A new poll conducted by the RCA research agency has suggested that more almost 50 percent of Czechs are in favour of Ukraine joining the European Union. 49.5 percent answered in the affirmative in the poll, while 33 percent of respondents were against, the agency said. By comparison, support for Ukraine’s joining NATO is lower: the survey found that only 37 percent of Czechs agreed with Ukraine joining the organisation, while 35 percent were against.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has signed an amendment that will allow the military to immediately discharge personnel for any connection to neo-Nazi or other extremist movements. The bill also tightens anti-corruption measures in the army and raises financial compensation for families who lose a loved one during service. Until now, military families were entitled to 120,000 crowns in payment; that figure has now been doubled.
The police have charged four men with racially-motivated attempted murder in connection with an arson attack against a Romany family in Vítkov, north Moravia. Officials announced the developments on Friday, having arrested and questioned a total of 12 individuals (nine men and three women) earlier this week. Only the four, who are in their twenties, are being held in custody. The suspects have connections to right-wing extremism and are believed to have thrown Molotov cocktails at the Romany family’s home in April – an attack which shocked the country. Three people were injured in the ensuing blaze, most seriously a two-year-old girl, who suffered severe burns to 80 percent of her body. She remains in hospital. The police on Friday said the attack was planned over a number of weeks. If found guilty of the crime the four could face up to 15 years in prison; they could also receive exemplary sentences, longer in length.
More than 100 customs officers have been checking for fake brand products at a market in Brno. The market, located in Olomouc Street, is the largest of its kind in Moravia, not open to the public but selling to Vietnamese retailers. Customs officers regularly uncover and seize tonnes of counterfeit items at the location; in its last operation, in July, officials uncovered fake brand goods worth several million crowns.
Official data has shown that the Czech economy emerged from recession in the second quarter, growing by 0.3 percent. A strong influence has been the auto industry picking up, with increased sales in export markets. On a 12-month comparison, the Czech economy still plummeted by a record 4.9 percent. Analysts confirmed that the data had been expected, saying that the Czech economy had hit “rock bottom” in the first quarter and could now begin to bounce back. But others have cautioned against overly-optimistic scenarios. Just last week, the Czech central bank forecast a sharper full-year slump and slower recovery than expected previously. The bank now expects the economy to shrink 3.8 percent, compared to the earlier 2.4 percent predicted in May.
42,000 people attended a concert by Madonna in Prague on Thursday night. The American pop singer was promoting her most recent album Sticky and Sweet. She had performed once before in the Czech capital (in back-to-back concerts) three years ago. On Thursday Madonna performed on a green area in the Chodov district of Prague which had not previously been used as a concert venue. On Friday organisers said the show had proven that the Czech capital could stage similar large-scale events; but some fans complained on Thursday of suffering long delays before being allowed onto the concert grounds.
Canada has issued 2,503 visas to Czechs in the first month of renewed visa requirements and only rejected three applicants, the Canadian embassy in Prague told the Czech news agency, ČTK, on Friday. Canada reimposed visas on Czechs on July 14th in response to the high number of asylum applicants from the Czech Republic – mostly from within the Roma community. The reinstatement came less than two years after visa requirements were dropped.
A small plane (a Cessna) crashed during landing at Prague’s Letňany airport on Friday, leaving four people injured. The accident took place just before 1 pm on Friday. Ambulance crews were called in to assist. By all appearances, the pilot mishandled the landing: the plane lost a wheel and ended up nose-down in a grassy area.
Over 100,000 people have already applied for free tickets to see Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the Czech Republic at the end of next month. Organisers say nearly 70,000 people have snapped up tickets to see the pope serve mass at an air field near the Moravian capital, Brno, while around 35,000 have got tickets for an open-air mass at Stará Boleslav in central Bohemia. Pope Benedict is also set to visit Prague during a three-day stay.
The Czech Republic’s national carrier Czech Airlines saw a fall of nearly 10 percent in passenger numbers in the first half of 2009. Some 2.08 million people flew on CSA between the start of January and the end of June, representing a fall of 9.6 percent, according to figures released by the Association of European Airlines on Thursday. The percentage of seats sold on Czech Airlines’ flights has fallen below 60 percent. The airline is set for privatization, with two bidders in the running: Air France-KLM and a Czech consortium of Unimex and Travel Service.