President Václav Klaus has opened the Czech House in London’s Islington neighbourhood, which will serve as the country’s public hub for the Olympic Games. The large hall has space for 5,000 people and will be a meeting place for athletes and fans, sponsors and journalists. Concerts will also be held there, as will ceremonies for victorious Czech athletes. Czech Television has an open studio in the house, from which it will be broadcasting throughout the Olympics. A mechanical statue of a double-decker bus doing push-ups, the work of Czech artist David Černý, has reportedly drawn large numbers of passerby into the building.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says he will not dismiss Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš, provided the new vehicle registration system continues to function properly over the coming days. The system was seemingly in working order on Friday morning, though many registration offices were closed for the day and its maximum efficiency could not be put to the test. The prime minister gave Mr Dobeš an ultimatum this week as public discontent over the persistent malfunctions escalated, giving him until Friday to get the system in good working order or else resign. Following an all-night crisis meeting the system appeared to have been stabilized on Thursday with all stations processing applications, though at a slower pace than usual. Minister Dobeš has said he will leave his post if a single application is not processed on Friday. The Transport Ministry claims the most recent problems were caused not by the faultiness of the new system itself but by overloaded servers at the Police Presidium, which handle the Schengen Information System. The failing system has caused major problems for drivers since it was launched on July 9.
The Transport Ministry says that the new vehicle registration system contains incorrect owner information for about half a million cars and a total of more than a million errors in general. In some cases the system does not show the current owner of a vehicle but rather a previous owner. In other cases the owner cannot be identified through a database comparison. Licence plate numbers do not concur with their owners in some 21,000 cases and there are 7000 cases of duplicate Vehicle Identification Numbers.
Left-wing parties would not be able to form a parliamentary majority if elections were held today, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by the agency Factum Invenio, suggests that the senior coalition party, the Civic Democrats, have gained in popularity in July, decreasing the lead of the opposition Social Democrats. The Communist Party lost two hypothetical seats, leaving them in third place. The left-wing parties in such a situation would have exactly 100 seats in the lower house. Six parties would cross the 5% election threshold, including TOP 09, the Christian Democrats and the Miloš Zeman party.
Justice Minister Pavel Blažek will decide on the appointment of a new Prague State Prosecutor next week, a ministry spokesman told the press after a meeting between the minister and the Supreme State Prosecutor, Pavel Zeman, on Friday. Mr Blažek has hesitated on making an appointment to the position since he took office three weeks ago, despite the strong public and media interest in anti-corruption prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová, who the Supreme State Prosecutor recommended for the post. Speculation is rife that the former justice minister, Jiří Pospíšil, was sacked because of his intent to appoint Ms Bradáčová. Mr Blažek has conceded that she is the best qualified candidate for the post but says he fears the forthright Bradáčová would have a divisive effect on the institution.
The Prague Zoo lost one of its young gorillas in a tragic accident on Friday morning. A five year old gorilla named Tatu was killed when a rope went untangled and got caught around its neck. One of the keepers found the animal suspended from the rope and in the arms of one of the females. The rest of the band was dispersed with water so that veterinarians could assist the gorilla, but CPR proved ineffective. The zoo’s director Miroslav Bobek said Tatu’s death was the institution’s worst tragedy since the 2002 floods.
The well-known Czech-born photographer Josef Koudelka has revoked his donation of his work to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague due to administrative problems. Koudelka, who is 74, had originally planned to donate 366 photographs worth some 72.8 million crowns to the museum but lost patience with five years of complications, and told the Czech media there was apparently no interest in his country of birth. The museum’s director has suggested that the artist’s conditions were too demanding for a gift. Culture Minister Alena Hanáková has said she hopes the situation is a misunderstanding and that both sides will eventually reach an agreement. Josef Koudelka originally came to fame for his photographs of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. He holds duel Czech and French citizenship.
The company Diag Human has withdrawn a request for the freezing of Czech assets in the United States, the Health Ministry has reported. The company has long led a multi-billion crown case against the Czech Republic, which it claims thwarted its blood plasma business in the 1990s. The Health Ministry said Friday that Diag Human´s seizure proposal had failed and that the proceedings in the USA were thus over. According to a deputy minister, the company is in a poor position in the United States, among other things because its board director faces suspicions of financial fraud in the country. Legal proceedings continue in five other countries. The Health Ministry spent 15 million crowns on the disputes in the past year.
South Bohemian city of České Budějovice sees more use of the drug methamphetamine, or pervitin, than almost anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study. Researchers from Norway and 11 other countries, including the Czech Republic, attempted to study drug habits by sampling residues from the wastewater of 19 cities. The study also showed wide-ranging drug habits in various countries, with Antwerp for example showing the highest use of cocaine. In methamphetamine use, České Budějovice was led only by the Finish cities of Helsinki and Turku. The researchers say their process can be used to determine the size of the drug market in a given city.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has donated two million crowns in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and three million to Zimbabwe. In Afghanistan the money is intended for providing foodstuffs, in Zimbabwe towards basic health care and treatment of HIV/AIDS, which is to be handled by the humanitarian organisation Doctors without Borders.