Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra visited Czech soldiers serving in Kosovo on Monday and talked with members of the local government from the former Serbian province. Mr. Vondra outlined Czech plans for reducing its peacekeeping force in Kosovo from the current 270 to around 90 in October. If the current security situation there does not worsen the full force could be withdrawn by next summer, Mr. Vondra said. Cost savings are the main reason for the reduction. At the same time Prague has outlined plans to boost its presence in Afghanistan by sending around 200 extra troops.
Around 5,000 citizens and institutions in the Austrian region of Upper Austria have taken advantage of an offer from authorities to submit internet comments on plans to complete the Temelín nuclear power plant by the deadline on Monday. Local authorities describe that total as a success. The comments will be passed onto European authorities in Brussels who have to oversee whether the plans are environmentally acceptable. State controlled Czech power company ČEZ wants to build two more reactors at the site in South Bohemia. Austrian authorities contend that the Czech environmental assessment was not conducted properly.
The Czech capital is hosting the 61st International Astronautical Congress. The congress, which starts on Monday and lasts until Friday, will bring more than 2000 experts to Prague. For the first time, the congress is also being attended by representatives of space agencies from Japan, India and the US. Experts will debate, among other issues, how space exploration benefits mankind. The delegates will also have time to explore the host city – on Tuesday, they are set for a “fun evening” at one of Prague’s most famous pubs, U Fleků.
President Václav Klaus and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have clashed over the nomination of a new ambassador to Ukraine, according to the daily Hospodářské noviny. The president is opposing the suggestion that former Freedom Union chairman and minister, Petr Mareš, fills the spot. Mr. Mareš is currently ambassador to the Netherlands. The paper speculates that president Klaus’ opposition stems from his dislike of politicians from the now defunct Freedom Union which was formed as a breakaway from the Civic Democrats when Václav Klaus led the party. The paper reports, however, that the two men have agreed that former Civic Democrat minister Petr Gandalovič will be the new Czech ambassador in the United States.
The Czech women’s basketball team will take to the court for their first game in the second group stage of the world championships being hosted in the Czech Republic on Monday night. The opponents will be South Korea. The Czechs have also been drawn in the same Brno group as Spain, Russia, Brazil and Japan. The group results will decide who will go onto the semi-finals.
The so-called ‘forest murderer’ Viktor Kalivoda committed suicide at Valdice near Jičín over the weekend, prison authorities said on Monday. The 33-year-old was given a life sentence after being found guilty of murdering three people in 2005. Two were an elderly couple and a third was a man who was walking his dog. Kalivoda said he chose his victims, all who were walking in the woods, by chance.
More than twice as many visitors as usual flocked this year to see the ‘Slav epic’ series of painting by Czech painter Alfonse Mucha in Moravský Krumlov. According to the local mayor, visitor numbers soared to 50,000 compared with the usual 20,000. Interest has been heightened by a battle between the town and Prague which wants the series of 20 paintings sent to the capital to fulfill the wishes of the painter. The paintings have stayed put as a legal dispute over whether Prague should get them is fought out.
The Czech weather office has issued flood warnings for the northern regions of Liberec and Ústí following heavy rainfall over the weekend. The regions were worst hit during severe floods at the start of August. The highest, third category, flood level has been reached at one point with many rivers in the regions at the second level of flood risk. In the south of the country at Moravský Krumlov the river there is also only one level below posing an extreme threat of flooding. The hydrometeorological institute says flood warnings should remain in place until Wednesday when water levels are expected to subside.
The film “Kawasaki’s Rose” by Jan Hřebejk, chosen by the Czech Film and Television Academy to compete for the Oscar for the best foreign language film in 2011, will get its premiere in the United States at the end of November. It will be screened at the New York cinema, Film Forum, which specialises in independent productions. The academy announced its Oscar competition selection on its website on Sunday. The 2009 drama tells the story of a respected psychiatrist and a former dissident, who is about to receive state honours when it turns out he had collaborated with the communist secret police. “Kawasaki’s Rose” got nine nominations for the annual Czech film awards, Český lev, but only converted those for the best male and female actors in supporting roles.
The financial group PPF, controlled by the richest Czech Petr Kellner, has asked the Czech National Banking for a banking license, according to Monday’s edition of Lidové noviny. According to the group’s spokesman, PPF is seeking to create a retail bank in the country with a network of branches which would offer financial services to customers. The spokesman said the project should bear fruit within the next year. PPF already offers consumer loans in the Czech Republic and other countries in Central Europe and Asia through its Home Credit company.