The South Bohemian regional authority says it is considering declaring a state of emergency over bark beetle infestation of trees in the Šumava National Park. Regional governor Jiří Zimola says the non-intervention policy in the park has caused a bark beetle pandemic. The regional authority would like the Environment Ministry to approve the setting up of a working group which would draft a crisis plan to control the insect populations. An expert group jointly established by the South Bohemian and West Bohemian regions has suggested the current approach to controlling the bark beetle, which attacks and kills live trees, is inadequate and has led to fatal devastation of the national park. Environment Minister Ladislav Miko has called a news conference for Tuesday to address the current situation.
Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has said he will put forward an amendment aimed at revising the so-called “muzzle law” to the cabinet on Monday. The amendment for example relaxes some of the sanctions and stipulates certain exceptions. The law which bans the Czech media from revealing information such as records of police wiretappings or the identities of victims in criminal cases has come under wide criticism from both the media and media experts in the Czech Republic and abroad, who have said it restricts the freedom of the press. After a meeting with media representatives in May, Prime Minister Jan Fischer entrusted Minister Kocáb with drafting an amendment to the controversial law.
The Czech Agrarian Chamber says Czech agricultural profits will reach around 2 billion crowns (around USD 112 million) compared to 9.7 billion crowns (USD 540 million) last year. The head of the Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, said on Sunday the agricultural sector might post a loss of about 4 billion crowns next year – the first time since joining the EU – in case it does not receive any state subsidies. Agriculture Minister Jakub Šebesta says the ministry will not curb farming subsidies this year, however, next year’s state budget may not allow for full payment.
The Czech Republic’s oldest open air music festival in the east Bohemian town of Trutnov is set to end late on Sunday night. Since Thursday, the festival has featured over a hundred bands and performers from the Czech Republic and abroad. Former Czech president Václav Havel, who is a regular visitor to the festival, appeared briefly on stage on Saturday when he was asked by one of the bands to accompany them on the drums. The Trutnov Open Air Music Festival was first held in 1987, which makes it the oldest festival of its kind in the country.
Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb has said the annual running costs of a Czech government agency for social inclusion should reach 400 million crowns. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Kocáb said some 280 million crowns of that amount would be allotted to projects. The agency, which is to help the regional authorities to integrate excluded, mainly Romany, communities into the majority society, should employ around 120 people, Mr Kocáb said. The agency, established last year by the previous coalition government, is planned to launch nationwide operation in 2011.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said his cabinet is going to discuss measures to curb the projected 2010 state budget deficit in the coming days. In an interview for Saturday’s edition of the daily Právo, Mr Fischer said freezing pensions was one of possible options, despite Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Šimerka’s plan to raise pensions by two percent next year. Finance Minister Eduard Janota warned recently that the 2010 state budget deficit would reach an unprecedented 230 billion crowns (USD 12.92 billion). He has proposed cuts in spending and tax hikes to reduce the shortfall.
Anti-nuclear activists from the Austrian group Atomstopp have called on the country’s chancellor to raise the issue of the Temelín nuclear power plant at Monday’s meeting with his Czech counterpart. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer is scheduled to meet Chancellor Werner Faymann in Vienna on Monday to talk primarily about the economic recession and measures to counter it. According to the ČTK news agency, sensitive topics, such as the Lisbon treaty and the proposed construction of two new reactors at Temelín might also be among the topics discussed.
Police say they have no evidence suggesting that Friday’s attack on Civic Democrat leader and former prime minister Mirek Topolánek had been commissioned. TV Nova has reported it received a phone call from a man claiming he was one of the attackers and saying the assault had been commissioned. Police say they know the names of two of the men suspected of the act but no arrests have been made so far. Mr Topolánek was slightly injured on Friday when a group of young men hurled rocks at him in the south Moravian town of Hustopeče where he was campaigning ahead of October’s general elections.
Czech palaeontologists in collaboration with their Chinese colleagues have unearthed a fossilised spider believed to be 310 million years old at a site near Rokycany, West Bohemia. Josef Pšenička from the Museum of West Bohemia who is in charge of the excavations says the find is very rare as only a few specimens of that age have been unearthed in the Czech Republic. He says scientists will be able to determine the species as the spider’s whole body including the legs has been preserved. The excavations are taking place on the site of a prehistoric forest buried in volcanic ash.