The most powerful Czech trade union, KOVO, has lent its support to a public protest of government reforms. The metalworkers’ union, which brings together nearly 1000 business and 100,000 members, decided on Wednesday to join a Prague demonstration set for October 22 on Náměstí Republiky. Union chairman Josef Středula says their involvement will be active, rather than symbolic, and that transportation would be organised to being members to the capital from Northern Moravia. The unions are opposed to policy reforms involving pensions, taxes and social welfare that they believe punish dutiful citizens by making them pay more. The protest has also received the support of the main confederation of trade unions.
Roughly 7000 Czech soldiers have taken part in the Afghan war since it was launched in 2001, the Defence Ministry has told CTK. Four of them died there. A spokesman for the ministry said the Czech Republic has spent 8.3 billion crowns on participation in the conflict, deploying Special Forces, military doctors, pilots, chemists and bomb squads. Operation of the international airport in Kabul was also under Czech command between 2006 and 2007. About 720 Czech soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Next year, their number is to be reduced by about 100.
The government is discussing a proposal to have eleven political parties and movements dissolved. The Ministry of the Interior says that nine of the parties failed to submit their financial reports to Parliament or left them incomplete. The others are movements that were formed last year and have not yet established internal executive bodies. Of the parties in question, only the eurosceptic, right-wing Party of Free Citizens has made serious campaign efforts; none of the parties have elected officials. Once the government completes the proposal it will be given to the Supreme Administrative Court.
A two-day conference is underway in Prague regarding the ELI ‘superlaser’ and its benefits for the Czech Republic. Leading scientists from Europe and the US will be meeting with representatives from the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Education, which are running the project. Construction of the enormous centre housing what will be the most powerful laser in the world is soon to begin in Dolní Břežany near Prague. The cost of the ELI project is estimated at seven billion crowns. The laser is intended to spur breakthroughs in everything from nuclear physics to medical diagnosis, treatment and therapy.
Ex-president Václav Havel is marking his 75th birthday on Wednesday. A birthday party on Saturday was attended by over 500 guests, among them close friends from his dissident days, people from the arts world, politicians, writers and diplomats. Mr Havel’s office says he has received congratulations from President Klaus but also from countless foreign figures, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Emperor of Japan, and rocker Lou Reed. Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia and is a close friend of Mr Havel’s, was also a guest of honour at Saturday’s celebration and accompanied him at a public event on Wednesday.
The Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 has awarded its annual prize to art theorist and philosopher Iva Mojžišová. She is the second woman and the first Slovak to receive the award. Each year the foundation recognises a ‘significant thinker’ whose work in the sciences asked fundamental questions about human existence and done so in an unconventional way. Previous winners have included sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, prison study psychologist Philip Zimbardo and writer Umberto Eco.
President Václav Klaus has officially dismissed Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa, Prague Castle reports. The president thus acted at the behest of Prime Minister Petr Nečas, who announced the sacking on Tuesday saying he had long been unhappy with Mr Fuksa’s performance and had warned him repeatedly. The news came as a surprise however, both to the public and to Mr. Fuksa himself, who said it was caused by “political reasons”. Political commentators have widely stated that the dismissal was related to infighting within the Civic Democrat party. Ivan Fuksa is the fifth member of the three-party cabinet to be dismissed since the government took power last year.
The Czech – Austrian border could shift slightly if a contract being discussed by the government on Wednesday is concluded. The modification would involve only a quarter of a square kilometre in two areas in South Moravia and neither country would gain land from it. The rationale for the contract is anti-flooding precautions taken during the 1990s along the Dyje River, which flows back and forth across the border. The Czech – Austrian border was last adjusted in 2001. A contract regarding similar adjustments to the border with Slovakia is also being prepared.
The public’s trust in President Václav Klaus dropped by 11 percent since last moth, suggests a new poll by the CVVM agency released on Tuesday. In spite of the decrease, President Klaus remains the country’s most trusted politician, with 51 percent of approval rating. He is followed by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, with 41 percent, the chief justice of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychteský with 40 percent, and the head of the opposition Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, with 36 percent.
A bronze statue honouring US President Woodrow Wilson has been unveiled near the Main Train Station in Prague. A similar statue near the station, which used to be named after Wilson, was pulled down by German soldiers during WWII and is only now being replaced, exactly 70 years later. Both President Václav Klaus and former president Václav Havel attended the unveiling, as did American representatives. Woodrow Wilson, who was president of the United States from 1913 to 1921, was an important backer of the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and aided the withdrawal of Czechoslovak Legionnaires trapped in Russia at the end of WWI. The idea to recreate the 3.5 metre statue was initiated by the non-profit organisation American Friends of the Czech Republic.
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