Chile’s president, Sebastián Pinero, has been sent a ceremonial pen to replace one pocketed by the Czech head-of-state last year. Video of President Václav Klaus taking the pen while Mr Pinero was speaking in Chile went viral on the internet and the incident was reported on by many media outlets. The sending of replacement pen was Euro MP Edvard Kožušník’s idea: a humorous gesture by the member of the Civic Democratic Party originally founded by Mr Klaus. The Czech news agency reported that the new pen, manufactured in the Czech Republic, cost 12.000 crowns.
A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency suggests that presidential hopeful Jan Fischer, a former prime minister, and Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar would get the most votes in the first round of next year’s presidential election. According to the agency, Mr Fischer, who led an interim government following the fall of Mirek Topolánek’s government in 2009, would receive 24.1 percent in the first round, while Mr Švejnar would receive 15.8. The latter, however, has not yet officially announced. Former prime minister Miloš Zeman placed third but has picked up growing support, sources like Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes noted, suggesting he could be competitive in the contest. So far independent candidates have gotten the most support with analysts suggesting that many voters are ‘fed up’ with traditional party candidates.
Hundreds of bells throughout the country will be rung on Friday evening to begin Church Night. More than 1,250 churches and other ecclesiastical buildings will be open to the public. Organisers say the aim is to bring people closer to Christianity through interviews, music, and art. In Prague alone, 222 churches will be taking part in the event. Organisers on Friday also marked International Children’s Day, with events beginning at 12 pm.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych survived a tough five-setter on Friday against South Africa’s Kurt Anderson at Roland-Garros. The seventh seed won the opening set but lost the next two before fighting his way back into the match. Berdych won the deciding set 6:4. Anderson was seeded 31st in the tournament. The second-round win means that Berdych will face either Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina or Croatia’s Marin Cilic next.
The Czech national football team faces Hungary at Prague’s Letná stadium on Friday evening – the squad’s final friendly ahead of Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. The squad is playing exactly as nominated with the exception of team captain Tomáš Rosický who is recovering from a calf injury. He is to resume training on Monday to be ready in time for the tournament. The Czech squad has had a good run up to the European Championship, winning four of its last five games.
The Czech Republic has strongly condemned Friday’s massacre in the Syrian town of Houla that claimed more than 100 lives. The Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it was deeply shocked by the tragic death of more than 100 civilians, including many women and children, and urged all parties in the conflict to honour their commitments under international law and to implement the six-point peace plan drafted by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Unlike other nations, which are stepping up international pressure against Syria, Prague is not planning to expel Syrian diplomats from Prague. The Foreign Ministry said a reciprocal move by Damascus would complicate the Czech plan of keeping its mission open and serving the nationals of those EU member states that have decided to close their embassies due to the worsening security situation in the country.
The Czech Health Forum says the government deserves a near failing grade for its work on health care. The grade was compiled for the non-governmental organisation by 59 experts, who agreed that the government should focus on broadening e-health systems, preventing the health care quality and access from deteriorating and heightening prevention. Czech Health Forum director Michael Vich told journalists on Thursday that out of 32 health care points on the government’s policy statement, it has fulfilled six fully and seven partially. The experts said that the government should make good on at least another eight promises if it wants to fulfil its mission of reform.
Teenagers in the Czech Republic drink more alcohol than in any other European country, according to a study. Based on data from 2011, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs reports that four out of five Czech 16-years drank alcohol over a one month period, compared to the European average of 57%. Moreover, Czech teens were more likely to drink heavily compared with other countries, surpassed only by teenagers in Denmark and Malta. While experience with drugs, including marijuana, has dropped slightly, alcohol intoxication among teens has risen, with one fifth of teens saying they had been intoxicated three or more times in the last month compared to 14% in 1995.
Czechs are more dissatisfied with EU membership than at any time since entry to the union, according to a new poll. The STEM agency survey suggests that only 41% are satisfied with the country’s membership, the lowest rate since accession in 2004. In a hypothetical referendum, 57% of respondents said they would vote against joining the EU. Almost three-quarters said they do not believe the Czech Republic is able to play an active role in the union. Public satisfaction with EU membership has decreased by 9% year-on-year. Last year the share of the satisfied and dissatisfied was almost equal.