The Czech police have complained that people are stealing their cardboard cut-out comrades, used as decoys on roads to prevent speeding. The use of dummy police officers has been expanded in recent years, due to their apparent success in slowing down speeding motorists. However, police have now stated that they are rethinking their use following their widespread disappearance from locations across the country.
Alžběta Pezoldová, step-sister to Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg has failed in her bid to have the Czech state award her possession of a castle in Hluboké nad Vltavou. The Czech Republic’s High Court made the ruling back in July, although it was only made available to the wider public on Tuesday. The castle once belonged to the powerful Schwarzenberg clan, but eventually fell into state ownership. Alžběta Pezoldová, who currently resides in Zimbabwe, has several other restitution cases pending in the Czech Republic, while a number of other restitution claims have also been rejected by the Czech courts.
Prague City Hall has announced that the northern section of a proposed ring-road around Prague, connecting Ruzyně airport and the region of Březiněves will run through an area called Suchodol. The announcement comes despite the fact that an independent analysis of the three viable options for this road by the company Mott&MacDonald found the Suchodol option to be the most expensive and least environmentally friendly. Estimates suggest that this route will cost almost 22 billion crowns, while a so-called “northern option” will cost almost 8 billion crowns less, and avoid several protected nature reserves directly in the path of the southern route. City Hall has defended the decision arguing that the analysis by Mott&MacDonald was inadequate and not well prepared. Opponents of the plan are expected to appeal the decision which will then be approved or rejected by the Regional Development Ministry. At present, construction is expected to start in 2010 with an estimated completion date of 2015.
This year’s wheat harvest is expected to total 7.6 million tonnes, around 1.2 million tonnes more than last year, according to new figures published by the Agriculture Ministry. The rise reflects a similar strong showing across the EU. In the Czech Republic’s case, the figures almost match a peak in 2004. However, farmers remain wary of continuing low wheat prices on the grain market. Last year, a tonne of wheat sold for 6000 crowns, at present it sells for only 4000. The Agriculture Ministry is advising farmers to store the grain until prices improve. However, the price of flour and other wheat products still remains high after a spike in prices in 2006 related to the global economic slowdown.
Martin Langmajer, a Civic Democrat Prague councillor tasked with the liquidation of Prague’s Masaryk Station has publicly reversed his position on the future of the historic landmark. In a press conference, Mr Langmajer stated that he had every intention of preserving the station, contradicting prior statements that Prague will have to come to terms with the loss of this station. An announcement earlier this summer that the station would be replaced with shopping centres and a housing development led to an outcry in the public and media. Since then, Prague City Council has been attempting to clarify what it views as false rumours, noting that only unused tracks will be sold to developers.
Tensions have been mounting in the Green Party ahead of leadership elections on Friday. Martin Bursík, who currently heads the party, is vying to retain his post in the face of a challenge by strong critic Dana Kuchtová. Observes warn that the party has become increasingly splintered as both candidates have stated that they do not want the other in their team if they are elected to lead the party, while supporters of Mr Bursík are warning that a victory by Ms Kuchtová will jeopardise the current government coalition. Supporters of Ms Kuchtová have voiced strong opposition to what they view as an increasingly centralised form of leadership by Mr Bursík. Friday will see the Greens hold their party conference in the town of Teplice. Mr Bursík is viewed as being moderately to the right of the political spectrum, while Ms Kuchtová is viewed as being more to the left, opposing current Green Party policy on the proposed US radar base, nuclear power and several other issues.
The first monies connected to the placement of the proposed US radar base on Czech soil may arrive by September, according to the Czech Technical Institute. The payments are related to the deal signed between the US and Czech Republic during the summer, which stipulates that the US side will work closely with the Czech scientific community in various technology-related projects. This agreement means that the Czech Republic will have a favourable climate in which to introduce or sell Czech-developed technology to the US. For its part, the US will invest in projects which it deems of interest. One such project which has recently hit the headlines is a special drone pilot system, which does not require a human pilot.
The Czech premier Mirek Topolánek has expressed concerns over future scenarios in which the model of the Russian response to the Georgian conflict could be repeated. The comments came during a visit to Prague by the Moldovan Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanîi. Moldova is itself experiencing separatist struggles in the region of Transnistria, with Russia a key force in the current arrangements regarding the breakaway Republic. During the visit, Mr Topolánek held talks with the Moldovan Prime Minister, who chose the Czech Republic as her first foreign visit following her assuming office in March. The Czech Republic has listed Moldova as one of eight states to which it seeks to offer development aid and assistance. The Czech Republic also has strong economic ties with Moldova, with trade estimated at around 50 million Crowns. Moldova is currently seeking membership of the EU.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says the crisis in Georgia is Russia’s way of testing the EU. He made the comment at a joint news conference with his Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik on Monday. The two foreign ministers met shortly before a special meeting in Brussels called to deal with the Russian-Georgian conflict. Minister Schwarzenberg said the situation was really serious, adding that the EU had to adopt a clear and firm attitude to the crisis if it didn’t want to be disregarded as a political project. The Czech foreign minister reiterated his suggestion that the 2014 winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi could be boycotted.
The Czech Republic has recorded its lowest ever infant mortality rate last year, with 3.14 children in every 1000 dying before the age of one. Last year, hospitals registered nearly 115,000 births with only 360 infants dying before reaching the age of 12 months. Along with some Scandinavian countries, Spain and Slovenia, the Czech Republic has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in Europe.