Consumer prices in the Czech Republic in June showed the highest year-on-year growth in more than two years, rising by 2.9 percent compared with June 2003, according to official figures released on Monday. The price of goods and services was up in most sectors, largely influenced by a rise in value added taxes earlier this year from five to 19 percent. Cigarette and alcohol prices rose particularly in June. For the first few months after January's VAT hike retailers had been selling old stock at the same price as before but a 7.5 percent rise on new stock kicked in last month. The overall rise in prices, the highest since April 2002, was slightly below analysts' forecasts of three percent. Compared to May, consumer prices rose by 0.2 percent in June, also slightly below predictions of 0.3 percent.
The Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic will pay a one day visit to the Czech Republic on Monday. The Slovak head of state, who took office last month, is thus fulfilling an unwritten agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in that their presidents always schedule their first visit abroad to the former "sister state". The Czechoslovak federation broke up in 1993, but it was what the papers described as "a velvet divorce" and the two countries have maintained above-standard relations ever since. They supported each other in their ambition to join the EU and NATO and they cooperate closely within the Visegrad Group. On the eve of his visit to Prague, President Gasparovic described Czech-Slovak relations as problem-free and said he was greatly looking forward to the one-day visit.
The Czech Republic has come under fresh criticism for allowing the practice of "cage" beds in its psychiatric institutions. The beds have bars on all sides and the top is covered by netting from which the patient cannot escape. Joanne Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter books, has written a letter to the Czech embassy in London protesting against what she described as an appalling and cruel practice, most especially with regard to child patients. The British Sunday Times brought an in depth report on this practice some time ago, writing that children were trapped in these cage beds for hours without the presence of an attendant or nurse. The practice has also been criticized by Human Rights Watch.
The 39th Karlovy Vary Film Festival ended with a gala evening and prize awarding ceremony on Saturday night. The main prize - the Crystal Globe - went to the Italian film A Children's Story. The best director Award went to Xavier Bermudez of Spain for his film Leon and Olvido. The best documentary award went to the Russian 2003 documentary Wedding of Silence. The week long festival attracted over 100.000 visitors and showed over 230 films from around the world, many of them premieres.
A ten year old girl who was badly mauled by a Doberman just outside her home north of Prague is reported to be in stable condition. She was badly bitten on the face, back of her head and shoulders and was operated on shortly after being rushed to Prague's Motol hospital. The child was reportedly playing out in the street with a friend when the Doberman attacked her from behind. Its owner has been charged with causing bodily harm through negligence. The locals told the police that this was not the first time that the dog had been allowed to run lose unattended.
Czech politicians joined world leaders in paying their last respects to the late Austrian President Tomads Klestil. Among the two dozen heads of state and royals who attended President Klestil's funeral in Vienna on Saturday were Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and the former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who was a personal friend of Mr. Klestil's. Here in the Czech Republic, the media have run special coverage and profiles documenting the late president's life and work. He is remembered as a great statesman and a skilled diplomat who did much to advance Czech-Austrian relations.
Two of the three parties which are to form the new Czech government have asked for safeguards against future cooperation with the communists. The Christian Democratic Party and the right-wing Freedom Union have said they will do everything in their power to curb the influence of the Communist party on the Czech political scene. Their concern stems from the fact that some members of the strongest coalition party - the Social Democrats - have spoken in favour of a more leftist policy programme and closer cooperation with the communists. The party's acting chairman Stanislav Gross met with Communist Party representatives last Thursday to negotiate support for the new government, but no agreement was reached.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he is ready to accept an old-new coalition government based on a 101 vote majority in Parliament. The possibility of setting up a three party coalition government of Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union turned into a reality on Thursday when the designated Prime Minister Stanislav Gross managed to secure a slim 101 vote majority in the Lower House. It is a slim majority, but it is something I feel I should accept, President Klaus said.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is nearing its end. The awards ceremony will be held at a gala evening on Saturday night. The week long festival, which attracted over 100.000 people, showed several hundred films and documentaries from around the world, many of them premieres. Among the stars who made an appearance at the festival were Harvey Keitel, Elijah Wood, John Cleese and Jacqueline Bisset.
Although Mr. Gross claims that his new Cabinet will have enough support to survive the remaining two years in office, the razor thin one vote majority has evoked concern even among members of the three party coalition. The Christian Democrats seem particularly concerned about the stability of the Freedom Union and the readiness of all Social Democratic party MPs to back the emerging government. Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek has urged the designated Prime Minster to get a commitment in writing from all coalition deputies, stating support for the future government. Mr. Gross said he was confident that his party's deputies would all back the government.