The European Union’s commissioner for enlargement, Štefan Füle, says Croatia has closed only around half of the chapters it needs to qualify for membership. Speaking to the Czech News Agency, the Czech politician said for that reason the European Commission was wary of estimating when the Croats could join the bloc. Mr Füle said it bore in mind Zagreb’s stated intention of completing membership talks by the end of this year, adding that how much would be achieved depended on the applicant.
Around 100 members of the far-right Workers’ Party of Social Justice, which evolved from the banned Workers’ Party, gathered at Prague’s náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad square on Saturday. They dispersed after half an hour after organisers abandoned the idea of going on a march. Meanwhile, an estimated 200 anarchists congregated in the downtown area before moving on to one of the islands on the River Vltava. Police said they had withdrawn extra officers that had been drafted in when the gatherings, which they had assessed as potential flashpoints, passed off peacefully.
Lucie Šafářová has been beaten in the quarter-finals of tennis’s Stuttgart Grand Prix after losing 6-7 6-1 1-6 to Russia’s unseeded Anna Lapushchenkova. Her exit on Friday came just a day after the Czech had knocked out world number two Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Iveta Benešová, meanwhile, reached the final of the Fes Grand Prix in Morocco, after beating Alize Cornet of France 6-3 4-6 7-5 in the semi-finals.
The United States has removed the Czech Republic from a watch list of countries it monitors over the theft of intellectual property. The change comes following the implementation of a new Czech criminal code at the start of this year; it imposed greater sanctions for the breaking of copyright law and led to an increase in checks on goods sold at markets in the country’s border areas. The Czech Republic had been on the US watch list for eight years.
Over 700 couples set a new Czech record on Saturday for the number of people kissing in the same place at the same time. The record was set on Prague’s Petřín hill, where many couples visit on May 1 to kiss at a statue of the Czech romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha, author of the epic poem Maj. The previous Czech kissing couples record of 390 was set in the town of Šumperk in 2006. Czech tradition has it that women must be kissed under a tree on May Day; otherwise they will “dry up”.
Political parties in the Czech Republic marked International Workers’ Day. Hundreds of people attended a traditional May Day gathering held by the Communists at Prague’s Výstaviště exhibition grounds. Among those in attendance was Miloš Jakeš (88), who was general secretary of the Communist Party at the time of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The Social Democrats, who are expected to finish first in elections at the end of this month, held a rally at the city’s náměstí Míru square. Jiří Paroubek was campaigning in Ústí nad Labem, meaning it was the first year he did not appear in the capital on May Day since becoming party leader. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats also held a pre-election event in Prague, drawing potential voters to the top of Petřín hill. May 1 is a state holiday in the Czech Republic.
Several thousand people attended the funeral on Friday of Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík in the Moravian town of Velehrad, which is a popular pilgrimage destination for Czech Roman Catholics. Cardinal Špidlík, a Jesuit cleric and theologian, died at the age of 90 on April 16 in Rome, where he had spent several decades. Friday’s mass was served by the archbishop of Olomouc, Jan Graubner. Pope Benedict XVI took part in an earlier ceremony in memory of the cardinal in the Vatican. His remains will be interred in a tomb in Velehrad basilica at a future date.
Around 35,000 people visited the Czech Republic’s pavilion at the Expo 2010 fair in Shanghai on Saturday, the first day it has been officially open. The man in charge of the Czech pavilion, Pavel Antonín Stehlík, said attendance had exceeded all expectations. More than 7,000 visitors entered in the first hour alone and Mr Stehlík said it was so crowded that organisers had to slow admissions for a period.
The list of Czech players who will not be available for ice hockey’s World Championship in Germany next month is getting longer. Martin Erat of Nashville, Washington’s Tomáš Fleischmann and Martin Hanzal of Phoenix all have injury problems, while coach Vladimír Ružička also expects Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata will miss the tournament. Several other players, including Patrik Eliáš – who captained the team at the Winter Olympics – were already ruled out. On Saturday, the Czech Republic were beaten 4:1 by Finland at the Swedish Games in Stockholm, meaning they can not now win this year’s four-nation Euro Hockey Tour.
Czech household debt climbed to 993 billion crowns in March of this year, up by 87 billion against February, the Czech National Bank reported on Friday. Meanwhile, the debts of businesses decreased by 7.2 billion on the month and 88 billion on the year to 900 billion crowns. Financial experts say the figures reflect the current state of the economy and unemployment rate. An increasing number of Czechs are proving incapable of re-paying their household debts and banks are now more cautious in granting loans.