A number of Slovak rock bands are playing a concert at Prague’s Rock Café on Saturday night to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution and the upcoming 20th anniversary of the split of Czechoslovakia. The groups Polemic, Billy Barman and Živé kvety will perform at the downtown venue, which is located only metres away from the Velvet Revolution memorial on Národní St. A spokesperson for the organisers said the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg would appear, as would the former Slovak prime minister, Iveta Radičová, who now heads the Slovak Institute in Prague.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said with regard to Saturday’s events linked to resistance in the past to Nazism and Communism that Czech people had not lost and would not lose their historical memory. He said the fact that freedom and democracy were not taken for granted in the Czech Republic was constantly being confirmed. Mr. Nečas also said that the success of the Communist Party in recent regional and Senate elections represented a certain “memento”, the Czech News Agency reported.
Hundreds of people protested in České Budějovice on Saturday against the participation of the Communist Party in the government of the region. Students in the South Bohemian city have been protesting this week in the wake of the appointment of the Communists’ Vítězslava Baborová as councillor for education by the regional governor, Jiří Zimola of the Social Democrats. Demonstrators carried banners with slogans such as “Red brothers, go back to your reservation.”
In an address, President Klaus said gatherings such as the one at the student dormitory were held to ensure that people did not forget the past. He said he was concerned that Czechs were now living in what he would characterise as an era of “forgetting and gestures”. Mr. Klaus said he would not describe contemporary society as an information society but rather as an “uninformed society” in which traditional values were being damaged and defiled, adding that gestures and words were being applauded, not actions and principled and consistent behavior. Later, at the memorial on Národní St., the president was met by supporters and opponents; members of the pro-Klaus D.O.S.T. group shouted long live Klaus, while a young man carrying a Czech flag declared that the president was a thief who had robbed and sold off the country.
The Czech Republic are 2:1 up against Spain in the final of the Davis Cup in Spain. After Friday’s singles rubbers the two countries were tied at 1:1 but Radek Štěpánek and Tomáš Berdych on Saturday afternoon gave them what could be a crucial point with a 3-6 7-5 7-5 5-3 6-3 victory over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in front of 13,000 fans at the sold-out O2 Arena. The final two singles rubbers will be played on Sunday. The Czech Republic’s women recently triumphed in the Fed Cup and a win for the men’s team in the Davis Cup would make it the first time ever that the country has held the two titles.
Thousands of people gathered on Prague’s Wenceslas Sq. for an anti-government demonstration held by trade unions and other groups on Saturday. Organisers said 20,000 to 25,000 people had turned out for the protest, though the police put the figure at around 10,000. Speaking under a “Stop the Government” banner, the chairman of the country’s confederation of trade unions, Jaroslav Zavadil, told the crowd that they did not deserve the current government of “corrupt” ministers. Mr. Zavadil said people were currently too afraid to launch a general strike, but said he hoped the nation would wake up a bit more. Other demonstrations were also held in the centre of the capital.
Events have been held in the Czech Republic to mark the country’s day of the fight for freedom and democracy, which is a state holiday. On Saturday morning the Czech president, Václav Klaus, the prime minister, Petr Nečas, and other senior state officials took part in a ceremony at a Prague hall of residence where there is a memorial to student victims of Nazi persecution in 1939. A march commemorating those students sparked the beginning of the Velvet Revolution on November 17 1989 and people on Saturday also gathered and lit candles at a memorial at the spot where riot police attacked participants on Prague’s Národní St.
A regional court in South Moravia has ordered the emergency health service to issue a written apology as well as pay 100,000 crowns in damages for steps taken in a home birth in 2010. Shortly after the birth of the baby, a doctor pressured the mother to head to a hospital with her child; the court found no reason for the mother and her newborn to have taken the step: information that the baby was not in good health shortly after birth, as the service claimed, was not confirmed.
The Albanian division of the Czech energy giant ČEZ has begun to disconnect electricity supplies to Albania's state-owned water utilities that failed until now to settle long-term debts, ČEZ spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanová has revealed on the company's website. The total sum of receivables from such companies has reached the equivalent of 971 million crowns (the equivalent of 37 million euros) the spokeswoman revealed. ČEZ has moved to cut off the water utilities from electricity after a series of negotiations with Albanian representatives failed. The Czech supplier said it had repeatedly invited the water utilities to settle their debt and had repeatedly postponed settlement deadlines – an apparent attempt to avoid the current situation.
In related news, it is not yet clear who will replace outgoing Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš. Dobeš’ party LIDEM, which pressured him this week to step down over a number of problems, including a faulty electronic vehicle registration system, nominated Robert Vacek in his stead. But Prime Minister Petr Nečas announced on Thursday night that he would not support the nomination and is expecting LIDEM leader Karolína Peake to submit another candidate from her party. Mr Nečas said that Mr Vacek did not have the proper qualifications. He followed up with a stronger statement on Friday morning saying that the former security chief for Vít Barta would never be in his government. Mrs Peake has said no other candidate is being considered and made clear LIDEM will review the situation – including the viability of remaining in the centre-right government – next week.
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