Nearly two-thirds of Czechs are satisfied with membership in the European Union, according to a poll conducted by the STEM research agency. 73% of respondents said that they feel solidarity with Europe, which STEM says is a rise since the Czech EU presidency. Three fifths of respondents however said that they do not think the Czech Republic plays an active enough role in EU decision making. Satisfaction with EU membership has fluctuated considerably since the country’s accession in 2004, with slumps to 50% when the European constitution and the Lisbon treaty were being debated. The results of the survey were closely linked to political preferences, with more uncertainty over EU integration shown among left-wing voters.
2009 motorway stamps, required for vehicles utilising Czech, expire on Sunday and slight changes to the system will be implemented on Monday. The new stamps will cost 1,200 crowns, a 200-crown increase from last year. The price of monthly coupons has also increased to 350 crowns, and seven-day stamps have been replaced with ten-day and will cost 250 crowns. Small lorries will now have to pay tolls, which will be 50% more expensive on Friday afternoons. The Ministry of Transportation has said that the increased rates are due to the expansion of the motorway system and will bring the state 500 million crowns more than last year amid the same number of sales.
Around 150 drivers protested the lowering of the speed limit on certain Prague roads Saturday evening. The protestors were escorted by police as they formed a slow-moving column of automobiles on Prague’s busy South Junction for roughly an hour. The Prague City Hall reduced the speed limit on a number of Prague thoroughfares to 50 km/h at the new year in an attempt to reduce noise levels in the areas. However, demonstrators say that that lowering the speed limit at busy locations is not the solution that even residents had envisioned, and will continue to protest until some other measure is taken, such as the construction of anti-noise walls.
The Czech Republic gave 85 million crowns in international humanitarian aid to roughly 25 countries in 2009, according to documentation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry is to present the government with the data on Monday. The prime recipient of Czech foreign aid was the Gaza Strip, which received 15 million at the turn of 2009 for reconstruction efforts. Ten million crowns went to victims of war in Pakistan and seven to neighbouring Afghanistan for mine clearing and quick impact projects. The aid was implemented via international and Czech humanitarian organisations working in the areas in question. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has 73 million crowns earmarked for humanitarian aid in 2010, including five million for the Republic of Haiti.
Zdeněk Štybar has won the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships, becoming the first Czech to do so in 12 years. Despite a suffering a breakdown in the very first round, Štybar came back to take the gold after two years in second place in the under 23’s category. The win completes a good tournament for the Czech Republic overall, with Tomáš Paprstka winning the juniors category on Saturday, and an excellent week for Štybar himself, who last Monday became the first Czech to win the Cyclo-Cross World Cup. The 2010 World Championships are being held in the South Bohemian town of Tábor.
The Czech Army’s international, multi-discipline Winter Survival championship began on Sunday in the Jeseník Mountains. The events in the competition involve adrenaline sports and combat activities that simulate military situations in winter terrains. 59 men and one woman will compete in regrouping in mountain terrain, climbing, natural obstacle courses and transporting casualties. The four-day race will include from the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia. It is organised annually by the General Staff of the Czech Army and the Defence University in Brno.
Snow slides have claimed the lives of two people over the weekend. On Sunday an alpine skier was killed in the Jeseník Mountains when skiing in a declared avalanche area. On Saturday, a 13-year-old boy was killed when a cornice collapsed in a quarry where he and a friend were playing. The latter managed to free himself and lead rescue services to the location, but they were unable to resuscitate the buried boy. Local authorities in the boys’ village of Měděnec say that children often play in the quarry and that they are considering how to better secure the area. Avalanche warnings have been issued in the mountainous areas of the Czech Republic in recent days due to the combination of strong winds, fresh snow and relatively high daytime temperatures.
The Czech government on Monday is to review a proposal by the country’s chief hygiene officer to instate mandatory swine flu vaccinations for 200,000 individuals, Health Minister Dana Jurásková told Czech Television on Sunday. The measure is intended for persons responsible for the running of the state, namely policemen, firemen and healthcare workers and was approved by the National Security Council on Friday. The proposal was immediately criticised by shadow health minister David Rath of the Social Democratic Party, who said that the H1N1 virus was a mild ailment for people who are not critically ill. There are currently 1016 cases of swine flu per 100,000 people and there have been 83 deaths connected to the virus since October. Currently one-fourth of the vaccine stock purchased by the state has been used.
The National Gallery has announced it will be opening its doors free of charge to visitors next weekend to celebrate the 214th anniversary of its founding. In addition to the permanent exhibits in the main building, a number of events will be taking place in the gallery’s outlying venues, such as tours of the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia and Šternberk Palace, where there will be an exhibition of European art from antiquity to the baroque period and an archaeological exposition. Details are available on the website of the National Gallery at ngprague.cz.
Preliminary statistics from the Czech Police the lowest number of road deaths for the month of January in the last seven years. The police believe that the steep decline in fatal accidents was due primarily to the weather, with fewer drivers out on the roads on account of above-average snow and ice and increased caution among those who do venture out. 35 people lost their lives in the first month of this year as opposed to 79 the year before.
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