The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Jan Kohout, met with his Vatican counterpart, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, on Wednesday. Mr. Kohout visited the Vatican to mark the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Prague and the Holy See. Both praised relations between the two countries and agreed on implementing a work group to accelerate the ratification of a treaty defining the framework of relations between the Czech state and the Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic churches. The document, which does not cover the restitution of church property seized during the communist era, was agreed in 1999, though Czech MPs refused to ratify it four years later.
Czech animal rights activists blocked a border crossing between the Czech Republic and Austria near the Moravian town of Mikulov for 15 minutes on Wednesday afternoon in support of their Austrian colleagues. Thirteen Austrian animal rights activists will go on trial on Wednesday. They are charged with arson, sabotage and further offenses and face a prison sentence of up to five years. Czech animal rights activists say that none of the thirteen people are guilty of any of the offenses they are charged with. Four of them have published their arraignments online.
The Prague city court ruled on Wednesday that the Kurd doctor and
entrepreneur Yekta Uzunoglu will be receiving nearly one million Czech
crowns in compensation for monetary losses from the Czech state. In the
same verdict, the Prague city court did not grant the doctor and
entrepreneur the two billion Czech crowns in compensation for pain and
suffering that he had pleaded for.
Mr. Uzunoglu spent 2.5 years in prison in the mid-nineties. He was charged with fraud, planned murder and torture, but was eventually freed of all charges and has since been suing the Czech state for compensation for material and immaterial losses.
The Czech textile producer Odevní Podnik (OP), which is threatened by bankruptcy, will be closing down its location in the Moravian city of Jeseník, where 290 of the companies’ roughly 1500 employees work. In addition, some 300 employees of OP’s main branch in Projestov will lose their job. OP has made losses of 104 million Czech crowns in the first three months of 2010 alone and is about 1.6 billion crowns in debt. While it the company not yet announced bankruptcy, OP executives say it is likely. OP is the Czech Republic’s largest textile producer.
Czech travel agencies and hotels have lost about half a billion Czech crowns in profits due to a cloud of volcanic ash that spread over the continent and closed down European air traffic for a number of days. The figure was published on Wednesday, when businesses from the tourism sector met with officials from the Ministry of Regional Development. After the meeting, Minister of Regional Development Rostislav Vondruška said that the ministry would try to secure some form of financial aid for affected businesses both from the state budget and EU funds. In addition, the ministry will also launch an advertising campaign to help boost tourism in the second half of the year.
The President of the European Court of Justice Vassilios Skuris will be visiting the Czech Republic from May 8 to 11, a spokesman of the court said on Wednesday. Mr. Skuris will be meeting with Czech Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová and is scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Brno’s Masaryk University. Last year, the President of the European Court of Human Rights Jean-Paul Costa visited the Czech Republic. He also received an honorary doctorate in Brno.
The current head of the Czech Bishops’ conference Jan Graubner has distanced himself from a statement published on the conference’s website on Tuesday. Jan Graubner, who is to be replaced by Prague archbishop Dominik Duka on May 1, said the statement reflected the opinion of the bishop who wrote it rather than the opinion of the bishops’ conference as a whole. The document published on the conference’s website states that Czech voters are likely to focus on the policy programs of some of the smaller parties. It earned harsh criticism from the two main players on the Czech political scene, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats. On Wednesday, leader of the Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek said in a letter to the future head of the Bishops’ conference Dominik Duka that the conference was influencing the outcome of the general elections to be held in May and was indirectly calling on voters to give preference to smaller parties.
In the first three weeks of May, skies above Prague will be the scene of joint training exercises of the Czech and British air force. The project, titled Flying Rhino, will see the participation of the roughly 3000 soldiers, including members of the Slovak, Lithuanian, Danish and American air force. The exercises will be taking place between 8 am and 1 am on week days, some of the air space over Prague will be partly closed down to amateur pilots. The project Flying Rhino, which is taking place in Prague for the eighth time this year, is meant to prepare soldiers before they leave on war missions abroad.
Police are investigating if the head of the Czech Supreme Audit Office, František Dohnal, has used public funds to purchase luxury apartments for himself and his family. Mr Dohnal is charged with a breach of trust. Police estimates the damages that Mr Dohnal is accused of having caused amount to over 900,000 Czech crowns. If he is found guilty, he faces prison charges between six months and 5 years. Mr. Dohnal’s lawyer said on Wednesday that the police investigation had political motivations and that it was an attempt at removing Mr. Dohnal from his office.
In an interview published in Wednesday’s edition of the German daily
Frankfurter Allgemeine, Czech president Václav Klaus identifies the euro
as the main cause of Greece’s financial crisis. He said that Greece’s
budget policy is not to be blamed for the country’s problems and added
that the situation could be helped by devaluing the currency by forty
percent, which is not possible because Greece no longer has an independent
currency. Mr. Klaus says that in terms of economic stability and growth,
the euro-zone collapsed a long time ago, but that he still considers it
unlikely that European leaders would drop the euro.
Václav Klaus is a fierce opponent of the European Union’s monetary and political centralization and has stated previously that the Czech Republic would benefit if the euro was not introduced in the country.