News Zeman has improved international image of Czech Republic, says PM
Miloš Zeman has improved the image of the Czech Republic since being appointed president on March 8 last year, the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said on the eve of the former’s first anniversary in office. While his predecessor Václav Klaus was a Eurosceptic, Mr. Zeman is avowedly pro-European and returned the EU flag to Prague Castle after his appointment. Mr. Sobotka said he had noticed the Czech Republic had a better image while on foreign trips.
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Prague City Tourism is preparing to conduct an extensive three-year survey among tourists to Prague to find out why they chose to spend time in the Czech Republic and the level of satisfaction with services offered. The agency plans to address some 1,500 visitors from different countries twice a year. According to the agency’s spokeswoman Prague City Tourism needs more comprehensive data about visitors to Prague in order to attract more tourists and improve services. At present it relies on information provided by the Czech Statistics Office.
A fire completely destroyed a large hay warehouse the town of Lesná in the Tachov region of western Bohemia. The fire started in the night hours and fire-crews fought the blaze until the early morning. The damage is estimated at over 5 million crowns. Police are investigating the cause of the fire.
Officers from West Yorkshire say they have arrested a 35-year-old Czech man in connection with the 2008 theft of over 800 bronze plaques bearing the names of Holocaust victims at the National Cemetery in the town of Terezín. The man was stopped for a regular road check and when officers ran his details through the Police National Computer they discovered a European Arrest Warrant had been issued in his name. The man was taken into custody, where he remains pending extradition proceedings. Two other men are wanted in connection with the said crime which caused damages of 1.7 million Czech crowns.
A quarter of the prisoners released under the presidential amnesty declared z Václav Klaus two years ago are reportedly back in jail. According to information released by the Czech Prison Service 1498 of the 6471 prisoners released in 2012 are back in jail serving prison sentences for new offences. The country’s prisons which were severely overcrowded before the amnesty are now filled to 93 percent of their capacity, the prison service says.
After weeks of unseasonably warm weather in central Europe, temperatures have dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius in the mountain regions. The coldest night was registered in the Šumava Mountains, in southern Bohemia, where temperatures dropped to minus 27 degrees. Although there has been little natural snow so far ski resorts have started making artificial snow for the upcoming season.
Pyrotechnics clearing the munitions depot in Vrbětice, Moravia, have warned of upcoming controlled explosions. Soldiers and explosives experts have been working throughout the Christmas holidays to clear the main roads along which munitions undamaged by the devastating blast in mid-October and dozens of others that followed could be transported to a new site. The surrounding grounds of the munitions depot are still scattered with damaged ammunition which will need to be eliminated in a series of controlled explosions in the coming days. Villages in the vicinity will be warned about the blasts well in advance.
Crowds of people gathered on the banks of the Vltava River on Friday for the traditional Polar Bear Dive of the country’s hardy men and women. 290 swimmers took part this year, the youngest aged 13, the oldest 87. The temperature of the air was 0 degs C, with light snow falling, the temperature of the water was 6,4 degrees C. Participants could choose from three tracks 100m, 300m and 750m. The winner of the toughest race – the 750m track –was Lenka Šterbová from Pardubice. The first such Polar Bear Dive in the Vltava River took place in 1946 in much tougher conditions - a temperature of minus 25 degrees C.
President Zeman’s Christmas message to the nation disappointed the vast majority of Czech politicians, according to a survey conducted by the CTK news agency. According to some critics the president’s ten-minute address delivered on TV Nova and carried by the nation’s public broadcasters, lacked vision and focussed only on events of the past year. Some also voiced concern that the president’s words would continue to divide rather than uniting the nation. The most critical comments came from the right wing opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats.
Shopping malls around the country reopened on Friday after a short Christmas break launching their winter sales. Hundreds of items have been re-priced with cuts of 30 to 60 percent. According to surveys a third of Czechs regularly put off bigger purchases until the sales season, giving each other symbolic gifts for Christmas and twenty percent of respondents said they got money or vouchers as Christmas gifts. The winter sales are expected to last until mid-February.
A twenty-nine-year old Czech woman was seriously injured after falling from a steep slope in the Pinzgau mountain region in Austria, the APA news agency reported. The woman allegedly fell from a height of ten metres. She is reported to have suffered a head injury and multiple fractures.