A neon heart echoing one that adorned Prague Castle 10 years ago has gone on display at the European Parliament building on Monday evening to mark the first anniversary of the death of former president Václav Havel. The work of art, designed by Czech artist Jiří David, was inspired by a small heart Havel used to draw below his signature. Originally, the sculpture went up at Prague Castle at the end of Havel’s final term as president in 2002. The heart in Brussels is based on the same design but produced in lighter materials. A number of representatives of the European Parliament, the city of Prague, as well as other prominent personalities in Czech and European public life will be present at Monday’s ceremony.
A new plaque commemorating late ex-president Václav Havel close to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial in Prague was unveiled on Monday evening. Several dozen people were present including Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former defence minister Alexandr Vondra. The plaque was paid for by 258 Czech and Slovak artists living in the United States and the project was put together by the American Friends of the Czech Republic. As soon as the weather allows, the plaque will receive permanent moorings at the site. Speaking at the unveiling, the foreign minister – a close friend of Mr Havel’s – noted that his influence abroad had always been greater than many at home realised.
Sixteen students in southern Bohemia are holding a 24-hour hunger strike beginning on Monday to protest against the regional coalition of the Social Democrats and the Communist Party. Above all, students oppose the recent naming of Vítezslava Baborová as the new regional councillor for education and culture. The protest was instigated by 18-year-old high school student Dominik Hořejší, who has met with the governor of South Bohemia, Jiří Zomola of the Social Democrats. The student said that while he hadn’t experienced life under the former regime, he had heard and learned enough and remained unconvinced there was justification for a coalition with the Communists.
Presidential candidate Tomio Okamura, disqualified from running in the upcoming election by a Supreme Administrative Court decision, has said he will file a legal complaint with the Constitutional Court. The senator made clear he would take the step after the Christmas holidays. Mr Okamura has taken issue with the decision, not least over words by one of the justices, Vojtěch Šimička, who said the candidate had the most falsified names on a list of supporters in his candidacy bid. For candidates to register they needed to gather 50,000 signatures to run. Mr Okamura finished below the 50,000 needed, after discrepancies were found. According to the justice, many of the names were written in the same handwriting. Mr Okamura has responded by saying voters’ rights were being trampled on. Another candidate who was rejected, former finance minister Vladimír Dlouhý, meanwhile, has not taken a final decision on his next step.
The online vehicle registration system on Monday was able to continue operation following the adding of local registry branches without lapses or collapse, officials said. The system, however, did slow in places. The electronic system, which has been plagued by glitches since the summer, was only operating at 60 percent. Continuing problems were responsible, at least in part, for the recent departure from government of former transport minister Pavel Dobeš of LIDEM; he has been replaced by Civic Democrat Zbyněk Stanjura.
Mladá Boleslav-based carmaker Škoda Auto began serial production of the third generation Octavia on Monday, the most important model in the company’s line-up. Production capacity has been raised from 800 to 1,200 vehicles a day. The new sedan is meant to improve brand recognition abroad, the carmaker said, and is expected to follow the success of the previous models. Octavia is Skoda’s best seller, representing 44 percent of global sales, for example, in the first 11 months of this year. The redesigned vehicle will be released onto the European market at the end of January.
France's Areva is aiming to continue its fight to be included in a lucrative tender for the completion of the Czech Republic’s Temelín nuclear power plant, Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports. According to the daily, the firm sees the manner in which it was excluded from the tender as problematic and far from standard procedure. Areva representatives say the price offered by the firm was in order and stress the company will push its case even at the highest instance court. Thomas Epron, Areva's regional head for Central Europe, said the French company had provided guarantees in supplied documentation that the final price of Temelín´s expansion would not exceed a certain level and the cost of the project, between 200 and 300 billion crowns, would not see manifold growth. ČEZ spokesman Ladislav Kříž told the paper that Areva´s bid had failed to meet defined criteria on a number of points.
The Social Democrats continue to dominate in public opinion polls: a new survey released by the STEM agency suggests if elections were held today the opposition party would secure 26.5 percent of the vote, followed by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats with 13.9 percent and the Communist Party with 12.7. Other results in recent weeks have regularly placed the ruling Civic Democrats third. The new STEM poll suggests two other parties would make it into the Chamber of Deputies: TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats, with parties like the Greens and the Civic Rights “Zemanovci” Party finishing not far below the five percent threshold.
The R10 route in the direction of Liberec, near an exit for Stará Boleslav saw a pile-up of at least 15 cars after 6 am on Monday. Two people suffered light injuries. The section of road was completely closed off and will be reopened at around 11 am, the authorities said. Three cars also crashed in the opposite direction, towards Prague. One lane there, however, remains open. Icy conditions contributed to the accidents. Freezing rain, ice, and fog are complicating the situation on Czech roads in areas across the country.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has issued a warning over freezing rain and icy conditions beginning across the country on Sunday evening and lasting through Tuesday. Freezing drizzle is expected to make sidewalks as well as roads far from safe; earlier in the week, when conditions first worsened, the authorities appealed to motorists to drive with extreme caution and to find alternatives to heading out onto the road. Saturday saw a marked rise in both fall-related injuries and car accidents in the capital and elsewhere.
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