Meanwhile, the abbot of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Michael Josef Pojezdný, has praised Mr. Zeman for refusing to appoint Mr. Putna, who is a practising Roman Catholic, professor. However, it is unclear why the abbot – who reportedly made the comments during a meeting with Mr. Zeman on another matter – has backed the president, as he has refused to speak to the media. This has led to speculation that it may be because of Mr. Putna’s liberal politics or the fact that he is openly homosexual. Academics have also been up in arms, with the rector of Prague’s Charles University, Václav Hampl, saying that Mr. Zeman would need to have very serious reasons for not naming Mr. Putna professor; otherwise the move would represent an unacceptable intervention.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has criticised the composition of the freshly appointed academic council of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. The leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats says it includes former long-term members of the Communist Party and opponents of the very creation of the institution, which oversees secret police files and other documents from the Communist era. The previous academic council stood down in protest at the dismissal of the state agency’s director by its now left-controlled board. Critics of the former management of the Institute say it should explore the broader history of the Communist period and not just focus on the security services.
Museums and public galleries around the Czech Republic offered discounted admissions on Saturday as part of International Museum Day. Many also put on workshops for children and guided tours, while some opened spaces normally closed to the public. A number of institutions, such as the City of Prague Museum and the capital’s National Museum, offered completely free admission. Museum Night events, when museums keep their doors open until the small hours, are being held in Brno; in the coming weeks other cities and towns are set to take part in the project, which culminates with a Prague Museum Night on June 8.
The great American conductor Lorin Maazel helmed the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra at a sold-out Smetana Hall of Prague’s Obecni Dum on Friday night in what was his first appearance at the Prague Spring international music festival for 43 years. Maazel, who is 83, has been one of the world’s leading conductors for the last five decades. This year’s Prague Spring features more than 30 concerts and three opera performances. It runs until June 2.
Jablonec have lifted the Česká Pošta Cup, Czech domestic soccer’s main cup competition, after defeating Mladá Boleslav on penalties. The sides were tied at 2:2 after extra time on Friday night, with Jablonec – who had lost in their previous three cup finals – running out 5:4 winners in the subsequent penalty shootout. As in a number of European countries, winning the cup is considerably less prestigious in the Czech Republic than taking the league title.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Friday approved legislation that will strip jailed MPs of their salaries and other benefits. The bill, put forth by the coalition Civic Democrats, won the support of 119 MPs in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. The legislation comes at a time when two MPs – former Social Democrat David Rath and an ex-Civic Democrat Roman Pekárek are in prison, the former awaiting trial for corruption, the latter serving a five-year sentence for similar charges. The bill will now be debated in the Senate. Lawmakers are also discussing a bill that would strip convicted MPs of their seats in the lower house.
A major EU-wide survey ranks the Czech Republic as a relatively tolerant country to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. The poll, conducted by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights among 93,000 people in the bloc’s member states plus Croatia, found that around 26 percent of gay people have faced attacks or violent threats due to their sexuality which is the same share as registered in the Czech Republic. Another 20 percent of those surveyed said they had been discriminated against at work or when looking for a job; in the Czech Republic, 10 percent of LGBT people said they faced such discrimination.
President Miloš Zeman has refused to appoint literary historian Martin C. Putna a university professor. Mr Putna, a teacher at Prague’s Charles University, is one of the president’s most vocal critics, and supported Mr Zeman’s rival for the presidency in January’s vote. The rector of Charles University has demanded an explanation from the president’s office; for his part, President Zeman said he would only reveal his motivation in court. Mr Zeman has come under criticism from some Czech politicians over his decision.
The trial against Tatra truck maker CEO Ronald Adams, charged with bribery, is due to begin in Brno on June 6, a spokeswoman for Brno city court said. Mr Adams allegedly offered a 20-million-crown bribe to then deputy defence minister Martin Barták in exchange for army contracts for the firm. Mr Barták, who reportedly testified against Mr Adams, has also been charged in the case.
The European Commission has approved Czech company Agrofert’s acquisition of German bakery chain Lieken AG, the commission said in a statement on Friday. Lieken, Germany’s leader in bread making, was previously owned by the Italian company Barilla; the sale was closed in February. Agrofest Group, owned exclusively by Mr Andrej Babiš, is the largest Czech agriculture and food holding.