The Association of Automobile Importers has announced substantial growth in the sale of cars in the Czech Republic for the previous month. Domestic sales of new personal automobiles grew year-on-year in May by 20.5 percent to 14,277 vehicles. A 5.5% increase from last year’s first quarter was also recorded, with a total of 62,944 cars sold between the start of the year and the end of May. According to the association, the strong growth has been a direct result of the introduction of the possibility of VAT deductions on the purchase of new automobiles.
Many members of the Christian Democratic Party are considering abandoning the party following the election of Cyril Svoboda to the post of party chairman at the weekend. In a poll conducted by the Czech Press Agency, roughly half of the regional chapters of the party reported that members are currently weighing their options. It is believed some party members will be waiting for the next move by former chairman Miroslav Kalousek, who is expected to form his own party. Others have said they will remain with the party or leave it based on the first decisions made by the new party leadership.
The Czech-born French writer Milan Kundera is to receive the Cino Del Duca World Prize for literature on Wednesday. The prize, which has been awarded annually since 1969 and includes a monetary award of 300,000 EUR, recognises scientific or literary authors whose work offers a message of modern humanism. Mr Kundera was born in the Czech town of Brno and emigrated to France in 1974, where he gained citizenship some years later. He will be the second Czech to receive the Cino Del Duca, the first being former Czech president Václav Havel in 1997.
The chief editor of Czech Radio’s Romany broadcast, Anna Poláková, has requested asylum in Canada for herself and her family. Ms Poláková cited indiscriminate attacks against her family in recent times as well as a general “radicalisation of society” as the cause for her decision. Romany activists have been encouraging emigration to Canada, and more than 600 Czech citizens have requested asylum there since the beginning of this year. 34 requests have been verifiably approved. The Czech Republic has been faced with a growing number of attacks on Romany families in recent months and a rise in anti-Roma rhetoric on the part of extreme right-wing political parties in the run-up to elections to the European Parliament.
The Finance Ministry will raise its stake in national air carrier Czech Airlines (ČSA) ahead of its privatisation as the Slovak National Property Fund and the city of Bratislava are selling their stakes in the company, the daily Hospodařské noviny reported on Wednesday. A contract with the Slovak National Property Fund, which holds 0.24 percent in ČSA, has already been prepared for approval by ČSA's board of directors. The ministry has decided to use its first-option right to 613 out of the 670 offered shares.
Incidents of forced labour are on the rise, according to experts speaking at a conference on the prevention of human trafficking on Wednesday. While 2007 saw only three reported cases of labour exploitation, last year that number was in the dozens, with foreigners, often from Mongolia or former Soviet states, largely the victims. In 2004 the Czech Republic, along with the rest of the European Union, enacted new legislation to expand the scope of human trafficking laws to include not only sexual exploitation but also other forms of forced labour.
Police are readying massive precautions for a demonstration of right-wing extremists to take place in the town of Jihlava at the weekend. Some 200 attendees are anticipated, however far-right gatherings regularly draw the participation of antifascist groups, and police are thus preparing crowd control units and large-scale patrols for the possibility of any public disorder. Organisers have stated the purpose of the rally is to commemorate victims of the Second World War, however the demonstration also coincides with elections to the European Parliament, and right-wing pre-election advertisements have recently been banned by the Czech media as promoting racism and fascism.
The Prague Spring International Music festival will be winding up three weeks of concerts and other music-oriented events with a closing ceremony on Wednesday. The festival’s 64th year has been roundly praised by critics as successful and well-balanced. The many leading figures in classical and early music performing at the festival’s 60 events included Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez and violin virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter. The final concert will be held in Prague’s Municipal House, where Israeli conductor Elijah Inbal will lead the Czech Philharmonic in Antonín Dvořák’s 8th Symphony.
On a visit to Prague, German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to Germany’s eastern neighbors for their role in bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. At a joint press conference with his Czech and Slovak counterparts, the German foreign minister said his countrymen would never forget that the reunification of Germany would not have been possible without the activities of the Czech Charter 77 human rights movement and the Polish Solidarity movement. On Monday Mr. Steinmeier visited a multimedia exhibition on Wenceslas Square called “20 years of freedom - Germany says thank you”. After closing in Prague the exhibition will make its way to Warsaw, Gdansk, Bratislava and Budapest. During his trip to Prague the German foreign minister also met with the icon of the Velvet Revolution, Vaclav Havel.
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