The České Budějovice city hall is planning steps to diffuse growing racial tension in the wake of more street violence over the weekend. City mayor Juraj Thoma said the city council had decided to hold public hearings on problems of co-existence at the Maj housing estate where citizens could air their complaints or table suggestions. The first of these hearings is to take place on Tuesday. The city has seen a second week of racial unrest triggered by an incident in a children’s playground where Roma and non-Roma parents got into a huge fight. Although the police had the situation under control the authorities fear that racial tension in the city will escalate further in the coming days.
The German and Austrian embassies in the Czech Republic are hoping to convince more Czech schoolchildren to choose German as a second foreign language, which will be a compulsory subject in the coming school year. Over the past twenty years interest in learning German has slumped among Czech primary school children despite that fact that the neighbouring states offer lucrative job opportunities for people speaking the language. According to statistics 98 percent of Czech schoolchildren chose to learn English at school.
Martin Pecina, who is to serve as interior minister in the Rusnok caretaker cabinet, on Sunday severely criticized the austerity measures that reduced the police force by close to ten thousand officers in the past eight years. He said he would strive to increase their numbers especially in areas where extremism was now proving to be a serious problem. Mr. Pecina said he would like to see Romanies themselves involved in the process of restoring law and order, saying that it was better to employ Roma citizens as police assistants for a proper wage than to give them the same amount of money in social welfare.
Czech rail traffic to and from Prague’s Masaryk train station was severely disrupted in the early hours of Sunday after a thief damaged the station’s electric rail-shifting system. The thief was after cables for scrap metal and although he was disturbed by a police patrol he damaged several cables so badly that the entire system was paralyzed. Trains were rerouted to the main railway station for close to four hours before things returned to normal.
Over 130 people were detained and eight injured in Saturday’s anti-Romany protests in České Budějovice. Police were out in force across the city, fencing off a demonstration of some 400 far-right protesters from a Roma gathering at the Maj housing estate. The riot squad used tear gas and mounted police to get the situation under control. Special security measures remained in place throughout the night and police patrolled the streets on Sunday. No one has been charged in connection with the street violence.
The 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival ended with an award ceremony in Hotel Thermal on Saturday night. The festival’s main prize – the Crystal Globe for the best feature film - went to Le grand cahier, a German- Austrian-French coproduction directed by Hungarian film director Janos Szasz. An international jury, chaired by Polish director Agniezka Holland, gave the Special Jury Award to the British film A Field in England, directed by Ben Wheatley, while the Polish film Floating Skyscrapers by Tomasz Wasilewski received the main award in the East of the West section. The triple Oscar winning American director, scriptwriter and producer Oliver Stone received the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema, as did American actor John Travolta, who was the biggest celebrity at the festival this year.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has issued a fresh warning to Czech tourists in Egypt. The ministry urges Czech citizens to stay away from the big cities, such as Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor and to refrain from making solo trips to the north of the country if at all possible. The ministry says that while Egypt’s Red sea tourist resorts are still considered safe, people should exercise caution at any location and stay away from public gatherings and demonstrations.
Plans to turn the Krivoklat area into a national park may be scuppered by the fall of the centre-right government, the internet news site idnes.cz reported on Saturday. The idea to give the Krivoklat deep spruce forests better protection emerged seven years ago and won strong backing from the outgoing environment minister Tomas Chalupa and agriculture minister Petr Bendl. With their demise the region’s present governor Josef Rihak, who is opposed to the idea of creating a national park in the area, may succeed in burying the proposal. He claims that creating a nature reserve is unnecessary since the forests are already well-protected and argues that such a step would negatively impact business and tourism in the region.
Masses were held around the country on Saturday commemorating the legacy of the 15th century reformer priest Jan Hus who was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. Jan Hus (John Huss) was a Catholic priest and rector of the University of Prague who was strongly influenced by the teachings of the English reformer priest John Wycliffe. He translated Wycliffe’s works into Czech and proposed to reform the church in Bohemia just as Wycliffe had in England. Hus was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1411 before being condemned as a heretic and executed in Constance four years later.
Police have launched a nation-wide search for pop singer Iveta Bartosova who has been missing from her Prague home since Wednesday evening. The 47-year-old Bartosova, who is believed to have a serious drinking problem, left her home in the company of an admirer whom she once claimed to have stalked her. Her live-in partner reported her missing to the police, saying she had been abducted by the said admirer. He admitted that he and Bartosova had had a fight prior to her disappearance.
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