Commenting on the election of Joachim Gauck to the post of German president, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that he welcomed his election and appreciated his fight against the former communist regime. Mr. Gauck secured the mandate in the first round of voting on Sunday. The 79-year-old theologist is the first former citizen of the German Democratic Republic to be elected president. He was a member of the protest movement in the totalitarian German state and actively opposed its communist regime. Mr. Gauck replaces Christian Wulff, who resigned after allegations of corruption became public. This is the third time in only three years that presidential elections were held in Germany.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said that it is imperative for the government to agree on further austerity measures. Without them, there was no reason for the coalition to remain in office. Speaking on a debate program on Czech TV on Sunday, Mr. Kalousek added that additional state budget cuts of 24 billion Czech crowns had to be implemented this year. While ministers have said there simply were no more expenses they could cut, Mr. Kalousek insists that decreasing the state budget deficit is crucial. He added that the opposition Social Democrats’ claim that further cuts could be avoided was populist.
The government coalition’s TOP 09 party has made it clear that its leader, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, would not resign from his government office due to also pursuing a candidacy for the post of president in next year’s elections. Deputy party leader Miroslav Kalousek said on Sunday that Mr. Schwarzenberg would be able to both keep his post as foreign minister and prepare his presidential campaign. Mr. Schwarzenberg had previously threatened to leave the government over the Czech refusal to join the EU’s fiscal compact. The next presidential elections mark the first occasion on which Czechs will be able to elect their head of state directly. Aside from Mr. Schwarzenberg, former prime minister Jan Fischer, MEP Zuzana Roithová and economist Jan Švejnar are also running for the post.
A painting by Frantíšek Kupka, L‘Apothéose d Héléne, was sold for 15 million Czech crowns at auction. The asking price was 12 million crowns. Another work by a Czech artist, Toyen’s Potápeč or Diver from 1926, was sold for 13 million crowns in the same auction, which was held at Prague’s Topičův salon on Sunday. Other works by Frantíšek Kupka’s were sold for record prices in the past. In 2007, his painting Abstract Composition set the Czech auction record for the most expensive work of art ever sold.
The difference between wages and pensions in the Czech Republic is greater than the EU average, data from the OECD suggest. On average, pension payments in the Czech Republic amount to about half of what an employee earned before retiring. The EU average is 57.5 percent. The gap may grow even further since the Czech government is currently preparing a pension reform that would put any increase in pensions on ice for the next three years. In Austria, Denmark and Hungary, pensioners are paid about three quarters of their previous wage. In Britain, the pension retired men and women receive amounts to only a third of what they were earning before retirement.
Czech biathlete Michal Šlesingr has managed to make it to the top ten in the biathlon World Cup that closed in the Russian Khanty-Mansiysk on Sunday. Last year, he had come in 9th. The Czech biathlete Ondřej Moravec came in 14th place. Jaroslav Soukup came in 29th. Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen won the world cup, with Germany’s Arnd Peiffer coming in second.
Record temperatures were registered across the country on the weekend at a total of 66 weather stations that have been measuring temperatures for longer than 30 years. The highest temperature was observed in Dobřichovice, where the thermometer indicated daytime high of 23.9 degrees Celsius. In Prague’s Klementium, a record from 1899 was broken this weekend: the high there was 20.3 degrees. The oldest record was broken in Příbram, which had not see such a high temperature in late March since 1882.
The deans of all ten of the country’s philosophical faculties have called on Prime Minister Petr Nečas to dismiss Education Minister Josef Dobeš. In an open letter to the prime minister, the deans criticize the education minister for his failure to prepare quality legislation that would overhaul the university system as well as his refusal to directly discuss such matters with university representatives. They added that the Education Ministry has demonstrated it is unable to provide financial stability to universities. Philosophical faculties especially should be committed to social responsibility, freedom of speech and a firm stance on citizens’ rights, the deans‘ association writes. In late February, thousands of students, professors and university administrators had taken to the streets for a weeklong protest against a proposed education reform.
Czech entrepreneur Tomáš Pitr, who has been in prison in Switzerland since 2010, has decided to return to the Czech Republic, the daily Mladá fronta dnes reported. The businessman, who has been charged with tax evasion, retracted his application for asylum in Switzerland on Friday and will return to his home country in the coming weeks. According to his lawyer, the decision is partially motivated by personal reasons but also the fact that Mr. Pitr has been reviewing Czech court proceedings in his case and concluded that he will most likely receive a fair trial. He was sentenced to five years in prison by a Prague city court in 2006.
A hacker who goes by the pseudonym of p1r@t3z'sec has managed to enter the website of Czech TV. On Saturday, instead of finding a video archive on the site, visitors instead saw a video declaration by hackers, drawing attention to poor online security. In the video, voice demands for information to be freely accessible and news coverage to be objective and truthful are voiced. Until that is the case, hackers will not step down and continue hacking relevant websites. Some say that the hacker’s attack may be connected to this week’s anti-government protests. Among the demands of demonstrators were far-reaching changes in the management of Czech TV.