Two people collapsed and had to be given emergency treatment after crowds thronged Prague’s Old Town square for the traditional switch on of Christmas lights on Saturday evening. Around 30,000 people crowded into the historic square and side streets leading to a crush and panic at some points. Some of the worst scenes were around the 52 metre high Christmas tree erected in the square and under the historic clock tower. Christmas markets have started in the square, nearby Wenceslas Square and at other points around the city.
Social Democrats in the second city of Brno have sent an important signal about who is likely to be the future leader of the party. Party members in a secret ballot backed acting party leader and former finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka against his main rival, south Moravia regional governor Michal Hašek. Mr. Sobotka won 70 votes and Mr. Hašek 52. The vote in Brno had been described as too close to call by party chairman Jeroným Tejc. Brno will send 12 delegates to a national party meeting in March which will decide the leadership. The former leader of the main opposition party, Jiří Paroubek, resigned after disappointing election results at the end of May.
Senate head Milan Štěch said the upper house is searching for greater assurances that government moves to curb the costs of a solar power boom are legally watertight. Speaking on television Sunday, Mr. Štěch said that lawyers from the upper house’s legislative unit had raised a series of warning that the country could face expensive arbitration proceedings due to government moves against solar power companies. The government has imposed taxes on solar power companies, increased taxes on land changes and cut state support for solar generated power as part of moves to stop electricity price rises next year exceeding 5.5 percent. Mr. Štěch said the Senate might withhold backing for the government moves as a protest move. This would still allow them to go ahead by the end of the year but clearly focus any blame for future problems on the government.
A court in the western city of Plzeň has ordered a 24-year-old man suspected of blackmailing the family of a missing nine-year-old girl to be kept in custody. Police say the man demanded 250,000 crowns for the return of the missing girl and demanded no police involvement. The man faces fraud charges and a jail sentence of up to two years. The nine-year-old girl, Anna, disappeared from a Prague suburb in mid-October and has not been found in spite of intensive police searches. The family offered a reward of 3.5 million crowns for information leading to her return or her takers.
Czech Transport Minister Vít Bárta has said that changes allowing more
flexible punishments for drivers who commit offences should be prepared by
March next year. The minister resurrected the idea that fines should be
related to the ability to pay and should have a long term deterrent
Fines for aggressive and irresponsible drivers should mean that offenders
forgo expensive holidays or a flat for the rest of their lives, he said
during an interview on public broadcaster Czech Television on Sunday. The
minister’s comments follow heavy publicity for an exemplary five year
jail sentence given in the week to a driver who forced a slower car off
motorway and down an embankment. Mr. Bárta also said that bureaucratic
delays in processing fines should be dealt with rapidly. Around 30-40
percent of cases had to be dropped in 2009 because they were not processed
within 12 months.
The minister urged higher road fines for the rich soon after taking office in the summer. The idea was cold shouldered by government colleagues and lawyers said that it could infringe citizen’s rights.
Unions preparing strike action against threatened public sector pay cuts and job losses have greater public support than the government according to an internet poll released on Sunday. Almost 41 percent of respondents in a poll conducted by the SANEP agency said they supported the union stand with almost 38 percent backing the government. Unions are planning to a one day strike on December 8 against government plans to find savings of 10 percent on public sector wage costs either from pay cuts or redundancies. They say the government should negotiate on its proposed moves.
Hospital authorities have said that a nine-year old boy who was fighting for his life after receiving multiple stab wounds in the eastern city of Ostrava is out of immediate danger. Two youths aged 13 and 14 who were stabbed in the same incident are in a stable condition. Police say a running fight broke out during Saturday evening during which they were injured. Two youths have been detained for questioning with police saying that they are treating the incident as attempted murder.
The Czech Republic is bracing itself for heavy snowfalls. Weather forecasters on Sunday warned of snowfalls of up to 15 centimetres during the night in the south-east and east of the country. Similar amounts could fall across the country on Monday with up to 30 centimetres on high ground in the north. Smog conditions in the east of the country had eased on Sunday. In some places on Saturday, air quality was three times worse than the permitted level.
Karel Gott won the annual Czech Nightingale pop music contest, receiving the prize for the most popular Czech pop singer at the award ceremony on Saturday night. Gott, aged 71, won his 36th Nightingale award. In 1963, he gained the prize for the first time. Since then, 44 Nightingale contests have been organised. Lucie Bilá and Kabát also defended their titles for the most popular female singer and the best band categories. Votes from the public decide who gets the Czech Nightingale prizes. Altogether, just under 148,000 votes were cast.
Czech film director David Vondráček is to receive a prize for his film “Zabíjení po česku,” which roughly translates as “Killing Czech style” in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday. The Franz Werfel Human Rights Prize has been awarded by the German foundation, the Centre Against Expulsions. The film deals with Czech murders of German civilians at the end of WWII. In particular it concentrates on the murder of 763 civilians by members of the Czech army and revolutionary guards at the town of Postoloprty in the north of the country. The film was screened in prime time by Czech Television.
Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad
Czech President Zeman addresses Council of Europe
How should socialist architecture be treated now?
Czech pre-election battle plugs into war of words over lithium mining deal
Czech ministry mulls massive recruitment of foreign workers to fill jobs