Czech Rail has increased security measures on the country’s railway
routes in response to the threat of terrorist attacks in Europe by
al-Qaeda. Jakub Ptačinský, the spokesman for the Railway Infrastructure
Agency revealed the news on Monday. The spokesman did not elaborate on the
measures, saying if they were made public, it would defeat the purpose. He
said the agency had received the warning of a possible threat in Europe
several days ago. BIS, the country’s counter-intelligence service,
however, stressed there was no immediate danger in the Czech Republic.
The German daily Bild reported there was a threat of attacks on high-speed tracks, tunnels and trains, citing a call between al-Qaeda members intercepted by the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). The German Interior Ministry, responded, however, by saying the security situation in the country had not worsened and that security measures as reported by Bild had not been taken. BIS spokesman Jan Šubert said Czech counter-intelligence had not received any information from foreign partners about the Czech Republic being targeted.
Former Czech president Václav Klaus is close to making a return to politics, Právo has reported. The newspaper said it had learned of the planned comeback from sources close to Mr Klaus, who is 72 and was prime minister for six years in the 1990s. Právo said his decision was conditional on MPs voting to dissolve Parliament on Tuesday. There had been suggestions that Mr. Klaus could rejoin the party he founded, the Civic Democrats, but both senior party figures and the two-time president have ruled that out. An opinion poll carried by Czech Television on Sunday suggested that three-quarters of voters think he should not return to the political arena.
In related news, Ladislav Jakl, a former aide to Václav Klaus, has denied that the ex-president is weighing a return to politics, telling the Czech News Agency there was no political entity on the current political scene attractive enough. He shrugged off the suggestion Mr Klaus would return by saying it was easy to renew speculation over Mr Klaus’ future. The Czech Republic’s second president stepped down in March of this year after two terms in office. He is currently involved in an institute that bears his name, conceived as a liberal-conservative think tank running conferences, seminars, and events for both experts and the broader public.
The right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party is likely vote against the dissolution of the lower house on Tuesday, according to reports. Deputy party leader Miroslava Němcová said the party leadership had recommended its MPs to vote in favour only if certain legislation being discussed in the Chamber had already been passed, which she stressed was not the case. The party, earlier, had sought a delay on the vote until September 3. Four parties – the Social Democrats, Communists, Public Affairs, and centre-right TOP 09 – called for the vote to pave the way for early elections. Together, they hold the constitutional majority needed. If the move passes, the president has already indicated he will schedule the election for the final weekend in October.
In related news, the four parties seeking early elections confirmed independently on Monday that they expected their MPS to back the dissolution of the lower house in Tuesday’s vote, opening the door to early elections. Most MPs, they said, would be present, with the possible exception of one lawmaker in TOP 09 for health reasons. The head of TOP 09’s deputies’ club Petr Gazdík said he expected the MP, who is going for a medical check-up, to make it on time. One hundred and 20 votes – or a constitutional majority – is required for the proposal to pass; the four parties together have 122.
The Czech travel agency Exim tours is hastening the return of clients currently in Egypt, over growing fears that the security situation in the country, especially in Hurghada, will worsen in the coming days. Its last client in the country is due to return home on Thursday. In all, two thousand Czechs have stayed on for the moment but are also expected to return home in the coming days. The departure of tourists as well as the cancellation of upcoming package vacations represents losses in the millions. Last Friday, the Czech Foreign Ministry warned Czechs not to travel to Egypt in light of deadly violence and growing unrest.
Internationally-recognised photographer Josef Koudelka signed a contract with the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (UPM) on Monday confirming he is donating a collection of 537 of his photographs to the museum. The collection represents the apex of the photographer’s work. The first half of the collection will be delivered in half a year. The second half, forming part of current retrospectives being exhibited abroad, will be delivered later. The collection is estimated as being worth tens of millions of crowns. Part of the deal is a planned retrospective of Mr Koudelka’s work at the UPM in 2018. The collection will formally retain the status of being on loan until the threat of Czech artwork being seized abroad (due to ongoing arbitration cases) subsides.
This September will see 7,000 more pupils enter first grade at elementary schools than in 2012. In all, 833,000 students will resume or continue school at the elementary level in roughly a fortnight. Of all the students at elementary school, 324,000 will be in grades 1 through 6, the rest in grades 7 – 9. Four hundred and nine thousand youths this year will study at the secondary level, either at high schools or trade schools.
Forecasters have warned that most parts of the Czech Republic will be hit by severe storms on Monday. The storms, bringing hail stones, rain and strong winds, are likely to cross Bohemia on Monday afternoon and evening and to reach Moravia on Monday night, the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said in a statement. Some areas may be hit by mild flooding.
The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has risen to fifth in the world, the highest ranking of his career to date. The 27-year-old climbed from sixth place on the ATP world tour after reaching the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Open on Saturday. Berdych said he had waited a long time to reach fifth and that meeting that goal would spur him to go even further.