News Prague honour for František Kriegl divides local council
Prague 2 district council is scheduled to debate next week a controversial proposal to make 1968 invasion hero František Kriegl an honorary citizen. Kriegl stood out in 1968 as the sole member of a government delegation who refused to sign a declaration under Soviet pressure approving the Warsaw Pact invasion of former Czechoslovakia once it was completed. The proposal from independent councillor Michal Uhl has divided the council. Centre-right members of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 have pointed to Kriegl’s active involvement in the so-called Prague putsch which brought the Communist Party to power in February 1948. Kriegl, who joined the party in the 1930s and participated in the Spanish civil war, died in Prague in 1979.
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Almost 50 percent of Czechs are satisfied with the state of the Czech health care sector, a new poll conducted by the CVVM agency has revealed. The number is the highest since 2002. According to the polling firm, the results may reflect the recalling of a fairly unpopular doctors’ fee of 30 crowns per visit. According to the poll 18 percent remain unsatisfied with the state of Czech healthcare. According to the survey, 73 percent of those queried see as most problematic issues in public financing, followed by the functioning of Czech insurance companies, and issues in the sale of medicines.
January 26 marks two years to the day since Miloš Zeman’s triumph over rival candidate Karel Schwarzenberg in the country’s first direct presidential elections, the Czech News Agency noted on Monday. In the second-round in the election in 2013, Mr Zeman secured some 55 percent of the vote (or some 500 thousand more votes) in the run-off against the former foreign minister. Later on the day, the president-elect pledged to represent all Czechs, not just those who cast their ballot for him, but critics charge Mr Zeman has since pursued a style of leadership which has been largely divisive. Others suggest divisions have remained since the election, with the president in the past claiming that supporters of Karel Schwarzenberg had still not come to terms with his defeat.
The country’s Supreme Court has upheld an earlier ruling which classified a machete attack by four Romany assailants in a bar in Nový Bor as attempted murder. Three people were injured in the attack in 2011, with one man almost dying, and the four received sentences ranging from five to 17.5 years in jail. Afterwards, the incident sparked anti-Roma protests in northern Bohemia. The decision by the Supreme Court was reached in December but only made public now.
Heavy snowfall at the weekend saw pyrotechnics experts sets aside work at the damaged Vrbětice munitions plant in Moravia until the weather improves. A police spokesman said that plans for all munitions to be transferred to a new site by the end of January remained on track, barring further weather complications. The site saw a massive explosion in October last year which claimed two lives. Additional uncontrolled explosions followed and the site has since been guarded by the military to prevent injury or further deaths.
The mountain rescue service in Jeseníky Mountains has called a third degree avalanche alert on a five point scale. Relatively mild temperatures, strong winds and up to thirty centimetres of fresh snow over the weekend are reported to have created a highly unstable layer of snow on many slopes. Skiers have been warned not to take risks or stray from marked trails.
A forum on anti-Semitism opens in Prague on Monday as part of two days of remembrance events marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The forum Let My People Live, organized by the European Jewish Congress, will address the danger of growing anti-Semitism, the role of the media in shaping public opinion, the role of politicians in combating xenophobia and legislative measures against intolerance. In the evening there will be a gala reception at Prague’s Municipal House. On Tuesday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a commemorative ceremony will be held at the site of the Terzin ghetto, north of Prague. The commemorative events in the Czech Republic will be attended by around 500 foreign guests including two presidents, around thirty heads of parliament and cultural figures.
The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka has stressed the need for interreligious dialogue as a means of diffusing the tension in Europe in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Speaking on a visit to Belgium, the cardinal said dialogue was the way to greater understanding and tolerance but noted that at a time of heightened emotions attempts at such dialogue often failed. He said that some of the public exchanges he had heard at home showed a basic lack of understanding of both Christianity and Islam.
The Czech Helsinki Committee has called for better conditions in Czech prisons. The committee has given MPs in the lower house a list of problem areas which it says should be given consideration in the process of drafting amendments in the law on prison service. Among the improvements suggested are the right to a shower daily, better quality food and a radio in every cell.
Anti-nuclear organizations in Upper Austria have jointly filed a complaint against Czech plans for the expansion of the Temelín nuclear power plant by another two reactors, the APA news agency reports. The news was confirmed by Upper Austrian Environment Minister Rudi Anschober who said that all possible steps would be taken to prevent the project. Anti-nuclear organizations on the Czech side –South Bohemian Mothers Against Temelín, the Civic Initiative for Environmental Protection and Calla – have also filed a complaint against the State Institute for Nuclear Safety for approving the expansion plans. For the present time the project has been put on hold for financial reasons.
The Food Inspection Office has issued a health warning about a sesame paste sold on the Czech market which was found to contain salmonella bacteria. The product, sold under the name Alnatura Tahin Bio Sesammus, sells in the Globus supermarket chain.