The first major international film festival of the year, the Berlinale, gets underway on Thursday. The Czech Republic is being represented at the prestigious showcase by three films, including one starring veteran director Jiří Menzel and a documentary exploring the life of a young paramilitary leader in Slovakia. Ahead of the festival, I spoke to Markéta Šantrochová of the Czech Film Center, who will be promoting the country’s cinema in Berlin.
Flights between Prague and Berlin have been cancelled as a result of a strike by ground staff at Berlin airports. Six return flights scheduled for Monday and early Tuesday were victims of the strike over wage claims. More cancellations are expected following the announcement that the action would be extended from Tuesday to Wednesday. The action affects flights to and from Berlin’s Tegel and Schönfeld airports.
The Czech national police force have confirmed that security measures implemented after the recent terrorist attack in Berlin will remain in place through the New Year. The anti-terrorism measures are to supplement standard precautions to deal with countless revellers partying in Prague and across the country.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that a Czech national was among the victims of the Berlin terrorist attack. The woman resided in Germany long term and her husband reported her missing shortly after the attack. Her identity has been confirmed by a DNA test. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek have sent condolences to her family and offered assistence. The foreign minister later said in a press conference that German authorities had still not identified two victims of the attack but that it was highly unlikely that these were also Czechs. The main suspect of carrying out the Berlin attack was later reported to have been shot dead by Italian police outside Milan.
The Czech intelligence services say there is no increased danger of a terrorist attack at the present time. The country’s intelligence group said on Tuesday afternoon that the present first degree of terrorist threat would remain in place. However, the police have stepped up security in Prague and other major cities in reaction to Monday’s attack in Berlin. Armed patrols have been monitoring the capital’s Old Town Square and Metro stations since Tuesday morning. After a meeting with Interior Minister Milan Chovanec on Tuesday the prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said police would have a massive presence at densely crowded spots at the close of the year and that hundreds of extra officers would be deployed.
President Miloš Zeman says terrorist attacks are getting closer to the Czech Republic and it is clear that the security measures in place at Prague Castle are important. Mr. Zeman made the comment the day after an attack in Berlin in neighbouring Germany left 12 people dead. Communicating via his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček, he said he was against any refugees on the territory of the Czech Republic. The president said Monday’s horrific attack on the German capital had confirmed his longstanding warning of the risk of terror attacks in Europe.
Czech political leaders have offered condolences to Germany in the wake of Monday’s terrorist attack on a Christmas market in central Berlin which killed twelve people and injured dozens of others. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed solidarity with the German government and said his thoughts were with the families of the victims. Culture Minister Daniel Herman also condemned the attack, stressing that the Christmas message of peace and hope must not be overshadowed by evil. Trade Minister Jan Mladek echoed that sentiment, saying that violence against civilians must not become the norm in Europe. The Czech Republic has beefed up security at its Christmas markets and other frequented places in the wake of the attack.