Some 2,000 people on Tuesday came to a rally organized by the Communist party at Prague’s exhibition grounds marking the International Workers’ Day. Communist leaders addressed the crowd, calling for an end of the government’s reforms; the rally was also attended by one of the party’s pre-1990 leaders, former general secretary, Milouš Jakeš.
New Education Minister Petr Fiala will be appointed to his post by President Václav Klaus on Wednesday, a spokesman for the president said. PM Nečas nominated Petr Fiala, a former rector of Brno’s Masaryk University, a month after his predecessor stepped down over problems with securing EU funds. Mr Fiala, who is also an advisor to the prime minister, said he could not promise miracle but would try to stabilize the education sector. The opposition has welcomed Mr Fiala’s nomination but said the new minister will have to tackle severe problems facing the education system.
Monday’s “Burning of the Witches”, or Walpurgis Night festivals caused 178 fires across the country, a spokeswoman for the Czech fire brigades said. The fires caused damages worth around 6.2 million crowns. A homeless man died in Mělník, in northern Bohemia, on Monday after his shack caught fire but the accident was not linked to the festivities.
The National Museum has decided not to explore the contents of two wooden chests, donated to the museum over a hundred years ago by Czech scientist Bohuslav Jiruš who died in 1901, the museum said on its website on Tuesday.. In his testament, the botanist and pharmacologist said the chests should be opened 200 years after his death. The museum held an online poll to decide whether or not to open the chests; more than 3,000 people took part, 53 percent of which voted against the opening of the boxes.
Several temperature records for May 1 were broken across the Czech Republic on Tuesday. A weather station in Tábor, southern Bohemia, registered a temperature of 28.4 degrees Celsius, the highest in 66 years while in the east Bohemia city of Hradec Králové, meteorologists registered 30..6 degrees Celius, the highest temperature since 30.5 degrees Celsius, the highest since 1934.
President Václav Klaus has cancelled a visit to Ukraine in protest over the imprisonment of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The Austrian, Slovenian and German heads of state have also refused to participate in the upcoming summit of central European presidents, citing repressive treatment of the former leader. The presidents of Estonia and Latvia are reportedly also reconsidering their attendance. Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for signing contracts for the delivery of Russian gas that were allegedly not in the public interest. Western leaders have said the case was politically motivated. She has been on hunger strike since April 20.
The worsening of Ms Tymoshenko’s condition would mean a weakening of Ukraine’s position in Europe, says Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mr Schwarzenberg and his Slovak counterpart Miroslav Lajčák urged Ukraine to ensure that Tymoshenko receive proper medical care. Mr Lajčák noted that Tymoshenko herself said that she does not want her case to be an obstacle to Ukraine´s entry into Europe, and he said that it was important that Ukraine cut itself off from its undemocratic past. Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, they said, will be closely monitoring the situation and are considering what steps to take next. Tymoshenko suffers from back pains and has recently complained of being beaten in prison. Ukrainian authorities and media outlets have cast doubt on her claims.
New legislation will allow more people to receive compensation for property lost in Carpathian Ruthenia after WWII. The law will take effect on May 1 and allows the descendants of Czech citizens to file requests until the end of 2013. The previous legislation eliminated between 200 and 600 applicants who were forced off their land between November 5, 1938, and March 18, 1939. Legitimate applicants will be due ten times the value of the property assessed in the late 1940s and 50s, up to two million crowns. Once the easternmost tip of Czechoslovakia and today part of Ukraine, Carpathian Ruthenia was occupied by Hungary in 1938 and annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of WWII.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek has allotted an additional 140 million crowns to social services. The preliminary measure, which must yet be approved by the Finance Ministry, was previously agreed upon with the Association of Health Care Providers, which has warned of large scale closings of facilities and threatened to demonstrate. Mr Drábek says the increase should be approved as it involves a transfer of funds within one budget chapter and was acquired through ministry savings.
The Ministry of Defence will pay 643 million crowns to NATO funds this year, 16 million more than last year. According to documents submitted to the government on Monday, the main amounts include 385 million crowns for the alliance’s military budget and 176 million for security investment programmes. Another 34 million will be invested in modernising the Čáslav airport, in Eastern Bohemia, in order to meet NATO standards.