Czech singer and actor Waldemar Matuška, aged 76, died on Saturday in his home in Miami, Florida. The news agency ČTK cited pneumonia and heart failure as the direct causes of death. Waldemar Matuška started his career in the early 1960s in Prague where he became a star of several small theatres. In 1962, he won the first year of a popular music competition, the Golden Nightingale. He starred in a number of films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including the 1968 award-winning movie All My Good Countrymen. Waldemar Matuška left communist Czechoslovakia for the United States in 1986 and settled in Miami, Florida. He last visited Prague in 2007.
Agriculture ministers of 17 EU countries arrived in Brno on Sunday for a three-day informal conference on the future of the bloc’s agriculture policy, held as part of the Czech EU presidency. Among other issues, the ministers will debate the system of direct payments to agriculture producers in individual EU countries. The system currently grants higher subsidies to farmers from the old EU states, which is something the Czech Republic and several other new members of the EU would like to change.
In related news, former prime minister and head of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek has labelled the Lisbon treaty “a dead document” regardless of whether it will be ratified or not. Speaking in Warsaw at a conference of Polish conservatives on Saturday, Mr Topolánek said the treaty did not correspond with the reality of the 21st century Europe. The former prime minister told Czech TV on Sunday however that he still believed President Václav Klaus should complete the ratification of the EU’s reform document in the Czech Republic.
The 49th International Film Festival for Children and Youth began in Zlín, central Moravia, on Sunday. One of the world’s largest and oldest film festivals for young audiences, the event will offer more than 470 films from 55 countries. This year, the festival’s guests include the British actor Tim Curry, the Spanish actress Anna Lago and AnnaSophia Robb from the US who will present her film, Bridge to Terabithia. The Golden Slipper Award for the best film for children and youth will be presented on June 7.
The Christian Democrats elected new party leadership at a conference in
Vsetín, northern Moravia, which concluded on Sunday. Former party leader
and long-time minister in several cabinets Cyril Svoboda became the
party’s chairman while one of the party’s MPs, Michaela Šojdrová, was
elected the deputy chairwoman. The former head of the Christian Democrats,
Jiří Čunek, who ran for re-election, did not make into the second round
of voting but was elected into the party’s broader, 15-member leadership.
The new party leadership will seek to restore unity among Christian Democrats ahead of October’s early general election. Former finance minister and a prominent member of the party Miroslav Kalousek announced he was leaving the Christian Democrats to form a new party.
The Chief Justice of the Czech Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychetský,
told Czech TV on Sunday that once the Lisbon treaty had been approved by
Parliament, President Václav Klaus was obliged to put his signature to it
and complete its ratification, or ask the Constitutional Court to review
it. The Lisbon treaty was approved by both chambers of the Czech Parliament
earlier this year but President Klaus said he would only consider putting
his signature to it after another referendum on the treaty is held in
Ireland. Justice Rychetský said however that whenever the Constitution
sets down no particular time limit for the president to ratify
international treaties, the head of state must act without delay.
Several Civic Democrat senators are considering petitioning the Constitutional Court to review whether the treaty is in line with Czech law. The court already examined six articles of the treaty in 2008 and said they did not contradict the Czech Constitution.
Slavia Prague was crowned the champions of this season’s Gambrinus liga on Saturday after a 2:2 home draw against Liberec, finishing six points ahead of city rival Sparta. Both Slavia and Sparta secured spots in the Champions League’s 3rd qualifying round. Another Prague club, Viktoria Žižkov, along with Moravia’s Tescoma Zlín, are relegated.
The Prime Minister of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, has asked the Czech government to start a dialogue with the Sudeten Germans, a community whose members were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the end of WWII. Speaking at a Sudeten German conference in Augsburg, Germany, on Sunday, Mr Seehofer said the motto of the Czech presidency of the EU “Europe without barriers” meant no one should be excluded from a dialogue, particularly those who became “victims of the 20th century history”. Spokesperson of the Sudeten German association and MEP Bernd Posselt said that Czech politicians should finally scrap the Beneš decrees. These were issued by President Edvard Beneš after the war and became the legal basis for the expulsion of some three million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.
Leaders of the Czech Republic’s two strongest political parties, the
Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, told Czech TV on Sunday that
their MPs would support the interim government of Jan Fischer in the
upcoming vote of confidence scheduled for June 7. The chair of the Social
Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, said his party’s MPs were going to support
the government in spite of the fact that they don’t agree with several of
the cabinet’s programme priorities. For his part, Civic Democrat leader
Mirek Topolánek noted that convincing some of Civic Democrat MPs to
support the government would not be easy.
The interim government of PM Jan Fischer took office earlier this month after the cabinet of Mirek Toplánek fell in a vote of no-confidence. It is set to ask the lower house of Parliament for confidence on June 7, a day after the election to the EP.
Relations between the majority population and the country’s Romany minority are perceived to be deteriorating. According to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency 85 percent of respondents –both Roma and non-Roma - said that relations were at their lowest ebb in the past decade and that coexistence was problematic. A growing number of Czech Romanies are once again seeking asylum in other states, predominantly Canada, saying that they fear for their safety amidst growing racist violence in the Czech Republic. An arson attack against a Romany family in which a two-year-old girl nearly burnt to death, has further heightened tensions.