Anti-Romany demonstrators from the north of the country took their grievances to Prague on Saturday where they verbally clashed with Roma rights activists and anarchists. The two groups demonstrated on Prague’s Palacky Square, held apart by a cordon of riot police as they hurled insults at each other. Demonstrators from Varnsdorf, which has been racked by ethnic unrest, chanted “Send the gypsies to Prague” while Roma-activists and their supporters held up signs reading “neo-Nazis out”. The demonstrations reflect growing tension in the north of the country where a rise in crime and petty theft –together with a high unemployment rate - have unleashed a wave of anti-Romany sentiment.
Police reinforcements in the north are costing taxpayers close to a
million crowns a day, according to police spokesman Jan Melsa. Riot police
units, psychologists and mediators were sent to the hotspots of racial
tension in the north such as Varnsdorf and Rumburk in mid-August when
extremist groups started organizing anti-Roma marches and demonstrations on
Government officials and local councils are working to defuse tension and address long-neglected problems but there has so far been little sign of tangible progress. The cost of police reinforcements in the area has so far amounted to 30 million crowns - at a time when the cash strapped interior ministry budget can ill afford it.
As of Saturday, October 1st, drivers around the country will be able to use pay cards when paying fines for traffic violations. The police introduced electronic payments in a limited measure last year and have decided to extend the network of mobile electronic terminals to all districts. The move is expected to both reduce corruption and facilitate payments for drivers.
Prague’s mayor Bohuslav Sobotka has praised the outcome of a flood response training exercise conducted in the Czech capital on Saturday. He said the exercise had met the highest expectations and indicated a high level of preparedness even in the event of a serious flood. Within the exercise firemen and emergency crews erected a flood barrier along a three kilometre stretch of the Vltava river in one and a half hours flat. The deadline was four hours. The head of the team said good weather conditions and the fact that the city is half empty on weekends helped the effort. The flood barrier is to be dismantled by midnight and all traffic restrictions lifted.
The three Czechs who died in a car crash in Nicaragua this week were university teachers who were working in the country on an EU-funded assistance project. The fourth passenger in the van – a young Czech student – who alone survived the tragic accident - remains in serious condition in hospital though he is reported to be out of danger. The driver of the lorry with which the van collided head on was reportedly driving without lights at night and is in custody. According to local media both vehicles had exceeded the speed limit. Brno’s Mendel University said it was devastated by the tragedy.
European Union leaders wound up a two day summit in Warsaw on Friday with
a clear message to countries in the Eastern Partnership programme that
respect for the principles of democracy was a prerequisite to financial aid
and closer integration. EU leaders told Belarus it could count on their
financial help in fighting its economic crisis if it freed political
prisoners and held free elections. A similar signal was given to Ukraine
which has come under fire for persecuting its political opposition.
The "Eastern Partnership" programme, strongly championed by Prague during the country’s EU presidency, offers six former Soviet satellites up to 1.9 billion euro in 2010-13 to fight corruption, build up infrastructure and start other projects. Critics say the programme gives the bloc little real ability to persuade the eastern countries to reform their economies and protect human rights because it provides no prospect of eventual EU membership.
The Vatican has issued a formal protest against “abuse of its embassy premises in Prague” for the shooting of a historical-erotic movie. It has emerged that a politically well-connected Czech doctor, who now faces rape charges, organized and starred in the shooting of a historic porn film at the Vatican’s embassy in Prague. Jaroslav Bartak who has been accused of sexually abusing up to 12 of his assistants, is said to have played the role of a randy cardinal in the unfinished film. He reportedly arranged access to the embassy for the whole crew. Monika Vývodová, a spokeswoman for the Czech Bishop’s Conference and the Vatican Embassy, said the Czech doctor had gained access to the historic building under false pretences.
Nuclear safety experts say the radioactive object found buried in a Prague playground this week did not pose a significant risk to human health. Experts studying the object say it appears to have been a radium tube, something akin to a radium needle used in medicine. The object is likely to have been buried in the ground for several decades, most likely from the first half of the 20th century. The object was uncovered thanks to a man wearing a wristwatch with a radiation measuring device who raised the alarm.
Ex-president Vaclav Havel who has been recuperating from a chest infection at his country house is due back in Prague for celebrations of his 75th birthday. Mr. Havel is said to be feeling stronger after several months in the country and is due to attend a birthday bash thrown by his close friends this Saturday. There are roumours that the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a close friend of Mr. Havel’s, will be among the guests of honour.