heroes. Josef and Ctirad Mašín, now in their seventies, resisted the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and fought their way out of the country in 1953. They now live in the US. The Mašíns’ small resistance group killed six people - two police officers, a cashier, and three East German policemen – in their attempt to reach West Germany. This week Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek recognised the Mašíns, as well as fellow resistance member Milan Paumer, for their valour. But the STEM poll suggests that almost 70 percent of Czechs do not consider the move appropriate. An earlier study four years ago suggested that 55 percent of Czechs considered the Mašíns criminals.
Those leasing outlets in Prague’s Palladium shopping mall, which was temporarily closed after a fire hit the mall’s electro-distribution centre in February, will not have to pay rent for the period of the mall’s closure. The owner met with leaseholders on Friday to discuss the situation. Palladium – one of the more prominent shopping centres in the Czech capital – is only expected to reopen on March 20th. Damages are still being tabulated but losses in sales so far have been estimated by financial daily Hospodářské noviny at 200 million crowns (the equivalent of more than 12 million US dollars).
The Czech economy grew by a record 6.5 percent in 2007, according to figures released on Friday. The result is that GDP growth has reached 6 percent or more for three years in a row. Economists attributed the growth to increases in consumption, investment and foreign trade. Lower unemployment figures also played a positive role.
Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecká has asked for an appellate review of a court decision in the case of Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, a former communist prosecutor involved in the show trial of politician Milada Horáková in the 1950s. Mrs Horáková was found guilty and executed by the Communists on trumped up charges of espionage and treason. In early February the Prague High Court halted Mrs Brožová-Polednová’s prosecution based on the statute of limitations, saying that the former communist prosecutor’s role had not been a crucial one and did not qualify as judicial murder. Prior to the decision, a lower-instance court had sentenced the 86-year old Brožová-Polednová to eight years in prison.
The far-right, non-Parliamentary National Party has revealed plans to hold a demonstration near the Centre for Ethnic Minorities in Prague (Dům národnostních menšin) on March 22nd, a day after the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The extremist party registered the demonstration at Prague City Hall as "a protest against positive discrimination”. No more than fifty people are expected to take part. City councillor Jiří Janeček said on Friday that the nearby centre will be closed on the day, to avoid any kind of clash between demonstrators and observers.
Leaders of the three government coalition parties - including Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek - have met to discuss priorities including the possible return of Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek to the cabinet. The issue of the politician’s return will be discussed again on Wednesday. Members of the government remain at odds over Mr Čunek despite the fact the politician was cleared of corruption charges last year. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg threatened in the past to step down if Mr Čunek was reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister for regional affairs, without first adequately explaining his financial dealings. Some Greens, including party leader Martin Bursík, also expressed unease over the situation. The Christian Democrats have been pushing strongly for Mr Čunek’s reinstatement, saying they have a right to be properly represented in government.
A group of Czech civilian experts, together with 50 troops, left for Afghanistan on Thursday to reinforce the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in the country’s Logar province. While the troops will join the Czech contingent in Afghanistan, the three civilian experts are set to coordinate work in the fields of agriculture, construction and hydrology. The Czech Defence Ministry said another five experts would be joining the Provincial Reconstruction Team in due time. They will follow up projects started by the Americans, including the construction of two hospitals and a school. The Czech team will work in Afghanistan for three to five years; besides the team in the Logar province, the Czechs also run a hospital in the capital Kabul.
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