Karel Och, who hails from a small town in the Vysočina region, is artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. For most of the year, Och and his colleagues are based in a building on Panská St. in downtown Prague, directly behind the Holy Cross Church on the bustling Na příkopě. Our tour of “his Prague” begins in his cosy office, which at present overlooks a construction site on Panská.
Nine buildings at Prague Castle sought by the Roman Catholic Church under a highly-publicised restitution deal with the Czech state will remain in state hands. According to Czech TV, the property sought within the extensive Castle complex, overlooking the Vltava River, will not be returned for reasons of security.
The parliamentary budget committee has voted down a proposal by its deputy chairman Jan Volný (ANO) to lower the budget for the Office of the President by about one million crowns. MP Volný wanted to re-allocate the money to the Justice Ministry, since it recently took over the agenda of state pardons from the President and will require more staff. Only half of the members of the budget committee voted for the proposal. Prague Castle was criticized for spending three times as much on entertainment this year than was originally planned. The president’s chancellor Vladimír Mynář said that expenditure of around 1.5 million for hosting visitors in 2013 is due to the fact that Miloš Zeman has held more official events at Prague Castle than his predecessor, since taking office in March.
Prague’s skyline gave the capital one of its nicknames: the city of a hundred spires. But in actual fact around a thousand spires, belfries and towers of various styles and ages now grace the city centre. Some of them are popular tourist attractions offering great views of the city, others only recently revealed their mysteries. One served as an observation post for the secret police; another hosted a morbid display of a dozen severed heads.
The construction firm Metrostav on Friday began conserving the unfinished Blanka tunnel complex in Prague, in preparation for a halt of construction work. The company announced earlier it would stop working on the complex on Saturday over disputes with Prague City Hall which owes the firm more than 2.1 billion crowns. City officials, meanwhile, say the contract between Prague and the construction firm was invalid as it had not been approved by the municipal assembly. The situation will most likely have to be resolved by the courts. The Blanka complex, whose costs are estimated at around 36 billion crowns, was to open next spring.
Police President Martin Červíček is refusing to step down, despite the reinstatement of his predecessor. The Czech Republic has had two police chiefs since Tuesday, when Petr Lessy was returned to the position by the minister of the interior, Martin Pecina. Mr. Lessy had been removed by the previous interior minister. However, a Prague court ruled that criminal charges of abuse of office and slander leveled against him were unfounded, paving the way for his reinstatement. Mr. Lessy is on holiday, awaiting the resolution of the situation.
Prague City Hall and the construction firm Metrostav have failed to resolve the controversy over the Blanka tunnel complex under construction in the Czech capital. Metrostav recently warned it would cease further construction work on December 7 over unpaid bills. City Hall said it had stopped further payments after having found that the contract on building work was legally invalid. Metrostav claims it is owed 2.1 billion crowns and is handing the matter over to an arbitration court. Prague City Hall had hoped to reach an out-of–court settlement in order not to jeopardize one of the city’s largest building projects.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico arrived in Prague on Thursday for a brief official visit. He met with the Czech prime minister, Jiří Rusnok; the two officials signed an agreement on mutual recognizing of university degrees between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and discussed the situation of their countries’ Roma communities. The head of the Slovak cabinet also delivered a lecture at Prague’s Charles University during his visit.
Prague’s court of appeals on Thursday lowered the sentence for Czech fugitive Radovan Krejčíř by six months to 10.5 years in prison. The court however also issued a fine of three million crowns for Mr Krejčíř; if he fails to pay it, he will face another year and a half in jail. Radovan Krejčíř was last year sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. The Czech businessman fled the country in 2007, and has since settled in South Africa where he was arrested last week on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder.
Prague is grappling with the multi-billion Blanka tunnel complex, the biggest and most expensive project in the city’s history. The costs of the project have far exceeded original estimates, and its completion has been delayed by years. But now, the mayor of Prague has voiced a shocking argument – the contract between the city and the construction firm was invalid from the start.
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