Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the press on Monday that he would be keeping his fingers crossed for the new Prime Minister of Greece, who he said would not have an easy job to do. Responding to the results of repeated early elections in the indebted country, Mr Schwarzenberg told the Czech Press Agency that he should rather offer his condolences. The chairman of the winning conservative party, New Democracy, met with the Greek president on Monday and agreed that a governing coalition must be established as soon as possible.
President Václav Klaus received controversial British MEP Nigel Farage at Prague Castle on Monday. The noted eurosceptic and head of the UK Independence Party was invited to Prague by the conservative association D.O.S.T., which allies itself with President Klaus on many issues. Speaking after their meeting, Mr Farage praised Klaus as the sole European head of state who takes a deeply eurosceptic stance. He said their discussion centred on their concerns that Europe uses every crisis as a pretext to take away another piece of democracy from its members.
Anti-corruption police are working with the Supreme Audit Office to investigate the sale of real estate by Czech Railways, according to the daily Hospodářské noviny. The paper writes that the state-owned rail company sold a palace estate in Prague City Centre to the Nymburk company Apuro for 200 million crowns, whereupon it was resold as separate buildings to Charles University for twice that amount though Apuro reportedly invested nothing in it. Meanwhile, most of the money for the purchase, or 372 million crowns, was donated by the Ministry of Education. Apura declared bankruptcy a year after the transaction. Czech Railways insists it did not sell the buildings for too little, while Charles University says it did not pay too much, both citing property assessments.
The number of Czech citizens in foreign prisons nearly doubled last year, the Foreign Ministry has reported. Releasing their figures at the start of the main tourist season on Monday, the ministry stated that there were more than 1000 citizens either serving sentences or in police custody abroad at the end of 2011, over 400 more than the year before. The real numbers are likely higher, as the ministry´s data is based on information received from Czech diplomatic missions. According to those sources, the cities with the largest number of Czech prisoners were London with 141, Munich with 134 and Madrid with 105.
The Foreign Ministry has also announced that additional Czech consular offices will be opened on a temporary basis for the summer, namely in Barcelona, Spain, the seaside town Burgas in Bulgaria and in Split and Rijeka in Croatia. The Czech embassies in Spain and Croatia will also have additional staff for the summer. Eight Czech police will be operating in Croatia, which is the most popular summer destination for Czech tourists, in order to help their Croat colleagues deal with cases involving Czech citizens. The ministry noted that Czech citizens may address a diplomatic mission of any other EU country if they are staying in a state where there is no Czech consulate.
The Supreme Audit Office has discovered irregularities in the use of EU funds in Prague that may lead to certain projects going unpaid. According to the office’s report, released Monday, some of the recipients made mistakes in selection procedures while others were found to have violated budgetary discipline. He auditors focused on the “Prague Adaptability” operational programme in which roughly 3.25 billion crowns were earmarked for investment in professional education, social integration and modernising education in 2013. The office has criticised Prague City Hall for both running and auditing the programme. Some of the findings were transferred to the financial authorities, which may impose fines.
A 63-year-old man who shot dead a 22-year-old Romany and injured his brother in Tanvald in January will not be prosecuted since a state attorney has qualified the act as self-defence. State attorney Lenka Bradacova told the ctk news agency on Monday that there was convincing evidence that the elderly man had acted in self-defence after being attacked by a group of Romanies in a deserted place on the outskirts of town. She said the man had had no alternative but to use his weapon in defence of his own life and did not shoot to kill. He was lying on his back surrounded by several attackers when he fired the shots. The boy’s family later claimed their son had been killed in a racism-motivated attack.
An exhibition covering the history of the social and sports organisation Sokol opened on Monday to mark exactly 130 years since the organisation’s first meeting in Prague. The military museum in Prague’s Žižkov district will be hosting some five hundred exhibits showing legendary members, the organisation’s role in wartime and Olympic medals won. The exhibition will be open until the end of the year. The Sokol movement was founded in 1862 and, beyond its athletic output, played an important role in Czech nationalism and cultural awareness in the 19th century.
Academy Award winning American actress Susan Sarandon will be one of the special guests at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Both Sarandon and British actress Helen Mirren, who also won a Best Actress Oscar for her title role in The Queen, will receive lifetime achievement awards at the festival. This year’s 47th Karlovy Vary Festival will run from June 29 to July 7 and will be opened by Sarandon and concluded by Mirren.
Freedom Week kicked off in Prague on Monday, drawing attention to violations of human rights in the world. A 30-metre long wall was erected in lower Wenceslas Square for people to write messages for the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, three of whose female members have been in prison since February. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg was the first to sign the wall, writing that he had great admiration for the women. The week will also include a lecture series and music festival.