The 63rd Prague Spring international music festival gets underway in the Czech capital on Monday evening. As is traditional, the opening concert will feature Má vlast by the great Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. Five prestigious foreign orchestras are taking part, including the BBC Symphonic Orchestra led by the Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek and Britain’s longest-established professional symphony orchestra, Manchester’s Halle Orchestra. This year’s Prague Spring features 50 concerts and seven theatre performances and runs until June 4.
A court in the Czech Republic has been hearing testimony in a case surrounding Czech Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek. The court is seeking to determine if the Justice Ministry, including former state representative and current Social Democrat shadow Justice Minister Marie Benešová, pressurized those investigating Mr Čunek’s alleged bribery case. Zlatuše Andělová, a state representative from Ostrava gave testimony today, which suggested that the Justice Ministry exerted political pressure on investigators in the hope of assisting the position of Mr Čunek, who temporarily resigned due to allegations of bribery.
Documents prepared by the Czech Communist Party ahead of its conference on the 17 May, could get the party into serious trouble, according to media reports. The controversy surrounds revolutionary statements which are similar in nature to that proclaimed by the Communist Youth Union, which was outlawed by a Czech court in October 2006. Both organisations proclaim that capitalism must be overturned to make way for socialism or communism. The Communist Youth Union was outlawed because of the seemingly revolutionary and violent methods it was advocating in order to achieve this goal - which the court ruled were unconstitutional. However, the Czech Communist Party is more cautious, insisting that its path towards this stated goal remains peaceful and democratic. However, observers note that the communists could ultimately end up before a court tasked with determining whether the party should be outlawed.
A new poll for Czech Television suggests that almost two-thirds of Czechs are opposed to the placement of a US anti-missile radar system on Czech soil, with only 18 percent in favour and 17 percent undecided. According to the poll, Czechs also expressed strong opposition to international observers in the country, with most opposed to a Russian presence linked to the radar. Polls consistently show most Czechs are against the proposal, albeit the figures in this poll suggest the trend is increasing. Conversely, a new poll by the agency STEM suggests that most Czechs support the idea of some kind of missile defence shield in Europe. The Czech government expects to formally sign a treaty on the radar base this summer.
Newly released figures from the Czech traffic police suggest that the number of fatalities on Czech roads has fallen. The figures for the first quarter of 2008 reveal 264 deaths on the roads, a figure which is 43 less than 2007 first-quarter figures. The numbers of accidents, serious injuries and material damages from car accidents have also all decreased. Further, the figures for serious injuries are at their sixth lowest since 1990. The numbers are believed to represent a modest improvement in Czech efforts to decrease high levels of traffic accidents.
A planned high-speed luxury rail link between the Czech cities of Prague and Ostrava has been thrown into uncertainty as its backer considers shifting the project to Slovakia. The company behind the project, Student Agency, which has hitherto specialised in coach travel, is reportedly considering the shift abroad because of a controversial decision by the government to funnel transport investment financing through a state owned company known as the Rail and Transport Authority or SŽDC. Specifically, a 12 billion crown government investment into the Czech rail network has bought harsh protests from Student Agency, which has threatened to make a complaint at the European Court, stating that this form of government support is harming the private sector.
A new extension to the Prague metro, which will take trains all the way to the city’s airport should begin construction late next year. The Prague Transport Authority announced the proposals on Monday, detailing total costs of around 40 billion crowns. The “A” metro line will be extended in several stages, the first of which is expected to be complete by 2014. However, the metro is not expected to reach the airport until 2018. The first extension is being financed with the help of EU development grants.
Nearly two thirds of Czechs are opposed to the planned building of a United States radar base in central Bohemia, suggests a fresh opinion poll conducted by the Median agency. Forty-four percent of respondents in the survey said they were definitely opposed to the installation, while 21 percent said they were rather opposed. Four percent were strongly in favour, while 14 percent were rather in favour. The findings of the latest poll are in line with previous surveys. Prague and Washington have reached agreement on the radar base, which would be part of a global missile defence system, though the Czech Parliament is yet to vote on whether to allow US soldiers on Czech soil.
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