The new CEO of the largest Czech public health insurance company, VZP, Civic Democrat Zdeněk Kabátek, assumes his post on Saturday. Mr Kabátek, who most recently worked at the Health Ministry, was chosen by the company’s board earlier this week. He replaces Pavel Horák who stepped down over budget issues. The change is part of a broader overhaul of the company’s management initiated by the Health Ministry. The new CEO said his first goal was to stabilize the company’s finances.
Some 10,000 people witnessed the re-enactment of the Battle of Austerlitz near Slavkov, in southern Moravia on Saturday, 207 years after Napoleon’s army beat the Russian and Austrian troops there. 900 people from 11 countries with 60 horses and 15 cannons reenacted parts of the battle on Saturday; this year, they focused on the closing phases and the retreat of the Austrian and Russian armies from the battlefield.
Painter Vladimír Houdek has won the 2012 Jindřich Chalupecký Award for artists under the age of 35. The only painter among the six finalists of the award, 28-year-old Houdek a graduate of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts, explores in his works the ambiguous and problematic heritage of modernism, the jury said. The winner also received funds to hold an exhibition at the National Gallery in Prague and a six-week fellowship in New York. The other finalists of the Jindřich Chalupecký award this year included Adéla Babanová, Richard Loskot, Jiří Thýn and the duo David Böhm and Jiří Franta.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda on Saturday lit a 28-metre-tall Christmas tree in Prague’s Old Town Square, and opened a Christmas market in the square. The spruce, which is around 90-years-old, came from a forest near Rokycany, in western Bohemia. Organizers said tightened security measures were applied at the event which each year attracts thousands of people.
Fifty historic palaces, towers, churches and other monuments in Prague are open to the public free of charge this weekend as the city marks the 20th anniversary of its inclusion of UNESCO’s list of world heritage. People can visit, among other sites, the Bethlehem Chapel, the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Town tower at Charles Bridge, the National and the Estates Theatres, the Emauzy Convent. Some of the sites however require visitors to make a reservation.
Czech speedskater Martina Sáblíková on Saturday claimed her first World Cup title of the season when she won a 5,000-metre event in Kazakhstan. The Olympic champion beat Germany’s Claudia Pechstein in second place, and Olga Graf of Russia, who finished third. The win in the season’s third event put Sáblíková to the lead of the World Cup’s standings in her category.
The Finance Ministry has announced that it is expecting the deficit for this year to reach five percent of the GDP, in comparison to last year’s 3.3 percent, due in large part to the recently approved church property restitution bill and problems with drawing of EU funds this year. In October, the ministry was still counting on an annual deficit of 3.2 percent, but Friday’s fiscal outlook shows a different prognosis.
Presidential candidates Jiří Dienstbier and Miloš Zeman met with the leadership of the Communist Party on Friday to ask for their support in the upcoming elections. Unlike the Civic Democrats or the TOP 09 party, the Communists have not nominated their own presidential candidate. The party’s leadership said that it would take them a week to deliberate and decide on who to support. This recommendation may influence the decision of Communist Party voters in the January election. Mr Dienstbier said that he considers himself to be the only real candidate for left-wing voters, so he felt it was natural to ask the Communist Party for support.
The Czech Republic voted against the Palestinian Authority's bid to upgrade its status at the UN to a non-member observer state. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said that this position was in line with the Czech Republic's long standing policy on the issue. Eight other countries voted against the move, including the United States, Israel and Canada. The motion to grant Palestinian Authority non-member observer status was supported by 138 nations, while 41 abstained from voting. Leaders of the Czech Social Democrat Party and the Communist Party criticized the government for the decision to vote against Palestine’s new status. Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek said that Czech foreign policy is incomprehensible.