The 12th year of the Roma festival Khamoro kicks off at Švandové divadlo on Sunday with the premiere of a Roma opera, The Invisible Gypsy. The festival will include numerous concerts of leading Roma musicians at venues around Prague, ending with a closing event at the Prague Congress Centre on May 29. Accompanying events will showcase Roma culture, tradition and lifestyle through documentary films and exhibitions.
The government is to review a new concept for Czech foreign developmental aid on Monday. Under the new plan, foreign aid would be directed to five primary countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Moldavia and Mongolia. Aid is currently provided to eight countries under the concept passed in 2005. The government also aims to redefine the five priorities upon which governmental aid to developing countries should be based, namely ecology, social development, health services, economic development and support for democracy and human rights. The concept also plans more wide-ranging activities in Cambodia, Georgia, Kosovo, Palestine and Serbia.
Parts of the region of Pardubice, in eastern Bohemia, were struck by local floods at the weekend as torrential rain in the area washed out roads and inundated cellars. Firemen were called out primarily in the areas of Ústí nad orlici, Svitavy and Chrudim to clear mud from motorways and pump water out of the basements of homes and industrial buildings. Problems with mud also occupied firemen in the region of Hradec Králové.
Prime Minister Fischer told Czech Television on Sunday that he intends to ask the Chamber of Deputies to rush through a proposal for the issue of 3 billion crowns in flood bonds before elections next weekend. The proposal would be dealt with as emergency legislation at a special session of Parliament on Thursday, the day before elections. The PM said that the bonds would unavoidably push the state budget deficit beyond the approved level of 163 billion crowns. Parliament already has one special session scheduled for the coming week dealing with a proposal for direct election of the president.
Prime Minister Fischer indicated on Sunday that he would be voting for one of the centre-right parties in the upcoming elections. Speaking to Czech television, the interim prime minister said that he preferred practical and polite politics that does not entail throwing around money and that directs social expenditures where they are truly needed. Mr Fischer, who previously served as the head of the Czech Statistical Office, was nominated to his caretaker post by the Civic Democratic Party.
The Czech Press Agency has reported that a multi-billion crown tender for municipal cleaning in Prague will apparently go to the city-owned company Pražské služby, which already handles a part of such services. According to the press agency, smaller cleaning companies are complaining that they were unable to take part in the tender because the public order was custom made for Pražské služby. Among other things, the city requires the winning company to have turnover of 500 million crowns for the last three accounting periods. The order is for summer and winter clean-up in Prague for a period of eight years and is worth 9.6 billion crowns. The city says that the winner has not yet been chosen and will be announced in the coming weeks.
Town squares, pubs and namely hockey fans across the Czech Republic are preparing for the final match of the Ice Hockey World Championships, in which the Czech team will be taking on the reigning champion, Russia, in Cologne, Germany. Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the match in Prague’s Old Town Square, where two large television screens have been set up for the event, while President Václav Klaus said he will be travelling to Germany to attend the game in person. The Czech Republic advanced to the final round by defeating Sweden 3:2 in on Saturday. The third round of normal play ended in a 2:2 draw after Karel Rachůnek scored eight seconds prior to the whistle. Penalty shots then decided the outcome. Sunday’s final match begins at 20.30 CET.
Monday’s cabinet meeting will also see the proposal of a bill on non-profit activity which will define public aid organisations and establish regulations on the non-profit sector, which currently do not exist. Such a bill has been in preparation for a number of years; the current version is being put forward by Prime Minister Jan Fischer. The act would require non-profit organisations to be registered in a special public record for a period of nine years in order to prevent their applying for unjustified benefits. Non-profit organisations are to be defined by the Civil Code, however a separate law is being proposed because the Ministry of Justice has been unable to push through a new reading of the code for the last eight years.
In other flood-related news, the main bridge in the eastern town of Kunčičky u Bašky, near Frýdek-Místek, partly collapsed on Sunday. The main support pillar slipped by 15° due to flood disruption of its gravel foundation, causing a visible slant in the roadway; authorities believe the bridge will likely have to be torn down entirely and rebuilt. The bridge was closed to vehicles and pedestrians on Sunday morning, dividing two communities of 3,500 people and causing long detours via Frýdek-Místek.
The last public opinion surveys of party preference ahead of next weekend’s parliamentary elections will be released on Monday. Czech law forbids the publication of voter surveys in the run-up to elections so as to avoid any influence on election results. Individuals who violate the polling blackout can face a fine of up to 30,000 crowns, while companies can be fined up to half a million. Exit polling may begin as the last voting centres close on Saturday. At present, polls put the centre-left Social Democratic Party about six points ahead of their closest rivals, the centre-right Civic Democrats, and predict parliamentary mandates for the Communist Party, TOP 09, and Public Affairs, with the Christian Democrats straddling the 5% threshold.
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