News Organisers promising over 150 performances at United Islands of Prague festival
The organisers of next week’s United Islands of Prague festival say that over 150 musical acts from nearly two dozen countries will perform during the three-day event. Concerts will be free at eight venues from Thursday to Saturday, apart from shows at the city’s Kinsky garden and a performance by hip hop star DJ Shadow at MeetFactory.
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The Czech government nominates two legendary Czech WWII heroes – pilot Josef Frantíšek and Captain Otakar Jaroš – in memoriam for the Czech Republic’s highest honour, the Order of the White Lion. The final decision will be President Miloš Zeman’s. Josef Frantíšek survived dozens of battles and had 17 confirmed enemy kills. Captain Jaroš, an officer in the Czechoslovak forces in the Soviet Union, fought and died in Sokolovo, Ukraine. He was the first foreigner to ever be given the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
Věra Jourová, the Czech Republic’s candidate for EU Commissioner, faced a grilling from euro MPs on Wednesday not least over her close working relationship with the Czech Republic's finance minister and influential businessman Andrej Babiš. Responding to a question from European MP Laura Ferrara, Ms Jourová explained she had never been interested in Mr Babiš’ business activities or success. Until this week, Ms Jourová was the country’s minister for regional development as well as the deputy chairwoman of ANO, the political movement led by Mr Babiš that came second in last year’s parliamentary elections. Ms Jourová stressed on Wednesday that she would remain independent, making clear she was immune to outside pressure.
The company eMoneyServices which owns the rights to the Opencard system used by commuters in the Czech capital, has halted negotiations with City Hall on the sale of part of the firm administering the system. The firm’s spokesman cited as the reason the upcoming communal elections. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months but both sides have charged neither has come forward with a viable solution or offer. EMS spokesman Martin Opatrný has said in the past that the company would not try and block the card’s continued use. The Opencard system cost the city 1.35 billion crowns but Prague failed to renew the license with EMS earlier this year over the amount (around 500 million crowns) which the company requested.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected a stance being taken by Karel Schwarzenberg, the country’s former foreign minister and head of the opposition party TOP 09, that the Czech Republic should provide arms supplies to Ukraine. The former minister told the German daily Rheinische Post, in an interview published on Wednesday, that Ukraine needed weapons or that it “had no chance in the fight against well-equipped and trained Russian units”. Prime Minister Sobotka stated that the government had no intention of supplying weapons to Ukraine, saying such a move would be perceived as escalating the situation. He also said that the truce between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels had largely held. Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek, the head of the Christian Democrats, has taken a similar view.
The Czech Senate on Wednesday approved the draft of a new law aimed at depoliticizing and making more efficient the country’s civil service. Forty-one of 71 senators voted in favour. The bill was approved without changes following two hours of debate. The legislation is a compromise with the centre-right opposition, with the government having agreed to drop a provision to create a top civil servant whose office would control the entire system. The new bill also includes a provision under which every minister will have at most two deputies who are political appointees. The later has repeatedly been criticised by President Miloš Zeman. The president has warned MPs that he will take the civil service bill to the Constitutional Court if a veto does not suffice.
The Czech Republic will provide humanitarian aid worth 4.14 million crowns to countries in Africa hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed on Wednesday. Funds will be provided by the Czech Health and Interior ministries as well as the Administration of State Material reserves. Most will be used to buy protective gear, including special suits, gloves and goggles. The prime minster stressed that earlier the Foreign Ministry sent three million crowns worth of material aid through Doctors Without Borders. More than 3,000 people have died of Ebola in the worst-hit countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The head of the EU Funds Department at the Office of the Government, Karla Šlechtová, has been nominated by her party ANO to succeed Věra Jourová as the country’s minister for regional development. The post becomes vacant as of October 3, with Ms Jourová leaving to represent the Czech Republic in the European Commission. Jourová, 50, is to take up the post of EU commissioner for justice, consumer protection and gender equality. The choice of the EU Funds Department head to succeed her has been welcomed by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
A statue of the Madonna and Child sent to Norway for safekeeping during the communist period is set to be returned to Plzeň’s Cathedral of St. Bartholomew on Wednesday. A priest there asked visiting Norwegian woman named Gerd Qvam to take the sculpture – a copy of a piece made in the 14th century – back to her country at the end of the 1950s for fear that it might be destroyed or confiscated. It is being returned with the help of the Norwegian Embassy in Prague and Norway’s Barrat Due Institute of Music.
A cultural space named the Velvet Centre is set to open in Prague’s Malá Strana district on Wednesday ahead of 25th anniversary celebrations of the Velvet Revolution, which brought communism to an end in Czechoslovakia. The centre on Cíhelná St., a short distance from Charles Bridge, will host workshops, lectures and debates centred on the revolution, which began on November 17 1989.
The new US ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, says the Czech Republic should continue to increase its defence spending. After presenting his credentials to Czech President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle, Mr. Schapiro said the Czechs were increasing their military spending to 1.4 percent of GDP; however, the NATO target is 2 percent and the US would like to see more progress in this direction. The American envoy said he and Mr. Zeman had also discusses the economy and energy, adding that he regarded the latter area as one in which the US could provide help to the Czech Republic.