Lukáš Houdek is a man of many activities. The coordinator of the government’s anti-racism Hate Free Culture project, he is also a photographer and curator as well as heading a publishers specialised in Romany literature. Houdek is from furthest West Bohemia and now lives in a village outside the capital. But for many years he called the Smíchov/Prague 5 district home – and it is there we begin our tour of “his Prague” at Cibulka, a rather hidden park.
The foreign ministers of the Višegrad Four and six Balkan states on Friday signed an agreement in Prague on the establishment of a Western Balkans Fund which is to boost regional cooperation. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek who hosted the meeting said the migrant crisis must not destabilise the Balkans since the region’s stability was crucial for the stability of the entire continent. The establishment of a Western Balkans Fund was proposed four year ago by the Czech Republic which is a strong supporter of integrating the Balkans into the EU. The fund, to which all the Višegrad Four states have made a contribution, will be based in Tirana, Albania.
Czech police are facing a major shake-up with the new heads of the Prague, South Bohemia, Plzeň, and Olomouc regions needing to be selected. Some of the changes were already scheduled but some of them have been fast forwarded because of the so-called Vidkun scandal in Olomouc, where police are alleged to have closed their eyes to major cases of corruption. A similar clean out of regional police heads was undertaken by Police president Tomáš Tuhý in April.
The two-day Prague European Summit begins on Thursday in the Czech capital. This session of strategic thinking about European issues is likely to be focused at least in part on the current immigration crisis, situation in Ukraine, and threat from terrorism. More than 100 representatives from other EU countries and European institutions are expected to take part. One of the key speakers Friday will be the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who will address the question of what changes the EU can make itself to deal with current challenges.
Prague City Hall wants to ban heavy trucks from the city centre, the Prague councillor in charge of infrastructure, Petr Dolínek, said on Wednesday. Heavy trucks over 12 tonnes won’t be allowed on Prague’s inner ring road unless they have an exemption issued by the city district authority. Prague City Hall still has to go hold talks with the police, which are against the plan. City councillors also plan to establish a low-emissions zone within the city centre from 2017.
There has been an English-language literary scene in Prague ever since the fall of communism and in Czech Books this week we meet one of its central figures. Thor Garcia’s writings include some vivid and provocative evocations of a seedy, beery and beautiful Prague, to be found in his collection of stories, Only Fools Die of Heartbreak. The book is the focus of his discussion with Pavla Jonssonová.
Meteorologists have called a smog alert in Prague and four other regions, as conditions worsened around the country. The concentration of dust particles in the air is exceeding permitted levels several-fold. Drivers have been asked to use public transport to help alleviate the situation. Should it worsen the authorities could ask the biggest polluters to temporarily scale down production. A smog alert is now in effect in eight regions altogether.
Prague’s landmark Žizkov television tower is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the start of construction work. The tallest building in the Czech capital was completed in 1992. Although Prague citizens may have grown used to the tower, which had large sculptures of toddlers climbing up it added later, it is given mixed reviews by foreign visitors. Some have ranked it among the world’s ugliest buildings.
Prague Castle is stepping up security. In the future, access to St. Vitus’ Cathedral will only be possible by passing though security barriers. The president’s office is also seeking to complete a security camera system for the surrounds of the castle. Security flaws were exposed in September when a stunt art group flew a giant pair of underpants from a flagpole. The head of state’s office says the increased security is needed because of the threat of a terrorist attack.
Two men were given five year jail sentences by a Prague court for taking part in the theft of items from a Marilyn Monroe exhibition being staged in the Czech capital. The two men were found guilty of taking the items. A third accused was given a three year conditional sentence. They can appeal to a higher court. Rare photographs and items for the Prague exhibition were taken in May 2013 after they were being shipped to Prague from Italy. The stolen items included rare photos and an invitation to president John F. Kennedy’s birthday party.
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events