Around 40 environmental activists on Tuesday continued their blockade in Šumava National Park to try and prevent some 50 loggers and 40 other workers from felling trees marked for cutting or from clearing bark. The park management has taken the steps, it says, in order to limit the spread of further damage from bark-beetle infestation. A police spokeswoman said that the situation was calmer on Tuesday than over the last few days. Protestors in sensitive areas of the park have repeatedly tied themselves to trees marked for felling in the attempt to stop logging from going ahead. They argue that the park management does not have the needed permits to cut in the forest. A preliminary court order has however allowed logging to continue.
Former actress Jiřina Švorcová has died in Prague after succumbing to a prolonged illness. The 83-year-old is best known today as a firebrand communist, remaining loyal to that party even after the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Švorcová was a part of Prague’s Vinohrady Theatre for many years before reaching broader national attention in the title role of the television series Žena za pultem (The Saleswoman). In 1976, she became a member of the Communist party’s broader leadership and in 1977 she delivered an infamous address denouncing the human rights manifesto Charter 77. Her death was announced on Monday by the chairman of the Communist Party.
A Czech-British ska band called The Chancers has featured legendary Czech footballer Antonín Panenka, along with a number of other Czech celebrities, in one of the group’s music videos, to be premiered on August 11. Also featured are boxing champion Stanislav Tišer and Jan Haubert of the Czech punk band Visací zámek. The video, the band said, celebrated the city where members lived; they stressed that they had wanted personalities they respected to take part. Mr Panenka scored one of the most famous goals in football history to win the 1976 European Championship for Czechoslovakia. The game went into penalties where Mr Panenka chipped the ball famously into the centre of the net as West Germany’s goalkeeper dove left.
The Czech national football squad is readying for a friendly against Norway, its final international match before qualifying for Euro 2012 resumes in September. The Czechs will face the Norwegian squad in Oslo on Wednesday. Team coach Michal Bílek said that his side needed a good result to improve the atmosphere ahead of the upcoming qualification match against Scotland. New players nominated to the squad include Marcel Gecov and Tomáš Pekhart. Regulars like goalie Petr Čech and striker Milan Baroš are also on the roster for Wednesday.
An ultra-conservative citizen’s initiative, D.O.S.T., has delivered an open letter of protest to official supporters of an upcoming gay rights march in Prague. Initiative leader Ladislav Bátora, who is also an advisor to the education minister, called upon Prague Mayor Bohuslav Sobota and American Ambassador Norman Eisen on Monday to renounce their support for the Prague Pride march, saying the protestors’ demands go beyond the limits of tolerance. Mr. Bátora, who once stood as an independent candidate for the now-defunct far-right National Party, also criticised the ambassador for “meddling in the internal affairs” of the Czech Republic. Last Friday, President Václav Klaus backed comments made by his deputy chief of staff, Petr Hájek, who referred to homosexuals as “deviants”. On the same day, thirteen ambassadors to Prague, among them those of Germany, the UK, the United States and Denmark, signed a joint letter expressing their support for the marchers.
President Klaus and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have both criticised the embassies for forming their support for the parade as a petition. In a statement published by Prague Castle on Monday, the president called the ambassadors’ letter an unprecedented encroachment into an internal political discussion and said they should know that the debate is not about whether or not the Prague Pride march should be allowed, but whether it should be held under the auspices of the mayor of Prague. Mr Schwarzenberg addressed the letter on the Foreign Ministry website, where he writes that it is counterproductive and excessive for the ambassadors to support rights that no one in the Czech Republic either denies or rejects.
Also regarding Mr Bátora, an association of WWII political prisoners and their descendents has asked Prime Minister Petr Nečas to review supporters of extremist opinions in the Ministry of Education. In an open letter to the prime minister, the association says that available information shows Mr Bátora to be a proponent of anti-Semitism and fascism who has consorted with neo-Nazis. A series of associations including Amnesty International, the Czech Helsinki Committee and Romea have made similar complaints in recent days. Education Minister Josef Dobeš has defended his advisor, calling him a conscientious nationalist and Catholic. Bátora himself says that his security clearance itself shows he is neither an extremist nor a racist.
Local residents of the Šumava National Park have again entered into the fray between environmental activists and loggers. A group of locals on Monday used tractors to block activists’ road access to a protected zone of the forest where the park management has authorised logging in order to combat a destructive bark-beetle infestation. Loggers in the meanwhile were able to begin work on some 5,000 trees marked for felling. Police have also reported that two of the activists were detained and their climbing equipment seized. Around 20 activists reached the forest later on and blocked one of the access roads. Environmentalists have been staging such protests for several weeks now, arguing that the park management does not have the needed permits to cut in the forest; a preliminary court order has however allowed logging to continue.
The prime suspect in the murder of writer Simona Monyová, her husband Boris, is in critical condition, apparently after a suicide attempt, and will likely not be interrogated this week. One of the best-selling authors in the Czech Republic, Ms Monyová was stabbed to death on Thursday in her home in Brno, reportedly after a domestic dispute. TV Nova has reported that her husband threw himself from a window after the attack, but landed on a car. He then returned to the flat and injured himself with a knife before jumping out of the window again, the station reports. Friends of the couple have publicly speculated on a history of domestic abuse in the household, however, police say they do not yet know the motive for the murder or the cause of the suspect’s injuries. The hospital says he is in critical but stable condition; some media outlets have reported him to be in a coma.
Unemployment numbers in the Czech Republic were up in July for the first time since the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Labour has reported. Labour offices registered 485,584 unemployed persons for the month, which is 6809 more than in June and raised the unemployment rate for the country by .1% to 8.2. Despite that, the ministry reports the highest number of jobs since the summer of 2009. The highest unemployment rate was in the western town of Most, at 15.9%; the lowest was in East Prague, at 3.6%.