Descendants of shoe magnate Jan Antonín Baťa are demanding that the Czech state return billions of crowns worth of property to them, Právo reported on Monday. An associate of the Baťa family told the newspaper that they were willing to take the matter to the international courts. The property was nationalised under post-war presidential decrees on the grounds that Baťa had allegedly collaborated with the Nazis. However, in 2007 a Prague court overturned Jan Antonín Baťa’s conviction on collaboration charges. The founder of the international shoe company left Czechoslovakia in 1939 and later settled in Brazil, where he founded a number of towns.
President Miloš Zeman clarified on Monday the reason he refused to name well-known literary historian Martin C. Putna a university professor. Mr Zeman suggested the crux of the problem for him was a placard Mr Putna carried at Prague’s gay pride parade, which read “Catholic queers salute Bátora”. The banner referred to a highly-controversial former ministry official who opposed the parade two years ago. The president stressed that he respected peoples’ sexual orientation but suggested there was a difference between that and carrying a banner like Mr Putna’s. Mr Putna is widely-recognised as a Catholic intellectual who has focussed on the topics of homosexuality and religion. He is also a vocal critic of the president’s, ridiculing him earlier this year in a video when he was still a candidate ahead of the election.
Top Czech football club Baník Ostrava was saved from bankruptcy on Monday following two city council votes. The future of the heavily indebted club hinged on the Ostrava city council buying its Bazaly stadium. A first vote went against the proposal, and would have meant expulsion from the top division. But in a dramatic turn of events, a second vote was held that went the club’s way. Baník Ostrava are the 2004 league champions and have been the home of many talented players, recently, for example, seeing the return of former national squad member Milan Baroš.
Speaking at a conference in Prague on Monday, Mr Zeman postulated presidents elected directly by citizens had a “broader” mandate than previous Czech heads-of-state (elected by lawmakers). Ahead of his victory this year, Mr Zeman made no secret he would pursue a more hands-on approach to daily politics than his predecessors Václav Klaus and the late Václav Havel. But on a number of fronts this has led to marked friction between the head-of-state and members of the current government. The president has been locked in a months’ long dispute with the country’s foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, over the appointment of new ambassadors. He has also, at turns, been critical of the government. Mr Zeman said Monday he was free to criticise ministers of the Nečas cabinet, as they were to criticise him.
The leadership of TOP 09 in Prague is set to meet on Monday evening to discuss the future of its coalition with the right-of-centre Civic Democrats at City Hall. The Czech news agency reports that it is likely the party will withdraw from the current coalition agreement. If it takes the step there are several possible outcomes, including new negotiations on a new agreement with the Civ Dems introducing changes in who oversees key fields such as public transport, property and financing, now under the competency of the Civic Democrats. TOP 09, the winners of the last municipal election, could also form a minority with support from the Civic Democrats or the Social Democrats or try and form a broader coalition. Members of the current council; have been at odds for weeks over key questions including the financing of the public transit company or the Blanka tunnel – far over budget.
Czech hockey player David Krejči has continued in excellent form in the NHL post-season, earning two assists in the Bruins’ second game against the New York Rangers. Boston won by a score of 5:2 to take a 2:0 lead in their best-of-seven series. In the first round, the Bruins eliminated the Montreal Canadiens. Krejči leads on points in the playoffs, with 16 (eleven assists and five goals so far).
The funeral service for former politician and Prague Spring reformer Valtr Komárek, who died last week at the age of 82, will be held at Prague’s Strašnice crematorium on Wednesday. Mr Komárek was the honorary chairman of the Social Democratic Party; his death was rued by many, including President Zeman, who will be among those attending to pay their last respects, the president’s office confirmed. The service will be open to the public, ČTK reported.
In related news, students at Charles University have begun planning protest events over the president’s refusal to approve Mr Putna as a professor. They also called on some 24 other professorial candidates to be appointed soon to show solidarity and refuse to accept the title from the president. Mr Zeman has drawn sharp criticism from the academic community; he is due to meet with the head of Charles University later this week.
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