Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and ex-president Václav Klaus attended the funeral of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in London on Wednesday. Mr Klaus told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes that Mrs. Thatcher’s policies to a large extent inspired his government’s reforms in the 1990s including the deregulation, liberalization and privatization of the state-run economy. The former Czech president, who said the late Baroness Thatcher was “his heroine”, also appreciated her pragmatic approach to the European Union.
President Miloš Zeman says the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes should be headed by a historian. In an interview for Wednesday’s Právo, Mr. Zeman said that neither the former director, Daniel Hermann, nor the acting director, Pavlina Foglova, were qualified to lead the institution, which administers secret police files and other documents from the communist era. Last week, the Institute’s Council, which is dominated by members appointed by the Social Democrat-controlled Senate, dismissed Mr. Hermann, sparking a political row and raising questions over the institution’s future.
Czech Culture Minister Alena Hanáková on Wednesday dismissed the director of the National Gallery, Vladimír Rösel. In a statement, the minister said Mr Rösel had failed to understand the gallery’s role and to guarantee its development. Vladimír Rösel, who became the gallery’s director in 2011, said he did not agree with the decision but that he respected it. The new director will be chosen by a group of experts; in the meantime, the gallery will be run by the head of its Old Masters collection, Vít Vlnas.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved a bill that will raise the speed limit on some roads from 90 to 110 kilometres per hour, the news agency ČTK reported. The higher speed limit will apply to dual-carriageways classified as 1st class roads. Those will however have to undergo safety audits by the Transportation Ministry before the speed limit is raised. The new legislation approved by the cabinet will, among other things, allow municipalities to sell towed vehicles whose owners fail to recover them within six months.
The 23rd annual Prague Writers’ Festival began in the Czech capital on Wednesday. The event kicked off with a reading by Czech author Vladimír Körner. The biggest name at this year’s festival is the Noble Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk; other guests include Mary Heimann, writer of the divisive Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed, Egypt’s Sonallah Ibrahim, Miguel Sousa Tavares of Portugal, and other authors. The Prague authorities have significantly reduced their financial support for the festival which will only last for three days instead of the usual week.
Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek has backed Prague’s high attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, in her dispute with the head of the anti-corruption police, Martin Červíček. Ms Bradáčová accused Mr Červíček of fabricating a case against her in relation to her role in prosecuting an overpriced IT contract at the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Minister Blažek told the news agency ČTK on Wednesday that Ms Bradáčová came with an exceptionally serious claim; the minister also described the police practices as similar to those used by the communist police in the 1950s. The head of the anti-corruption police Martin Červíček has denied any wrongdoing.
The number of people who believe there are too many foreigners living in the Czech Republic has dropped by 9 percentage points over the past three years, suggests a new poll by the CVVM agency released on Wednesday. While in March 2009, 57 percent of Czechs surveyed said there were too many foreigners in the country, some 48 percent expressed the same opinion three years later. Around 43 percent of those surveyed in the latest poll said the number of foreigners in the country was “appropriate” while 11 percent of Czechs who took part in the poll believe foreigners should not be allowed to gain permanent residence in the Czech Republic at all.
The police have arrested three men over last month’s attempted robbery of a cash transport van in Prague. The men, aged 32, 48 and 62, attempted to rob the vehicle in front of an IKEA store on the outskirts of the city on March 25. The robbers failed to get inside the van and take the cash and fired a sub-machine gun at the van as it drove off. One of the suspects is reportedly a repeat offender and faces up to 20 years in jail; the other two could land 12-year-sentences.
Civic Democrat deputies have proposed rock singer Vladimír Mišík and guitar player Radim Hladík for state honours. MP Walter Bartoš, who is behind the motion, suggested President Zeman should award the musicians the Czech Medal of Merit in recognition of their artistic achievements as well as their respect for freedom. Czech state honours are presented on October 28, the anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s independence; the recipients are proposed by lawmakers but the president makes the final choice.
The Czech Republic’s self-sufficiency in pork last year dropped below 50 percent, the country’s Agrarian Chamber said on Wednesday. After a temporary rise, the numbers of pigs bred in the Czech Republic registered a further decrease at the beginning of this year, the chamber said. The producers blame the trend on the high prices of fodder, mainly soya and wheat, which are not reflected in prices of pigs offered by meat processing companies. Another reason behind the dropping numbers of pigs is the fact that consumers tend to prefer cheaper imported meat over more expensive meat produced in the Czech Republic.