The future of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which oversees the files of the communist-era secret police, is under threat, its recently appointed director Zdeněk Hazdra said on Tuesday. Speaking at a Senate hearing prior to the election of a new Institute board, Mr. Hazdra said the agency was suffering from internal divisions and a lack of interest on the part of the public. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was set up by a right-wing government in 2007 and has come under pressure since the left have gained the upper hand in the Senate, which selects its board. Critics say it has been poorly managed and unprofessional in the digitisation of historical materials.
Prague’s Opencard electronic card system will remain working as it is until at least the end of this month after the city authorities reached a deal with the company that operates it. There had been a threat that the firm eMoneyServices would stop issuing new cards from June 18. The two sides are in dispute over the cost of the service and councilors have threatened to do away with the Opencard entirely and return to paper travel passes only. Prague’s transport authority has said if no agreement on continuing with the card is reached it would be ready to have a paper ticket only system in place within weeks. eMoneyServices has significantly reduced its original price for continuing to operate the Opencard and talks with City Hall are still taking place. The card is used for transport and other services.
The 69th Prague Spring International Music Festival will come to a close on Tuesday night with a performance by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Smetana Hall of Prague’s Municipal House. The ensemble will play Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major featuring US soloist Hilary Hahn. This year the Prague Spring has featured more Czech compositions than usual as part of its involvement in the Year of Czech Music.
The minister of finance, Andrej Babiš of ANO, says he wants to hold talks with coalition partners the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats on reintroducing a fee for overnight hospital stays. The three parties agreed to abolish the fees in a coalition deal signed in January. However, Mr. Babiš said on Czech Television on Monday night that doing away with the CZK 100 a night fee was a mistake. He also wants to discuss bringing back a second pillar of the pension system, another legacy of the previous centre-right cabinet abolished by the current government. The Social and Christian Democrats have reacted coolly to the ANO chief’s call.
A number of pictures from the former Eastern Bloc will be among the dozen in contention for the Crystal Globe for Best Film at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival next month, organisers said on Tuesday. They include Corn Island by Georgian director George Ovashvili, Welkome Home [sic] by Russia’s Angelina Nikonova and Free Fall by Hungarian helmer Gyorgy Palfi. There will be two Czech films in the main competition: Nowhere in Moravia, the directorial debut of actor Miroslav Krobot, and Fair Play by Andrea Sedláčková. The festival runs from July 4 to 12.
Senators will meet with officials from the Prague Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and a number of its vocal critics on Tuesday ahead of selecting a new board. Relations in the institute have been strained since the removal of the institute’s former director, now Culture Minister Daniel Herman, which made the entire board quit in a show of solidarity. The institute has been criticized for neglecting the process of digitalizing former communist secret police files. Earlier this year it left the Platform of European Memory and Conscience over a dispute about whether or not it employs former communist officials.
A bomb placed under the car of a Russian speaking driver exploded in Prague’s Nusle district on Monday night. The explosion was triggered when the driver started the car, but it only damaged part of the vehicle and the driver escaped unhurt. Bomb experts were called to the scene and police are searching for a possible motif.
The ANO party of the ruling coalition has asked to join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the third strongest group in the European Parliament, newly elected MEP Pavel Telička told journalists on Monday. A decision is expected in the coming weeks. ANO won the recent European elections in the Czech Republic, gaining four out of the country’s 21 mandates in the EP. ALDE leader, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, has already voiced interest in cooperating with ANO.
The Prague Department of Housing and Urban Development has given its approval to locate a statue in honour of the two thousand Czechs and Slovaks who fought in Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War II in Klárov, a square beside Manes Bridge. The approval came despite vehement protests from the Czech National Heritage Institute which turned down the application on the grounds that the Winged Lion Memorial was “inappropriate and incompatible” with this part of the historical centre of Prague, which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The statue, designed by Colin Spofforth, was paid for by the British community here in Prague. It is to be unveiled on June 17 at a ceremony attended among others by June by Winston Churchill’s grandson, British Member of Parliament Nicholas Soames.
The state budget showed a 9.5 billion crown gap at the end of May, posting a deficit for the first time since the beginning of this year, while in April it showed a surplus of almost 27 billion, the Finance Ministry said on Monday. The figure is nevertheless the best May result since at least 2000, the ministry said. In May of last year, the budget showed a deficit of nearly 40 billion crowns. The budget approved for the entire year envisages a deficit of 112 billion crowns.
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