The Czech economy is in record-long recession, having contracted for the sixth quarter in a row, according to figures posted by the Czech Statistical Office on Wednesday. The economy shrank by 0.8 percent in the first quarter due to a fall in foreign demand affecting mainly the car sector. Lower investment activity also led to a further drop in construction. According to the Czech Statistical Office the year on year decline has deepened to 1.9 percent. The crown slumped to its weakest level since November 2011 on the news.
The League Against Cancer held its annual Flower Day in the Czech capital on Wednesday to help raise money for cancer research and raise public awareness of the need for prevention. The money raised is used to support the league’s projects, which are focused on the prevention of tumor-related illnesses, improving the quality of life of cancer patients and acquiring new technology for treatment and research departments.
Prague City Hall has taken steps to regulate busking in the city centre. A new regulation which went into force on Wednesday May 15, clearly stipulates which areas are off limits and where busking is still allowed. The regulation does not apply to Charles Bridge where special rules are in force. City Hall says the regulation was the result of a compromise between Prague residents and street artists. The new regulation also sets down a buskers’ ethical codex, intended to limit noise pollution in residential areas.
The Constitutional Court will hold a public hearing on church restitutions on May 29. The court will debate a complaint against the church restitution law filed by the opposition Public Affairs. The legislation has also been attacked by the opposition Social Democrats and the Communist Party on the grounds that it is overly generous and gives churches more property than was actually confiscated by the communist regime after 1948. Under the law Czech churches will get back 75 billion crowns worth of property and another 59 billion crowns in compensation for that which cannot be returned to be paid out by the state over a period of 30 years.
A number of international media outlets are carrying video footage of the Czech president staggering in public, with several headlines posing the question of whether he may have been inebriated. The Huffington Post and the websites of the Daily Mail, the Washington Post, USA Today and other newspapers have posted the video, which at one point shows the head of state propping himself up against a wall; it comes from a ceremony last Thursday in which the Czech crown jewels were removed from the vault where they are normally stored. Mr. Zeman had previously been at an event at Prague’s Russian Embassy but denies having been under the influence. A spokesperson said he had contracted a virus.
Public readings from contemporary European literature are taking place in 18 Prague venues tonight. The popular literary event, now in its 7th year, is organized by the network of Czech Cultural Centres in cooperation with European National Institutes for Culture EUNIC. The aim is to provide a platform for contemporary European authors and to present new European literary voices in a creative way. Among the authors whose works will be presented this year at Prague galleries, coffee houses and theatres are Elena Ferrante from Italy and Hungary’s Peter Esterhazy. European Literature Night is held on the eve of the World Book Fair which opens on May 16th in the Czech capital.
The new head of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes Pavla Foglarova has presented the supervisory board with a list of candidates for the institutes’ academic board after its former members resigned en masse in protest over the sacking of the institute’s former head Daniel Herman. The new academic board should have 12 members and the proposed candidates include the former politician and historian Petr Pithart, historian Vilem Precan, the present director of the Institute of Modern History Oldrich Tuma and number of foreign experts including the French historian Muriel Blaive, who currently resides in Vienna, and the Danish historian Peter Bugge, an expert on Bohemian studies. The institute has recently undergone far-reaching personnel changes and relations within remain tense.
President Miloš Zeman has selected three more nominees for Constitutional Court judges to replace those whose term in office expires later this year. They are Supreme Administrative Court judge Katerina Šimáčková, current Constitutional Court judge Miloslav Výborný who would be nominated for re-election and Supreme Court judge Ludvík David. Mr. Zeman met with all three candidates on Tuesday and will now propose their nominations to the Senate. The president appointed three new judges to the Constitutional Court in early May and the 15-member body is now complete, but the mandates of seven more judges are due to expire this year.
Maintenance work has started on the main runway at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport. From mid-May until the end of September the airport will have to rely on alternate runways. This is the second stage of a three phase-reconstruction due to end in 2014. The airport says it has carefully planned the use of the alternate runaways in order to protect people living in the vicinity of the airport from excessive noise pollution as much as possible. The matter is also being consulted with experts on noise pollution.
The lower house of Parliament has approved an amendment to the road law which should allow drivers to select the numbers on their license plates as of 2015. The special service will come at a price with one license plate to cost 5,000 crowns. The cost per car will thus be 10,000 crowns. The proposed amendment should also simplify the process of registering vehicles. The bill will now go to the Senate.
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