Final preparations are underway for the 23rd Prague Writers’ Festival, which begins in the Czech capital on Wednesday. The biggest name at this year’s festival will be the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, while other guests will include Mary Heimann, writer of the divisive Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed. The Prague authorities have said they will significantly reduce their financial support for the Prague Writers’ Festival next year.
The executive committee of the Czech Football Association have decided to retain Michal Bílek as manager of the national squad. Officials said he had their confidence as long as it was still theoretically possible for the Czech Republic to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next year. Bílek had come under pressure after a home defeat against Denmark that left his charges with a major hill to climb if they are to reach the competition. The one-time Sparta Prague coach has been in charge since 2009 and led the Czechs to Euro 2012 via the playoffs.
The Czech tennis player Radek Štěpánek has lost his first singles match on the ATP circuit after taking three months out to undergo a neck operation. Štěpánek, who is 34, lost 3-6 3-6 to qualifier Albert Ramos of Spain at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday. He had previously appeared for the Czech team in the doubles rubber of a Davis Cup tie against Kazakhstan in which he and Jan Hájek were beaten.
All remaining members of the Academic Council serving the country’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes resigned on Monday. Members of the 15-person council began stepping down last week, primarily in protest over the sacking of the institute’s head Daniel Herman. Critics charged the firing was politically-motivated and an attempt by the opposition to gain control at the institute. The first to step down last week was the council’s chairman, Michael Kraus. Others who followed include Igor Lukeš, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, Alena Šimánková of the National Archive, and Harvard University’s Mark Kramer. Respected military historian Eduard Stehlík, first deputy to Daniel Herman, meanwhile, failed to reach agreement with the new head, Pavla Foglová, and also resigned from his post.
In related news, Prime Minister Petr Nečas described the situation at the institute as “scandalous”. The prime minister claimed recent developments were an effort by the opposition to control information in the Security Services Archive (ABS). The prime minister suggested material in the archives could threaten alleged future cooperation between the opposition Social Democrats and the Communist Party, if the Social Democrats win the next election and end up forming the next government. Opinion polls have suggested the Social Democrats will win next year by a fair margin.
The Council of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes denied on Monday that politics had any role in the recent sacking of Daniel Herman as head of the institute. Council chairwoman Petruška Šustrová said his firing had come not at the order of any political party but stressed that the council had not been satisfied with Mr Herman’s work. She added that the situation was currently being politicized by politicians and the media, and expressed surprise over how the situation had escalated. The head of the confederation of political prisoners, Nadězda Kavalírová (a member of the council who opposed Mr Herman’s firing) maintained the opposite: that the council was acting politically, ČTK reported.
The Supreme Audit Office announced on Monday that it found a number of problems in the finances of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute between the years 2009 to 2011. In 2010, the institute provided lower annual budget figures while in the following year it overshot by more than a million crowns. The biggest problems (for which the Hydrometeorological Institute may have to pay a penalty) concerned property records and accounting.
President Miloš Zeman, his wife Ivana and their daughter Kateřina are preparing to move into the Lumbe villa, located near Prague Castle, in May. The building is the former residence of ex-president Václav Klaus and former first lady Livie Klausová. Mr Zeman’s spokeswoman Hana Buriánová said the Zemans will have 200 square metres in the villa, adding that the interiors had been newly re-painted. The Lumbe villa dates back to the mid-19th century; it was once home to the painter Miloš Jiránek.
Customs officers at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport caught a passenger from Sao Paolo last Thursday trying to smuggle in a package containing more than one kilo of cocaine. The spokesman for the Customs Office at Ruzyně, Pavel Drobek, revealed information about the arrest on the office’s website on Monday. A single gram in the Czech Republic can sell for as much as 2000 crowns, meaning the estimated street value of the package was around 2.3 million crowns.