Hundreds of thousands of children around the Czech Republic are preparing for the start of the new school year on Monday. Both elementary and secondary schools will have fewer pupils than last year; the latter will open their doors to over 820,000 children, while just over half a million are enrolled in the country’s secondary schools.
When the European Union discusses the South Ossetia crisis at a special summit on Monday it should clearly name Russia as the aggressor in the conflict, says former Czech president Václav Havel. Speaking on a TV debate programme on Sunday, Mr Havel said the Russian bear was trampling on the Georgian dwarf. He said the Czech cabinet had initially adopted a correct position, but then seemed to retreat after talks with the current Czech president Václav Klaus; ministers, Mr Havel said, were now saying it was not necessary to establish the culprit but to look to the future. He said Georgia may have made mistakes but it was always necessary to say who the victim was and who the aggressor.
The government council on Romany affairs is planning to discuss in two weeks’ time the controversial issue of the high number of Czech Romanies seeking asylum in Canada, the minister for human rights and minorities, Džamila Stehlíková, told reporters on Saturday. The prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said last week economic factors not human rights were behind an increase in Czech asylum applications in Canada. Romany leader Ladislav Bilý criticised the prime minister’s comments, as well as statements made by Minister Stehlíková and Interior Minister Ivan Langer. Nearly 500 Czech Romanies have applied for asylum in Canada since it dropped visa requirements for Czechs in November; Ottawa had introduced the restriction in response to a large influx of Czech Romanies in the late 1990s.
The Czech postal service is planning to close 179 branches in small municipalities, Czech Post’s general director Karel Kratina said on Sunday. A list of the villages and towns affected will be announced by the end of next week. Czech Post currently has 3,387 branches, almost half of which only have one counter. The branch closures, which are opposed by the mayors of many of the municipalities affected, will lead to savings of over CZK 30 million a year. Mr Kratina said despite rises in fuel prices the cost of stamps would not increase.
The Czech Constitutional Court will begin assessing whether the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty is compatible with the Czech constitution in September, its chairman Pavel Rychetský said on Sunday. However, Mr Rychetský said he could not say when the court would issue a decision. The Czech Senate, which is dominated by the somewhat euro-sceptic Civic Democrats, sent the Lisbon Treaty to the Constitutional Court for consideration earlier this year. The Czech Parliament is expected to vote on ratifying the reform treaty after the court issues a ruling, although the future of the document has been thrown into doubt following its rejection by Irish voters – all 27 EU members must ratify Lisbon before it can come into effect.
Green Party candidates to the regional assembly in Moravia-Silesia are planning to address voters in an unusual manner – by rapping. Nine Green candidates are planning to perform a hip-hop song entitled We All Want Healthy Children at public meetings ahead of elections this autumn, the website novinky.cz reported. The song’s writer, regional deputy party leader Ladislav Vrchovský, says the Greens want to address people with a modern outlook and the young.
The Czech Republic’s smallest coin, the 50-heller piece, ceases to be legal tender at midnight on Sunday. The aluminium coin, which weighs less than one gram, is worth half a crown. Analysts say they do not expect an increase in prices in the wake of the coin’s demise. There are believed to be over 400 million 50-heller pieces in circulation. The coin and the 20-crown note, which also ceases to be tender on September 1, can be changed at high street banks for a period of one year. After that it will be only possible to change them at the Czech National Bank, until August 2014.
The 12-minute short I Hear Your Scream by the Paraguayan director Pablo Lamar has won the main competition at the Fresh Film Fest festival of student films in the west Bohemian town of Karlovy Vary. Nearly 3,000 people attended the 200 pictures screened during the five-day festival, which came to an end on Saturday night.
There are concerns in Croatia about an upcoming soccer game between Dinamo Zagreb and Sparta Prague, after Sparta fans expressed support for the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the Czech news website novinky.cz reported. The Croatian newspaper Vecernji ran a story on Friday about Sparta fans carrying a flag calling on both Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic to “hold on!” during a game against Mladá Boleslav earlier this month. A Sparta spokesperson told Vecernji the club had no control over such supporters. The Czech side take on Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian capital on September 18 in the first leg of a UEFA Cup first round tie.
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