News Eastern Partnership conference convenes in Prague
Czech president Miloš Zeman is hosting a two day conference in Prague starting Thursday on the European Union’s relations with states from the former Soviet Union, the so-called Eastern Partnership. At least nine presidents are scheduled to take part, including those of Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Ukraine’s acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia is also expected to attend. The Eastern Partnership was created five years ago with the then Czech presidency of the European Council a major impulse behind the move.
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Jakub Voráček got an assist in the Philadelphia Flyers win over Nashville – the team’s fifth straight victory. In other NHL hockey, Petr Mrázek continued to do well between the posts for the Detroit Red Wings, helping the club win 4:3 in overtime. Detroit are currently in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference and 20th in the league overall.
American news broadcaster CNN has included Prague’s Christmas markets on a list of the 10 best in the world, citing traditional markets on the city’s Old Town and Wenceslas Squares. The article rated favourably Czech beer and sausage as well as the opening times at both markets, saying they remained open throughout the Christmas period. Other markets included in the piece included ones in Vienna, Venice or Copenhagen. The only North American Christmas market to make the list was Montreal’s.
Tuesday should be sunny with daytime highs reaching only 0 degrees Celsius.
Personnel of a 17-member-strong field surgical team departed for Iraq shortly after midnight on Monday where they will join coalition, Iraqi, and US soldiers providing support at a US base several dozen kilometres away from Mosul. The news was confirmed by the spokesman for the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Jan Šulc. Two surgeons and an anaesthesiologist form the core of the group.
Trust in the country’s president, Miloš Zeman, is the lowest all year according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. According to the survey, trust in the head of state fell by eight percent in November, to an overall 48 percent. The drop coincided with a scandal in late October in which Czech-born Auschwitz survivor Jiří Brady was allegedly passed over for a state honour as the result of a meeting between his uncle, Culture Minister Daniel Herman and Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Prague Castle has been wary of angering China in its pursuit of increased trade. Distrust in the president, according to the same poll, is 49 percent. Trust in the prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, meanwhile, is at 35 percent – down by three from the previous poll.
Some 17 children at a hospital ward in Karlovy Vary were visited by fourth year high school medical students on Monday dressed as angels, devils and Mikuláš (St. Nicholas) to mark the upcoming saint’s day. Events marking “Mikuláš” are traditionally held on the evening of December 5. Traditionally, children receive fruit or chocolate in return for reciting poems or singing songs, which keep the devils at bay. Somewhat naughty children can also receive a potato or lump of coal. In recent years, more and more Czech children have themselves dressed up as the iconic characters, making the evening more similar to Halloween.
Investment in new military equipment by the Czech Army over the period of the last five years was marred by shortcomings in project outlines and planning, the country’s Supreme Audit Office has found. According to the audit, the army’s fighting capabilities had nevertheless improved through most of the purchases. Details of the audit were released on Monday by the Supreme Audit Office’s Olga Málková. The country’s Defence Ministry considers important the fact that the bureau found no breach of the law or of ministry regulations. The ministry has also announced that it is working on simplifying and speeding up the process of army acquisitions.
There has been speculation in the Czech media that the head of protocol at Prague Castle, Jindřich Forejt, could be leaving his post within a matter of days. Independent news websites such as Neovlivní.cz, Echo24.cz a Blesk.cz have all reported the story; the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček declined to comment, saying he only discussed personnel changes when they were happening. Mr Forejt has been the centre of media attention in recent weeks, both for a faux pas concerning the American ambassador to Prague, as well as controversy surrounding this year’s state honours and Czech-born Canadian Jiří Brady, who reportedly had been considered but in the end did not receive a state distinction.
Senior Czech politicians have congratulated Alexander Van der Bellen on winning the presidential election in neighbouring Austria. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický and opposition TOP 09 leader Miroslav Kalousek were among those who wished Mr. Van der Bellen well following his victory on Sunday over the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer.
Fans have been filmed making the Seig Heil gesture at a concert of the controversial Czech rock band Ortel. The scene was caught in March this year by documentary maker Vít Klusák and was shown on Czech Television’s 168 Hodin programme on Sunday evening. The material appeared in a report about rapper Radek “Gipsy” Banga, who walked out of an awards show in protest at the presence of Ortel, who are known for their hate-filled lyrics. Mr. Banga was later subject to virulent racism on the internet. Ortel’s leader also founded the neo-Nazi band Conflict 88 and the group’s song Hadr (Rag) was once the anthem of the now banned neo-Nazi Workers' Party.