President Václav Klaus’s second and final term in office ends at midnight on Thursday. Mr Klaus was first elected president in 2003, after serving as prime minister and head of the right-of-centre Civic Democrat party in the 1990s. Mr Klaus is credited with creating the democratic political system in the Czech Republic; however, his divisive views on issues such as global warming and European integrations have made him a controversial figure. After attending his successor’s inauguration on Friday, Mr Klaus is set to leave for a lecture tour in the US before assuming a new role as the head of the recently-founded Václav Klaus Institute in Prague.
The outgoing President Václav Klaus along with his successor, president-elect Miloš Zeman, on Thursday paid tribute to Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk at his grave in Lány, outside Prague, on the 163rd anniversary of his birth. Accompanied by their wives, the presidents later had a private lunch together at the Lány presidential retreat. Mr Zeman will also honour the remains of the Czech national saint, St Wenceslas, in St Vitus cathedral on Friday, the day of his inauguration.
A number of civic associations and informal groups critical of Vaclav Klaus have prepared various happenings to celebrate the end of his presidency. On Hradčanské square in front of Prague Castle, people laid flowers and pens in front a of a live statue of Mr Klaus, in reference to the president’s infamous appropriation of a pen during a visit in Chile. An effigy representing Mr Klaus was then set on fire and thrown off Charles Bridge in the Vltava River. Other events include a rock concert at the Lucerna Music Bar in the evening, as well as a party on Wenceslas Square.
Czech Public Television will be the only broadcaster with official live coverage of Friday’s presidential inauguration ceremony. The station has decided not to share the live feed from the ceremony, frustrating its competitors and smaller news organizations. Part of the ceremony will be outside and open to the public, but the Prague Castle administration chose only one television crew to cover the official swearing in ceremony that will take place inside the Vladislav Hall, allegedly for capacity reasons. Czech Television has promised to make the recording of the ceremony available to other broadcasters as soon as possible after the event.
Hackers attacked the websites of two of the largest telephone service providers T-Mobile and Telefónica O2 on Thursday morning. A Telefónica spokesperson said that the attack had come from an IP address in Russia. The attack is under investigation by Czech police and security services. Every day of this week, web servers of various Czech institutions have been attacked – news sites, the search engine Seznam.cz, and financial institutions. According to some experts, this type of an attack is fairly primitive, though effective and hard to trace.
The number of unmarried couples in the Czech Republic has reached a record high of 238,000, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office. The number of partners living together without having gotten married has grown five-fold in the past fifty years. Most of the people are between 25 and 39 years old, more than half have never been married, and a third are divorcees. The number of registered marriages is also steadily decreasing. In 2011 the Czech Republic registered the least number of marriages since 1918.
The Czech security forces inspection has launched a probe into whether the police could have prevented last month’s explosion in an apartment building in the northern town of Frenštát which killed six people, a spokeswoman for the agency said on Thursday. The explosion, deliberately set off by one of the residents, was reportedly preceded by a series of conflicts between the man and his neighbours. The tenant, who reportedly faced eviction from his apartment, died in the explosion.
Fuel prices in the Czech Republic have stopped rising, according to figures by CCS, a monitoring firm. The price of the most popular petrol, Natural 95, only registered a slight increase compared to last week, to reach the price of 36.8 crowns per litre. Meanwhile, the price of diesel has seen no increase at all, with an average price per litre remaining at 36.2 crowns. Analysts say the halt in price rises has been influenced by decreasing prices of oil on the international market. The highest prices of fuel were registered in the capital; the lowest in southern Bohemia.
Plzeň City Hall on Thursday rejected a controversial plan to build a large new shopping mall in the centre of the west Bohemian city. The decision comes some two months after the plans were turned down in a local referendum. City officials said the project’s investor failed to meet several conditions related to construction activity in the area, and did not prove it owned the land on which the mall was going to be erected. The investor, Amádeus Plzeň, said they would wait for the record of Thursday’s decision by Plzeň City Hall before they take further steps.
A court in Prague on Thursday began dealing with a petition filed by five descendants of Jan Antonín Baťa, former owner of the Baťa shoe empire, who demand 56 million crowns in compensation for property confiscated after WWII. The property was confiscated in 1947 over Baťa’s alleged collaboration with the Nazis. However, the verdict was cancelled in 2007. The court will now decide whether the case will be accepted.