The Czech auto industry’s showcase event of the year – the Brno Auto Show – opened its doors to the public on Saturday. The show is a reflection of the sector’s straightened circumstances with some past brand names absent. Those present have taken a different tack seeking to appeal more to the public than burnishing their brand names. Industry representatives told Czech Television on Sunday that the situation in the sector appeared to be stabilising. Figures released by the Czech Auto Association on Friday showed auto producers and suppliers suffered their first drop in turnover for 14 years last year.
Writers from around the world have converged in Prague for the 19th Prague Writers’ Festival. The festival starts on Sunday and continues until June 11. This year’s eclectic programme seeks to provide a showcase for underground writers from the Arab world, China and the United States. The around 15 guest writers include Chinese born Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian. He is a literary dissident who left China in 1987. His works are banned in China. The festival will begin on Sunday with a freedom of expression award being present to Syrian poet Adonis.
A team of Czech scientists have discovered a substance that they say slows ageing. Scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences and Palacký University in Olomouc told reporters on Friday that the new drug was based on vegetable hormones. The substance is said to be effective against rough skin, wrinkles and pigmentation disorders and also heals erysipelas and acne. Both institutions together with the US cosmetics firm Senetek PLC have applied for patent protection. The company will produce the drug under a licence agreement in the United States; in the Czech Republic, the new drug should be available within a year
Police said Sunday that they detained two men suspected of committing crime during a extreme right-wing demonstration in the south-eastern town of Jihlava on Saturday. One man was suspected of actions damaging individual rights and liberties, the other of abusing national, ethnic or racial groups. The event - attended by around 150 right-wing extremists - was billed as a march in memory of victims of WWII. It was banned by a town official soon after it started. The official said monitoring of the event and feedback from experts on extremism and the police showed it had a different character than that originally claimed. Czech town halls have faced problems in the past banning neo-Nazi marches, sometimes stemming from their own inability to follow the correct procedures.
Staying with politics, Czech votes in European Parliament elections will start being counted at 10 PM local time on Sunday. Although Czech polling booths closed on Saturday afternoon, the count has been postponed until citizens of all 27 EU countries have finished voting. Early indications suggest around a quarter of Czechs voted this time round. That would be a fall from the 28.3 percent in 2004. A lower turnout is expected to favour the right-wing Civic Democrats. The European Parliament poll is expected to provide an indicator of party strength ahead of October’s parliamentary elections. Czechs will fill 22 seats in the 736-seat European Parliament.
The leader of the main leftwing Czech party, the Social Democrats, has hit back at suggestions at accusations a Socialist Conspiracy was behind the publications of compromising photos of former rightwing prime minister Mirek Topolánek. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said in comments to Czech papers on Saturday that the accusations by Mr Topolánek were a demonstration of his intellectual exhaustion. Mr Topolánek admitted Friday that he appears in one of the photos taken at the summer home of the Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi last year. The picture shows a naked man with a blurred face and a white wristband of the kind Mr Topolánek was wearing at the time. The Civic Democrat leader said however that the photograph had been tampered with. He followed up with the charge that European Socialists were behind the publication of the photos in Spanish daily El Pais which coincided with the first day of elections to the European Parliament.
Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda announced on Sunday that three of its 13 MPs had announced they were leaving the party. Mr Svoboda identified them as former party leader and minister of finance Miroslav Kalousek, Jan Husák and Ladislav Šustr. Mr Kalousek said latter that while he had announced his intention to leave the party he had not yet taken the step. The other two MPs said in a joint statement they could not support the left-wing politics which the party leaders now appeared committed to. Mr Svoboda also announced that former defence minister Vlasta Parkanová warned that her future was not linked to the party. Mr Kalousek has already said he is going to form another party, TOP 09. The Christian Democrats elected Cyril Svoboda as leader last week to lead them out of their current crisis and low public support.
The caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer received a
confidence vote from the lower house of Parliament on Sunday evening. The
government was backed by 156 of the 194 MPs present. There was one vote
against and 37 abstentions, mainly from members of the Communist Party and
most Christian Democrats.
The government was backed by the two biggest parties, the right-wing Civic Democrats, left-wing Social Democrats as well as the small Green Party and a smattering of Christian Democrats. Prime Minister Fischer’s government should stay in power until early elections are held in October.
In his opening speech, Prime Minister Fischer underlined that his government was one of experts nominated by political parties. He said it would seek to push through a budget for next year but not take decisions which should be better left to elected representatives. He pledged government action to tackle extremism and racial attacks describing them as a cancer of democratic society. The pledge comes against a background of increasing incidents and tension.
The caretaker government was agreed after the centre-right coalition of former prime minister Mirek Topolánek was toppled by a no-confidence vote at the end of March.
Czech tennis player Lukaš Dlouhý won a French Open Mens’ Doubles title on Saturday. The 29-year-old Czech was partnered by Indian Leander Paes. They beat South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman 3:6, 6:3, 6:2 in the final. Dlouhý and Paes already beat the top seeds in the semi-finals. It is not the first French Open final for the Czech. He reached the doubles final in 2007 with countryman Pavel Vízner but lost.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout and his Austrian counterpart Martin Spindelegger agreed in Vienna on Friday that the Czech Republic and Austria are ready to cooperate in diplomatic and consular services. In countries with only the Czech or Austrian embassy, citizens of the other country should be able to use the services of that embassy. The Czech and Austrian foreign ministers also talked about the Lisbon treaty, the Beneš decrees and the issue of the Temelín nuclear power plant. They agreed that such meetings should be held every six months; the next one is scheduled for September.