Meanwhile, the bill for the disaster continues to rise as the damages are assessed; the first estimate puts the cost at roughly six billion crowns. The primary Czech charity organisations have reported that they have received some 40 million crowns from donors to cover the immediate needs of the victims. The government is promising another 500 million.
One of the Czech Republic’s major music festivals, Rock for People, kicked off its 15th year Friday at the airport in the city of Hradec Králové. Based on advanced booking, organisers say they expect record turnout in spite of severe challenges posed by severe weather conditions. An afternoon storm on Friday flooded a number of festival tents, including the press centre. Notwithstanding the deluge, a range of popular acts are set to play the festival’s seven stages over the weekend, including the popular Spanish group Ska-P, trumpeter Laco Deczi, and the British bands Bloc Party, Underworld and Placebo.
The Czech Republic has won an international arbitration against the Italian-Dutch firm Invesmart over the bankrupt financial institution Union Banka. Invesmart, which owned the bank, filed a seven-billion-crown (380 million USD) lawsuit against the Czech Republic for obstructing the company’s investment in Union Banka, which it says did not receive the public support that other competing banks were given. The international court of arbitration in London however found no breach of international law or obligations on the part of the Czech Republic. Union Banka was declared bankrupt in 2003. The bank had 200 thousand clients and 17 billion in deposits at the time of its closure.
Meteorologists are issuing further storm warnings for the weekend. Forecasters expect from two to four days of heavy rains and hail, accompanied by strong winds, across the entire country, focusing on Bohemia on Saturday and Moravia on Sunday. Intermittent but heavy storms over the last two weeks have caused flash floods around the Czech Republic, particularly in the frequently inundated regions of the south and east of the country. A number of villages have been evacuated due to the floods and there have been at least 14 deaths. The latest victim was the captain of a local fire brigade, who was working on a bridge when it was swept away.
Czech President Václav Klaus has singed into law an amendment to the act on capital trading. The new amendment modifies the obligations of companies and other entities traded on the securities exchange, and puts increased demands on the form and content of the annual and half-yearly reports of securities issuers. Other new aspects of the act forbid employers from influencing their employees in the selection of a pension fund, and allow such funds to charge clients up to 800 crowns should they decide to switch to a competing fund within the first five years of their contract.
In other news, the annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival opened its cinemas Friday for the start of its 44th year. The world-renowned Czech-American director Milos Forman arrived in the spa town on Thursday and will be presenting the world premiere of his newest film, A Walk Worthwhile, ahead of its release on July 9. Actors John Malkovich and Antonio Banderas are also set to make an appearance at this year’s festival, as is director and screenwriter Paul Schrader. 14 films from as many countries will be competing for the main prize, though the Czech Republic will not be represented in competition this year. Last year, it was a Danish film, Terribly Happy, which took the festival’s Crystal Globe for best film.
Large-scale cleanup operations are underway in South Bohemia as flood waters abate. Local firemen and charity organisations are being assisted by the Czech army in the initial work of clearing debris, purifying waterways and repairing roads. More than 500 homes have been inundated in South Bohemia, and the region has estimated total damages in the hundreds of millions of crowns.
In Sport, Slavia Prague coach Karel Jarolím has said that he will not become the coach of the Czech national team alongside FA head Ivan Hašek, as many had predicted. At a meeting with Hašek on Wednesday, Jarolím said that he appreciated the offer, but that he had to dedicate his time to training last year’s Gambrinus league winners Slavia. New head of the Czech Football Association, Ivan Hašek, had said repeatedly over the past couple of days that Jarolím was his number one choice for national coach. Immediately after his appointment to the helm of the FA last weekend, Hašek fired former coach František Straka, who had been in charge of the Czech team for just one match. Hašek was hoping that Jarolím would take over the national team as well as continuing to train league-winners Slavia.
The Minister of Human Rights and Minorities, musician Michael Kocáb, raised eyebrows on Friday with the announcement that he had arranged the relocation of a community of squatters to the city centre. The community had been protesting their recent eviction from the abandoned mansion they inhabited on the outskirts of Prague. Under sharp criticism from some quarters, Mr Kocáb emphasised at Friday’s press conference that he had merely negotiated the move, which was ultimately agreed between the squatters and the owner of their new residence. The squatters are to have at their disposal three flats and a cellar space for the symbolic price of one crown, and will have to cover the costs of water, gas and energy themselves.
The Siemens factory in Zličín in Prague is definitively to close, it was announced on Thursday, creating nearly 1,000 redundancies. No investor could be found to take over the factory, which made trains for Prague’s metro and other rail operators, a company spokesperson said. On Thursday, Siemens announced that it was now only in negotiations with investors interested in the factory’s equipment and machinery. Union chiefs, however, said that it was ‘premature’ to talk about a definitive shut-down of the Siemens factory and that an investor still may be found. Siemens voiced its intention to pull out of Prague in July 2008.