German President Joachim Gauck arrived on Wednesday for a one-day working
visit in the Czech Republic, the first in his capacity as president. On
Wednesday morning, he met with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus at
Prague Castle and later with Prime Minister Petr Nečas. After his meeting
with Mr Klaus, the German president praised Czech-German relations as the
best they had ever been. On Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by President
Klaus, he travelled to Lidice - a village which the Nazis razed to the
ground in 1942 in retaliation for the assassination of Nazi governor
Reinhard Heydrich. In Lidice, all 173 men were executed, women and
were sent to concentration camps, while some of the children were selected
for re-education in Germany. After the war, only 143 women and 17 children
returned to the country.
The visit to Lidice was on the agenda at the German president’s request and he became the first German head-of-state to visit the site of the village. Mr Gauck laid wreaths at the graves of those killed in the massacre and at the Lidice memorial.
A Prague district court has ruled that lobbyist and former close aide to ex-prime minister Mirek Topolánek, Marek Dalík, will not have to wait out a police investigation behind bars. The controversial lobbyist, who attended top meetings at the former prime minister’s behest, is charged with attempted fraud in the government purchase of 107 Austrian-made armoured personnel carriers. Mr Dalík is suspected of having asked for an 18 million euro bribe for helping to set up the 14.4 billion crown deal. The state prosecutor had asked for the suspect to be remanded in custody for fear he might try and influence witnesses or flee the country. Marek Dalík has hired Tomáš Sokol, one of the country’s best-known lawyers, to defend him in the case. If found guilty as charged, Mr Dalík could face up to 10 years in jail.
In related news, former prime minister and former chairman of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek has suggested the arrest of former aide Marek Dalík could have political undertones, in his view a behind-the-scenes struggle within the centre-right party. In an interview for news site aktualne.cz, the former prime minister suggested that his successor as chairman, Petr Nečas, was fearful to the point of paranoia of Topolánek’s ‘return’ and could also benefit by trying to cow a group of rebels within the party who are opposed to a government-proposed VAT hike. In Dalík, Mr Topolánek suggested, current Prime Minister and Civic Democrat leader Nečas also had a ‘scapegoat’ if the party fared poorly in the upcoming regional elections. Mirek Topolanek made the statements via text message to aktualne.
Relatives of poisoning victims in the recent methanol crisis are considering legal steps, news website idnes reports, either against those who illegally laced alcohol with methyl for profit, or the state. The website cited a woman in the Ostrava region who had already sought legal advice from a local association which has offered to advise relatives of victims even outside of regular working hours. The association expects they will be contacted by others seeking to sue for damages, the daily indicated. State prosecutor Roman Kafka has said that relatives have enough time to file legal complaints, but some, like noted lawyer Klará Samková, advised those seeking damages to not delay. Twenty-eight people died of methanol poisoning between September 14 and October 9, having consumed bootleg liquor that had been laced with deadly wood alcohol.
A new study by psychiatrists from Prague’s General Teaching Hospital suggests that the number of alcoholics in the Czech Republic is double the number previously thought: as many as 700,000 people reportedly have serious problems with alcohol in their daily lives, and only one percent are trying to tackle their addiction in detox programmes. The story was reported by Wednesday’s Lidové noviny, which outlined numerous alcohol-related problems from health (namely cirrhosis and other liver problems) but also, for example, job loss and domestic violence.
The construction of the ELI Beamlines centre, to include the world’s most efficient laser, began in Dolní Březany on Tuesday. The project is being largely funded by the EU. The launch was attended by Prime Minister Petr Nečas and the education minister, Petr Fiala. The prime minister called the project the “most important scientific installation in the country”. The new centre has been designed to attract international experts as well as to curb the so-called brain drain in Czech science. The centre will focus on research into cancer treatment, medical imaging and diagnosis. The laser will also be used in the development and testing of new materials and the handling of radioactive waste. The centre is expected to begin operation in 2016, reaching full performance by 2019, Jan Řídký, the director of the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Physics Institute, said.
The Czech Banking Association, in its updated forecast, made clear on Wednesday it expected the Czech economy to contract by almost one percent this year, while back in July it forecast a 0.6 percent drop. CBA representatives discussed the downward revision as related largely to a fall in household consumption. The government´s austerity measures and unstable expectations of further development had contributed to the forescast change. The CBA also cut its forecast of GDP development for next year: the association now expects growth of less than 0.5 percent, while in July it estimated one percent growth.
The decision by No. 39 – legendary Czech goalie Dominik Hašek – to retire for a third and final time from hockey drew reaction in media around the world on Tuesday and Wednesday. The two-time Stanley Cup winner and gold medal champion from Nagano ’98 opted to hang up the skates after negotiations with a final NHL team proved fruitless. The 47-year-old Hašek had been preparing for a return to the ice in the hope of playing in the NHL again – first in the minors if need be. No deal was reached in the end. Germany’s focus.de noted it was the end of a hockey icon, while former goalie Darren Eliott told USA Today that Hašek, known as the Dominator, could just as easily been nicknamed the Innovator – referring to Hašek’s now famous acrobatic style, often doing whatever it took, even throwing his stick, to keep pucks out of the net.
Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, who is recovering from a lingering knee injury, has not ruled out a comeback before the end of the year – either in the ATP World Tour Finals or the final of the Davis Cup to be played against the Czech team in Prague. The Davis Cup final is to take place on November 16-18. Nadal said it would be tough but that a comeback before the end of the year was “not impossible”.