State-controlled carrier Czech Airlines transported 4.7 million passengers in 2009, a drop of 1.5 percent compared with the previous year. The airline suffered a severe drop in passengers at the start of 2009 but by the end of the year there were signs that demand was picking up again. Separately, a special board meeting on Monday discussed an offer from the country’s biggest charter company, Travel Service, to take over Czech Airlines’ charter division. No decision, apart from a resolution that no airlines would be sold, was taken with further talks between the two companies planned.
Former Czech President Václav Havel has been forced to cancel his engagements for the coming days because of breathing difficulties, his office announced on Monday. Spokeswoman Sabina Tančevová said Mr Havel was taking antibiotics to counter respiratory problems. Havel was due on Monday to take part in a press conference of a new book by journalist Karel Hvižd’ala which includes interviews with Havel and fellow communist era dissident Pavel Landovský. Mr Havel, a former heavy smoker whose health suffered during imprisonment under the Communist regime, had part of his right lung removed in the late 1990’s when cancer was diagnosed.
The Czech government on Monday approved a list of 38 new national cultural monuments. The list includes the striking modern Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in the Vinohrady district of Prague, the Imperial Spa at Karlovy Vary, the colonnade in Mariánské Lázně and the renaissance castle in Vimperk. The list also includes the famous Czechoslovak locomotive the so-called “Slovenská Strela” which was first built in 1936 using an aerodynamic design. The train was used between Prague and Bratislava. Before the additions, there were 236 national monuments.
The Czech government adopted a programme paving the way for adoption of the single currency euro on Monday. The so-called convergence programme calls for the Czech budget deficit to be reduced to 3.0 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2013 or 2014, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said. The deficit was 6.6 percent in 2009. Such a move would, according to Minister of Finance Eduard Janota, allow the euro to be adopted in 2016 or 2017. The two main political parties have come out for a faster deficit reduction in recent days. The Civic Democrats say the 3.0 percent limit should be reached in 2012, allowing theoretical euro adoption in 2015. The Social Democrats say euro adoption could take place by 2016.
Social Democratic leader Jiří Paroubek said on Monday that he personally backed the abolition of current coal mining limits in the northern Ústi region. Mr Paroubek said the move would be good for local jobs and help guarantee energy security for the country. He added however that his party should take a stand on the issue and suggested it should be put to a regional referendum. Regional referenda are currently not possible though the Social Democrats have tabled a proposal in the lower house that would change that. The issue of whether to allow mining in areas beyond the existing limits is developing into a major issue in the lower house elections due at the end of May. Former Green Party leader Martin Bursík has announced he will stand in the Ústi region against Paroubek, whom he accuses of preparing environmental destruction.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, met with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak on Monday during a three-day visit to Egypt. According to Mr Klaus’ office one of the points discussed was the prospect for a major exhibition of Egyptian archaeological finds at Prague castle within the next two years. The Czech President also invited Mr Mubarak to the Czech Republic with hopes raised that the visit could occur this year. The Egyptian president last visited in 1994. Talks also covered trade relations and relations between Israel and Palestine. Mr Klaus was also due to take part in a signing of the Arabic version of his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles, which questions the belief that mankind is responsible for global warming.
The Czech Republic’s footballers will face title holders Spain, Scotland, Lithuania and Lichtenstein in the qualifying stages of the next European Championship in 2012. The Czech coach Michal Bílek had said he hoped to avoid the Spaniards in Sunday’s draw in Warsaw. The winners of each group will automatically for Euro 2012, which is being held in Poland and Ukraine, along with the team that comes second with the best results; the other four berths will be decided by playoffs. Qualification for the tournament begins this autumn after the World Cup in South Africa, which the Czechs failed to reach.
Prime Minister Fischer also said on Sunday that he planned to hold talks with the country’s union leaders on new rules regarding the taxation of benefits. Transport unions in particular are opposed to the change and have not ruled out strike action. Mr Fischer said the only way to get around the impasse was to send the relevant legislation back to the lower house. He also said he would discuss the matter with the minister of finance, Eduard Janota.
Prague’s Rudolfinum is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the day it was first opened to the public. The neo-Renaissance building was designed by the architects of the National Theatre Josef Schulz and Josef Zítek and was named after the Austrian crown prince Rudolf, who attended its opening on February 7, 1885. It has been used as a concert venue by the Czech Philharmonic since the orchestra’s foundation in 1896; its Dvořák Hall is named after the composer, who conducted many concerts there. The Rudolfinum is today also home to one of Prague’s leading art galleries.
Ten people have been killed on level crossings on the Czech rail network so far this year, which is around a quarter of the total number for 2009, the Czech News Agency reported. The latest victim was an 85-year-old man whose car was hit by a train running between Častolovice and Kostelec nad Orlicí in east Bohemia on Sunday. Two other people died in a similar accident on Saturday.
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