News Telička: Czechs failed to realize potential of EU membership
The Czech Republic gained much through EU membership, but failed to make the best use of the potential it offered, according to former EU commissioner Pavel Telička. In an interview for the ctk news agency in connection with the upcoming 10th anniversary of the country’s accession to the EU on May 1st, Mr. Telička said Czechs had benefitted from the free movement of people, labour and goods, but due to their own negative attitude had thrown away the chance to help mould important concepts and norms that would later apply across the EU. We were viewed as a troublemaker and thus often left out of informal talks, Mr. Telička said. The present centre-left government has vowed to bring the country back to the EU mainstream and take an active part in moulding the future of Europe.
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A Czech motorist was lucky to escape with her life on Sunday at a railway crossing in the Kolín area. Witnesses said the driver, at the wheel of a small car, showed impatience and drove ahead a line of waiting cars just as barriers on the tracks were coming down. An express train caught, and demolished, the back of her car. She escaped unhurt. The incident is under investigation.
Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has made clear that planned legislative changes should make it possible for the Czech Republic to create a military reserve force capable of being called up in times of war or severe crisis. According to the minister, the country's army is low in personnel, fewer than 20,000 instead of a desired 27,000. Call up reserves, of between 10,000 - 15,000 trained personnel, the minister indicated, would help fill the gap. Minister Stropnický pointed out that military reserves were not uncommon in other countries and made clear the plan was in no way to reintroduce compulsory military service across the board, as was the case in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic up until 2004.
Czech consumers, as well as firms and internet users, on Saturday donated 173 tonnes of food in the second annual food donation drive for people living in poverty. One hundred and forty-six tonnes came from regular shoppers, almost 26 tonnes from firms and the remainder from members of the public over the internet. The amount far surpassed last year's figure of 66 tonnes. Three times as many stores took part in the drive as well as more than 2,000 volunteers, organisers revealed.
Skeletal remains found buried in a field in the area of Prostějov on Saturday by a local have been estimated at being over 100 years old. The estimate was made by an forensic anthropology expert. The remains have been sent for further study. Two similar cases were also registered in the Přerov area this year.
An investigation by Foreign Ministry officials have found no evidence of wrongdoing at the Czech Embassy in Kiev, the country's foreign minister has said. Speaking on a Sunday TV debate programme, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek maintained, on the contrary, that representatives at the embassy may have been slandered. There had been suspicion that some at the ministry had told local ethnic Czechs to remain quiet on the subject of repatriation to the Czech Republic several months ago. Families in the Volhyn region nevertheless petitioned both the government and even the president for the Czech Republic to help them return 'home' in the face of growing unrest in Ukraine. In the past, the president expressed strong dissatisfaction with steps taken by the embassy under the current ambassador. Prague Castle was petitioned by 232 families, while the embassy had reportedly maintained earlier that only three families were interested in returning to the country of their ancestors.
Eighty-seven-year-old Jiří Soukup took part in a marathon run in Srch on Saturday, becoming the oldest Czech man to complete such an event, ie. a 42.1 kilometre course. The race took the elderly competitor eight hours, twelve minutes and ten seconds. Organisers had allowed him to get a head start, at 7:15, whereas other runners started at 10 AM. His close friend cycled alongside the runner the length of the route. Soukup is not just a long-distance runner but also a winter swimmer.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will visit the Czech Republic at the end of January to take part in a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, Poland. The information was confirmed by Ukraine's foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin. Mr Poroshenko is the first head-of-state to confirm he will attend. Earlier this week, President Zeman invited representatives of the victorious powers in WWII but was cricitised by some for including Russian President Vladimir Putin. The heads of states of other countries including Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Israel, have also been invited, the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities has said.
Elite police units from the regions of Karlovy Vary, Ústí, and Central Bohemia, as well as in neighboring Germany, succeeded after a several-month-long operation in uncovering a gang of car thieves who caused at least five million crowns in damages. Three men in their 40s have been arrested. Searches of the suspects' premises uncovered parts from at least 40 vehicles.
According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and a long-term forecast released on Saturday,temperatures in the run-up to this year's Christmas holidays are expected to be milder than usual. In December, daily temperatures should on average around six degrees Celsius in the days before the holidays, only dropping to zero around Christmas Eve.
Czech police have revealed and returned to the original owners two priceless wooden statues dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The statues, of two saints, Jan Nepomuk and Vojtěch, were stolen around 20 years ago, from a church and a historic monuments depository. The discovery was made in April in neighboring Austria.