The spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama has arrived in Prague for the first time since 2006. The brief visit includes meetings with Tibetan representatives as well as a lecture on issues relating to the theme of understanding, which is being held at the Prague Congress Centre on Sunday. The Dalai Lama has been a frequent visitor to Prague over the years as well as a regular guest of former president Václav Havel’s annual Forum 2000 conference. However, ill-health forced the Buddhist leader to miss this year’s meeting. After visiting Prague, the Dalai Lama is expected to visit the European parliament as well as meet with the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The Czech Republic remains a steadfast supporter of the “Tibetan cause,” which has often caused tensions with China.
Large numbers of skiers are expected to head for the Czech mountains during the weekend, as the country begins its skiing season. Snow has reached many of the key resorts in the country including the Špindlerův Mlýn resort in the Krkonoše Mountains. Friday saw many resorts open their skiing facilities for the first time this season, and many are expecting visitors not just from the Czech Republic, but from neighbouring Poland and Germany as well.
A number of Roma representatives from around the country have agreed to call for the ousting of Džamila Stehlíková, the Czech Republic’s Minister for Minorities and Human Rights. The Roma representatives included the noted deputy chairman of the government's Council for Romany Issues Ivan Veselý. The reasons behind the call are said to be Ms Stehlíková’s alleged poor handling of an ongoing situation in the town of Litvínov, north-west of Prague, where far-right groups have marched on Roma housing estates, purportedly calling for a restoration of law and order, but according to Roma, simply terrorising the residents. During the latest event organised by the far-right Workers' Party in Litvinov, about 1000 riot policemen clashed with some 500 far-right radicals, in an incident that was described as some the worst of its kind seen in the Czech Republic for many years. Ms Stehlíková has dismissed the calls, stating that in her view, the time is not right to be apportioning blame.
The now almost-certain departure of President Václav Klaus from the Civic Democrats has led to both speculation and recriminations about the future of the party. The news comes just one week before the party is set to hold its annual congress; Prague Mayor Pavel Bém is hoping to topple and replace PM Mirek Topolánek as party leader. Reacting to the news of Mr Klaus’s expected departure as the honorary head of the party, Mr Topolánek stated that he was unsurprised by the president’s apparent decision, but also warned that his party needed “crisis management” or it risked losing the trust of the electorate. Meanwhile, Mr Klaus accused the Prime Minister of being friendlier with the EU than with his own citizens. The Czech president is now viewed as unlikely to attend the party’s congress, which some interpret as a blow to the chances of the pro-Klaus mayor Pavel Bém, who recent polls suggest is struggling to rally enough support to topple party leader Mirek Topolánek during an impending leadership challenge.
The largest Czech steelmaker ArcelorMittal Ostrava has announced that due to reduced demand, the company is preparing to initiate a series of layoffs. The company did not reveal any figures. ArcelorMittal Ostrava employs around 10,300 people across the Czech Republic, with more than 7000 employed in the city of Ostrava. The company has blamed the global economic downturn for the layoffs.
A top-secret new anti-terrorist centre in Prague is close to completion, according to a report from the Czech daily Právo. The centre, which is due to begin functioning next year, is reportedly housed within the Czech police’s anti-organised crime unit building in southern Prague, while details surrounding much of its operations are being kept secret. The creation of such a centre was a key stipulation by the United States, in negotiations for eliminating Visa requirements for Czech citizens entering the US. According to a police spokesperson, the centre will focus on collecting, collating and analysing intelligence relating to suspected terrorist activities. The Czech Interior Ministry has added that the new centre will be fully under Czech civilian jurisdiction and will closely co-operate with the existing Czech security apparatus.
Czech petrol has fallen to its lowest price in three and a half years, according to a new survey. The average price of a litre of Czech petrol is now 24.9 crowns, and has fallen in price by almost one crown in just the last week. According to analysts, the low prices could last for a number of months, while opinions differ on whether prices could still continue to drop further. The cause for the fall in Czech petrol prices is attributed to the world-wide fall in prices spurred by the global economic slowdown.
The news websites aktuálně and idnes have reported that Pavel Bém is in favour of a minority Civic Democratic government, backed by the opposition Social Democrats, if he is elected the head of the Civic Democratic Party. In an article to be published on Saturday, Mr Bém reportedly makes clear he no longer has confidence that the current government is capable of achieving set goals - given the coalition lacks a majority in the lower house. The government led by Mirek Topolánek is made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens. Mr Bém will challenge Mr Topolánek for the post of party leader in roughly one week’s time.
The Czech furniture manufacturer TON, in Bystřice pod Hoštýnem, is set to lay-off 170 workers due to a drop in demand on foreign markets (most markedly in the US and western Europe) linked to the international financial crisis. TON specialises in traditional wooden furniture and is one of the biggest employers in Kroměříž region, employing around 1,200 people.
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