The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed it is aware of the German government’s interest in buying the country’s embassy building in Prague, a site that played a major role in the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago. A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said his country had long hoped to purchase Prague’s historic Lobkowitz Palace, home of the embassy, and that talks with the Czech government had advanced ahead of the anniversary of the Wall's collapse on November 9, 1989. That year, thousands of East Germans hoping to flee to the West massed for weeks at the German embassy in Prague before they were allowed to enter West Germany.
A representative of the Roma family whose house was firebombed in April in Vítkov, North Moravia, has said the four people whom the police accused in the case were mere pawns who were only fulfilling orders. He added the police would now focus on the people who gave the orders. Late last week, the police charged four men with racially motivated attempted murder. Three are accused of directly carrying out the firebombing; the other was their driver. If found guilty they face 12 to 15 years in prison, or possibly a life sentence.
The number of visitors staying in hotels in the Czech Republic in the first half of the year dropped by 8.5 percent compared to the same period last year. According to the Czech Statistical Office, 5.37 million visitors used hotel accommodation in the first six months of 2009 – the lowest figure in recent years. The head of the Czech Association of Travel Agencies, Viliam Sivek, says this year’s tourist season has been the worst in twenty years. He expects dozens of Prague hotels to close down in the coming months.
The idnes.cz news server has reported that the deputy military attaché of the Russian embassy in Prague has been expelled from the Czech Republic and another diplomat has been recommended to not return from holiday. Citing intelligence sources, the news server reported that both diplomats allegedly worked for the Russian secret services. Neither the Czech Foreign Ministry nor the Russian embassy have confirmed the information.
The government plans to submit a new petition to the Supreme Administrative Court asking it to outlaw the far-right Workers’ Party. Interior Minister Martin Pecina told reporters on Monday that the government should discuss the petition in two weeks time and submit it to the court in September. The Czech government first tried to have the Workers’ Party dismissed last year over its links to far-right groups, such as the National Resistance movement. The Supreme Administrative Court rejected the government’s petition in March saying the cabinet had not provided sufficient grounds for a ban.
The Prague state attorney's office has said it has halted the prosecution of Marcela Urbanová accused of giving a false testimony in the case of former deputy prime minister Jiří Čunek who was charged with bribery. A spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s office said Ms Urbanová, Jiří Čunek’s former secretary, had not spoken the truth, but had not intended to lie under oath. If found guilty, Ms Urbanová would have faced up to three years in prison. She was accused in June 2008. According to the police she lied about the circumstances in which Mr Čunek allegedly accepted a bribe of half a million crowns in 2002 when he was mayor of the eastern town of Vsetín.
Some three hundred Czech clients of the Sunny Days travel agency, who were left stranded in Tunisia on Sunday have returned to the Czech Republic. Meanwhile more holiday makers on their way out whose flight was delayed for more than a day have now arrived at their destination. The agency said the delay was caused by an organisational mix-up, not financial difficulties. It has promised that all who had been inconvenienced would be compensated and the twelve clients who decided to cancel their stay would be refunded the whole amount.
The two-year old girl who suffered critical burns in the Vítkov firebomb attack in April is to undergo another five operations, doctors from the burns centre at Ostrava’s university hospital told reporters. According to the head of the department, Zdenka Crkvenjaš, the treatment may last several years and potential life-threatening complications cannot be ruled out. Burns experts in Ostrava are using artificial skin grafts to treat the child’s injuries. She suffered severe burns to 80 percent of her body.
Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová claims that despite the government’s caretaker status she is fully entitled to make personnel changes at her ministry. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Jan Fischer Ms Kovářová responded to Mr Fischer's criticism last month of the personnel changes she carried out at her ministry. The Prime Minister told Ms Kovářová that the caretaker government had a limited mandate. However, she says she is convinced that her task is not to passively preserve the status quo, particularly in the country’s current economic situation. In July, Minister Kovářová dismissed two senior officials from her ministry.
The head of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, Petr Kužel, has said that while the number of redundancies is now falling in this country, he believes that firms will not start taking on new employees until next year. On Friday, the Czech Statistical Office suggested that GDP was down in the second quarter by 4.9 percent compared with the same period last year. The bureau did, however, suggest that the Czech economy was showing some signs of recovery, with results for the second quarter actually up on those from the first by 0.3 percent.