Teachers have threatened to go on strike on December 4th if the government fails to increase the education sector’s expenditures for 2008. The proposed budget reckons with a 1,5 percent increase in teachers’ salaries which will barely cover inflation. Trade unions say that more money is needed for teaching aids, sports facilities and maintenance.
In a speech at the university campus that was the scene of the Nazi brutalities, President Vaclav Klaus said that the two anniversaries – one relating to Nazi, the other to Communist oppression - were closely intertwined and we should forget neither of them. He said it was important to recognize what had led the country from one form of oppression into another and noted that many Czech intellectuals had naively embraced leftist utopian visions and that after having been disappointed by the Western allies Czechs had blindly sought security guarantees from the East.
A number of protests and demonstrations took place in Prague on the country’s state holiday. Close to two thousand people marched through the city centre to protest against the Czech Republic hosting a US radar base on its territory. The protest was organized by the No to Bases civic initiative which called for a referendum on the issue. Right wing extremists met on Palacky Square to protest against the actions of the police last weekend when they prevented neo-Nazis from marching through Prague’s Jewish quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Jews. The ultra-right protesters symbolically buried “freedom of speech” in a funeral casket and quietly dispersed. Trade unions likewise held a gathering in the centre of Prague. The police were out in force to maintain law and order.
November 17th is a state holiday in the Czech Republic, marking the
country’s return to freedom and democracy. Eighteen year ago this day an
attack by riot police against demonstrating students on Prague’s Narodni
Trida sparked mass protests that led to the fall of Czechoslovakia’s
communist regime. Leading politicians, cultural figures and members of the
public visited memorials to the victims of communism on Wenceslas Square,
Narodni Trida and other sites in the Czech Republic to lay flowers and
light candles in memory of those who fought against oppression.
The commemorative ceremonies are also linked to an earlier anniversary – a student march in 1939 held in protest against the Nazi occupation that was brutally suppressed. The protest served as a pretext for more reprisals against Czech intellectuals. The Nazis raided a university campus on the night of November 17, nine students were executed without a trial and 1200 were deported to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. All Czech universities were then closed.
Opposition leader Jiri Paroubek tied the knot for a second time at Hotel Esplanade in Marianske Lazne on Saturday. He married Slovak-born Petra Kovacova with whom he cooperated closely in the past few years and developed a close relationship. Mr. Paroubek divorced his wife of thirty years two months ago. The wedding was a private affair for close friends and family.
Meanwhile, in his own address to the nation, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that 18 years was a relatively short time in a country’s history and that the Czech Republic’s democracy was still young and fragile. He said it was particularly important for the young generation to learn the lessons of the past. Some of the excesses we have recently witnessed suggest that the fight for freedom and democracy has not yet been fully won, the prime minister noted.
The head of the Czech counter-intelligence service (the BIS) Jiri Lang was not responsible for the leak of sensitive information from the organisation three years ago. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (of the Civic Democrats), and the chairman of the lower house committee monitoring BIS activities, Jeronym Tejc (of the Social Democrats), made the announcement on Friday after a committee hearing. The BIS recently admitted that a former employee stole data from the service three years ago. The former officer allegedly tried to sell the information, which was three years old at the time, on to another party, but the illicit deal is said to have fallen through. According to the BIS, although classified information was at risk, damage was not done: some experts hold a differing opinion. The classified information is believed to have pertained to privatisation and tenders.
The Canadian daily the Toronto Star has reported that Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Jiri Tlusty was mortified after revealing photos of him made their way onto the internet. On Tuesday it came to light that the photos of the 19-year-old player – the Leafs’ 13th overall draft pick for 2006 – had been posted on some pages. Tlusty has since spoken about the incident with reporters, explaining the pictures were taken by cell phone last year and posted privately on Facebook for a female friend he had met over the internet. The player, who has gotten off to a good start with Toronto this season, said he now hoped to put the incident behind him, to focus on the game.
The decision by the United States Congress to reduce funding for a proposed missile defence shield in Europe (including a radar base in the Czech Republic) could complicate bilateral relations, the Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said in Washington on Thursday. Czech and US representatives are currently negotiating on the base. Mr Vondra said the US radar base on Czech territory was in his country’s interest, and expressed the view that the project would go ahead. The Czech Parliament is set to vote on the matter next year.