The main lounge at the famous television tower on the Ještěd Mountain in northern Bohemia has been reopened after renovation works. The painstaking refurbishing returned the lounge to the way it looked when the tower opened in 1973, with the original interior design by Otakar Binar. The lounge will welcome the first members of the public on Saturday, as part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the construction of the tower. The 94-meter tall Ještěd Tower is considered to be one of the most original pieces of modern architecture in the Czech Republic. Its architect Karel Hubáček received the prestigious Auguste Perret Prize from the International Union of Architects in 1969.
The Prague 10 town hall is willing to pay 43 million crowns for the former residence of the famous writer Karel Čapek. Although a foreign bidder has offered a higher price, the villa’s owner, Karel Scheinpflug has indicated that he would be willing to sell it for the lower price to the local administration. The local town council will vote on the proposal to buy the villa on Monday. Cultural Minister Jiří Balvín has expressed interest in speaking at the council meeting in support of the decision. Karel Čapek and his painter brother Josef had the villa built for them in the early 1920’s. Only the half where Karel lived is currently for sale. The writer’s study has been preserved as it appeared during his lifetime. The Prague 10 council plans to open up a part of the residence to the public, if the sale goes through.
President Miloš Zeman, who on Thursday concludes a two-day working visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, says EC chief Jose Barroso has promised to exert greater effort on behalf of the EC in getting Canada to lift its visa requirement for Czech nationals. The Czech side has repeatedly tried to elicit greater involvement from the EU on the issue after its own appeals to Toronto went unheard. Canada reintroduced visa requirements for Czechs in 2009 following a wave of largely Romany asylum seekers to the country.
In related news President Miloš Zeman assured the EC chief that the Czech Republic fully realized the importance of adopting a public service act as soon as possible. Mr Barroso stressed that without the legislation, the country could have problems drawing EU funds during the next budgetary period. The Czech Parliament adopted a public service act ahead of the country’s accession to the EU in 2004, but it never entered into force and there has been drawn-out controversy over its proposed amendment.
Czech President Milos Zeman also met for talks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The debate covered among others the situation in Syria, Czech participation in military missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and the Czech defence budget. Mr. Rasmussen praised the Czech Republic’s role in foreign missions and expressed the hope that the Czech government would not lower defence spending.
A state attorney has filed criminal charges against the head of the Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková, and nine other people, on suspicion of fraud in obtaining licenses for two solar power plants in north Bohemia in 2010 in view of upping the purchase price for solar power. The damage to the state is estimated at 1.9 billion crowns. The case is to be dealt with by the Brno regional court. Ms. Vitásková had previously accused her predecessors of having illegally upped the prices of electricity from solar power, producing an audit that the head of the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association said was doctored and was intended to cover up her own illegal activities.
Former deputy prime minister Karolina Peake was questioned by the corruption police on Thursday in connection with the spying scandal that brought down the centre-right government of prime minister Petr Nečas. Mrs. Peake, said the questioning had largely focussed on her brief time in office as defence minister and reiterated that she had no knowledge of the fact that the then PM’s chief-of-staff Jana Nagyová had ordered the military intelligence service to shadow his wife. She confirmed Mrs. Nagyová’s seemingly unlimited influence at the time, by telling journalists that she herself had been sacked as defence minister after just eight days in office because she had failed to consult her decisions with the prime minister’s chief-of-staff.
The Czech Republic is in 52nd place on the Economic Freedom of the World Index published by the Canadian institute Fraser. The index, which was made public at a press conference on Thursday, is based on data from 2011 and monitored 152 countries. It is based on a number of indicators, among them the size of the public sector, the quality of legislation, foreign trade and overall regulation. Monetary issues and inflation are also taken into consideration.
The vast majority of parties who have a realistic chance of winning seats in the lower house in October’s general elections are not against the completion of the Temelín nuclear plant assuming that it is safe and affordable. Only the Greens and Senator Tomio Okamura’s Dawn of Direct Democracy party are against the plan to build two more nuclear reactors at Temelín, citing safety reasons and pointing out that the cost of building Temelín’s first two reactors was double the amount originally projected. A final decision on the plant’s completion is expected in late 2014 or early 2015.
The most trusted politician in the Czech Republic at present is outgoing, caretaker Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok. According to the results of a poll conducted by the STEM agency the prime minister is trusted by 50 percent of Czechs. Second place on the popularity ladder toes to Social Democrat Deputy chair Michal Hašek and Senator Tomio Okamura who both got a 46 percent trust rating. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka came fourth with 45 percent. Civic Democrat Deputy chair Jiří Pospíšil, who was the most trusted politician in the country ahead of the scandal that brought down the centre-right government has slipped to 7th place.