Thousands of children are expected to spend Friday night at some 500 libraries, schools, hospitals, and other institutions across the country. The event called Hans Christian Andersen night is being held in the Czech Republic for the sixth year to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Danish storybook writer Anderson. The children write and stage plays, take part in contests, sing, dance, read fairy tales, and spend the night in sleeping bags.
At a special session on Thursday, Cabinet earmarked 380 million crowns (15.5 million US dollars) to aid the regions affected by the floods. The money is to be used for mobile homes, food, the protection of property, and the reconstruction of damaged roads, for example. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who cut short a visit to Egypt in order to attend the government meeting, was also flown to southern Moravia in a helicopter on Thursday night to inspect the extent of damage caused.
The capital city, where water levels of the Vltava River have been constantly rising, is also on alert. Though the situation has not been declared critical, several museums have moved their exhibits to other venues and the Prague Zoo is preparing to evacuate its animals. Mayor Pavel Bem has assured Prague residents that the city is well prepared for the threat of flooding.
Dozens of municipalities around the country are on high flood alert, as rain and melting snow continues to swell rivers. Several thousand soldiers and emergency crews are busy reinforcing river banks, securing flood defences, clearing blocked roads, and helping residents leave their homes. The worst affected areas are southern Moravia's Znojmo region around the River Dyje and the northern city Usti nad Labem. Over 10,000 people have already been evacuated but local authorities expect that number to rise as more rain is forecast until the end of the week. Four casualties have also been reported.
The head of the Morava River basin water management company, Miroslav Konecny, has been sacked. Mr Konecny was dismissed by Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek on Friday after several municipalities affected by the floods complained that they were left in the dark about rising water levels. Konecny will be replaced on Saturday by copany vice president for finances Pavel Mylbachr.
The EC Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Guenter Verheugen, is on a one-day visit to Prague. The former EU commissioner for enlargement is due to hold talks with politicians and entrepreneurs. At a meeting with Czech Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Jiri Havel, the liberalisation of the energy market dominated the talks. Mr Verheugen is also due to visit the Senate, participate in a discussion on economic growth and employment in the European Union, and meet Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. This is Mr Verheugen's first official visit to Prague since EU expansion in 2004.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek visited Egypt briefly on Thursday to
reaffirm the stable relationship that both countries have enjoyed for
decades and to revive business relations. Czech firms are hoping to
help Egypt build roads, sewerage and power plants, re-open sugar
refineries, and rebuild railways. The political situation in the Middle
East was also discussed. In a two hour talk with President Hosni
Mubarak, for example, both politicians agreed that it was too early to
assess what turn relations will take in Israel, where the Israelis and
the Palestinians have elected their new leaderships.
On Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Paroubek flew back to Prague in order to attend a special government meeting on the flood situation.
The European Union has earmarked another 3.5 million crowns (a little under 150,000 US dollars) for Czech-Austrian projects involving towns, schools, organisations and civic associations in South Bohemia. Close to 90 such cultural, tourist, and educational projects have already been financed from a seven million crown donation. These include emergency workers' joint preparations for various catastrophes, as well as art and music festivals.
The upper house of Parliament, the Senate, has rejected a new Labour
Code, which was pushed through the lower house by the Social Democrats
and the Communists. The opposition Civic Democrats and the two junior
ruling coalition parties the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union
say the bill threatens the flexibility of the labour market and is
unconstitutional because it gives trade unions too much power, and
makes it difficult for employers to let go of unproductive staff and
employ new people.
In November, over 25,000 members of 51 trade unions flocked to Prague to support the proposed new Labour Code in a demonstration that was the biggest that the country has seen since the Velvet Revolution sixteen years ago.