The Czech ambassador to Vienna informed President Václav Klaus on Monday about the situation at the Canadian embassy in Austria capital which issues visas to Czech travellers to Canada. Ambassador Jan Koukal told the president that according to his knowledge, Canada will not start issuing visas at its Prague embassy. Mr Koukal noted however that a majority of applicants receive visas on the same day they apply. Hundreds of Czechs have travelled to Vienna to get Canadian visas since they were reinstated last Tuesday.
In related news, the office of the Czech ombudsman has agreed that social benefits could be given out in the form of food vouchers provided that each such case is decided individually. The town hall in Litvínov started issuing food vouchers instead of money in 2007. Town officials said this was a good way of preventing the abuse of benefits. The ombudsman’s office initially pro tested but its spokeswoman said on Monday that it was possible.
Some 80 foreigners from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the United States and other countries started learning Czech at a summer school of Slavic studies, organized by the Palacký University in Olomouc, central Moravia. The month-long course also includes film screenings, trips and a theatre workshop.
An Ostrava-based support group, the Group of Women Harmed by
Sterilization, said on Monday that the last case of a Romany woman
sterilized against her will in the Czech Republic took place in 2007.
Spokeswoman for the group Elena Goralová said that the woman was now 40
years old, lived in northern Moravia and had four children. A social worker
allegedly threatened to take her children away if she refused to undergo
sterilization. Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb
informed the government at its Monday session of the allegations.
It is generally assumed that coerced sterilization of Romany women took place in what is now the Czech Republic between 1959 and 2001. Several cases of forced sterilization have since been tried at courts but none of the victims have been compensated.
Pope Benedict XVI will not speak in his native German during a visit to
the Czech Republic in September, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on
Monday citing sources from Czech organizers. The Pope’s advisors asked
him not to do so because of the problematic historical associations with
the language. Unlike his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict XVI cannot
speak Czech and will therefore speak English most of the time. The Pope
will also deliver sermons in Italian which will be consecutively
interpreted into Czech. The daily said that only the Czech president,
Václav Klaus, insisted German is used during a formal meeting with the
Pope at Prague Castle.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church will visit the Czech Republic for three days in September. He will be the first incumbent pope to honour St Wenceslas, the Czech patron saint. Benedict XVI will also pay tribute to the Baby Jesus statue in Prague and celebrate mass at Brno airport.
The town of Litvínov, northern Bohemia, wants to prevent Romanies from simultaneously obtaining social benefits in the Czech Republic and in the UK. The town’s deputy mayor, Martin Klika, said on Monday some Romany families applied for social benefits in Great Britain but regularly return to collect Czech benefits as well. Town officials are planning to contact their colleagues in Britain to find out about how many people might be abusing the welfare system.
Three Czech fans joined the band U2 on stage in Berlin on Sunday to play one of the band’s hit songs, Angel of Harlem. The fans, members of a U2 tribute band, held up signs during the show specifying their musical skills and the name of the song. Some six songs into the concert, U2 singer Bono asked them to come on stage, play his guitar and assist Larry Mullen on drums.
The South Moravian town of Miroslav has a new dumpling king in Jaromír Rafaj, who managed to devour 105 apricot dumplings in 20 minutes at the annual apricot harvest celebration. It was not enough to break the record however, 125, which remains with the contest’s five-time champion Karel Hamerský, who came in 2 dumplings shy of victory this year. An estimated 1,000 onlookers were present for the harvest celebration, which also included concerts and other contests for the “most beautiful apricot” and the best-quality apricot brandy. The Miroslav apricot harvest has been celebrated every year since 1990.
The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office has released its annual report, in which it states that the rate of criminality in the Czech Republic has not changed over the long-term, though there have been changes in the rates of particular crimes and the participation of foreigners. The report states for example that murder investigations are declining, down to 177 from 280 in 1999. Increases have been noted elsewhere however, for example in economic crimes such as customs and tax fraud. New trends have also been seen in human trafficking in the Czech Republic, particularly involving forced labour and prostitution. The Public Prosecutor’s Office also stated it could not rule out a coming rise in criminality as a result of the global economic crisis.
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