The renewal of flights still leaves airlines and tour companies with the challenge of repatriating thousands of stranded passengers. The closure of Prague airport, the busiest in Central Europe, meant that around 50,000 passengers were unable to pass through it over the weekend. The airport estimated that around 1,200 flights were cancelled since Friday. Many passengers switched to long distance rail services and buses because of the disruption but they could still not cope with demand in spite of extra services being laid on. Czech Railways said its earnings from international services were five times normal. Experts say passengers will have problems claiming compensation because the volcanic ash is regarded as an unavoidable, natural act.
The Czech government on Monday decided that former minister of minorities and human rights, Michael Kocáb, would be made its commissioner for human rights. Mr Kocáb resigned from the ministry at the end of March under pressure from the small Green Party which was angered that it was not consulted about the appointment of a new environment minister. Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who has taken over the ministerial portfolio for minorities and human rights himself, said the appointment was aimed at ensuring some continuity. Mr. Kocáb replaces Jan Litomiský who was in the post since September 2006.
The Czech Republic has been told by the European Commission that it can pump an extra 6.0 billion crowns, around 237 million euros, from EU funds until 2013. The reason for the increase is that the economy performed better than expected over the last three years. Neighbours Slovakia and Poland have also been given similar news. The extra funds should be used to reduce economic disparities across the EU. It will, however, be up to Czech authorities to claim the extra funds. The country’s record in pumping EU funds is one of the worst among the 27 EU members.
Flights in and out of Czech airports resumed at noon on Monday. The resumption of services comes three days after flights were cancelled after a cloud of volcanic ash started to spread across the country. A spokesman for the national air traffic service operator said the renewal of flights would be a temporary 48-hour measure ahead of a final decision. Czech airspace above 7,450 metres was already reopened for long distance flights at midnight on Sunday. Emergency service helicopter flights were also authorised from 11 am local time. The resumption of Czech flights comes as air traffic across Europe hesitantly gets back to normal after disruption caused by a cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano.
Pardubice have taken a 2:0 lead in games over Vítkovice in the final of the Czech ice hockey Extraliga. Veteran goaltender Dominik Hašek notched up a shutout as Pardubice again exploited home advantage to take the second game 1:0 on Sunday evening. The only goal in that encounter came from Daniel Rákos at the start of the second period. The next match in the best-of-seven series takes place at Vítkovice’s stadium in Ostrava on Wednesday.
An opinion poll has put the leader of the Public Affairs party, Radek John, as the most popular politician in the Czech Republic. The STEM poll released on Monday showed positive ratings for Mr. John from 61 percent of those questioned. He was followed in popularity by Social Democrat deputy leader Bohuslav Sobotka with 50 percent and the chairman of the TOP 09 party Karel Schwarzenberg with 43 percent. Recent opinion polls suggest that Public Affairs could make a breakthrough in the elections to the lower house at the end of May and win seats in parliament, possibly having a decisive say in the shape of a future coalition.
Minister of Finance Eduard Janota warned on Monday that he would not draw up a budget for 2011 if the public deficit exceeded 4.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Mr. Janota has long been in charge of framing the country’s budget, now as minister and previously as deputy minister. The warning puts a major question over his continuation in the post if radical cost cutting or tax increases are not proceeded with. The public deficit climbed to 5.93 percent last year and is due to drop to 5.3 percent in 2010. The current caretaker government is due to step down after elections to the lower house at the end of May. But it could be forced to carry on if a new government is difficult to put together. The budget starts being drawn up in the summer.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has climbed to 14th in the world ATP rankings. That represents an advance of one place from his previous position and his best ranking since mid-2008. The top ranked Czech men’s player got through to the quarter finals of the Monte Carlo tournament last week following a bright start to the clay court season. He has expressed the ambition of getting back into the world’s top 10, a position he last occupied two years ago.
One of the Czech Republic’s main literary prizes, Magnesia Litera 2010, has been awarded to novelist Petra Soukupová. She was selected for the award and 200,000 crown first prize for her work ‘To Disappear.’ The collection of three long stories focus on family relationships. The first two stories are told from the perspective of children with the narrator in the third an adult looking back on childhood. The jury’s decision is the first time that a prose work has gained the main prize for several years.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said on Sunday that the Czech Republic was in talks about possibly hosting a command and control centre for a future NATO missile defence system in the country. Mr Kohout said in a television interview on Sunday that talks had been opened with the US about such a possibility. The idea of radar or interceptor missiles being sited in the Czech Republic had not been broached, he added. Their location would be the subject for future discussions once the architecture of a new anti-missile system was better established, he said. The US announced at the end of last year that it had dropped plans for developing an anti-missile defence system bilaterally with the Czech Republic and Poland. The plans had been fiercely opposed by Russia. But Washington still wants to proceed with a NATO system for Europe.
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