President Miloš Zeman begins a state visit to Israel on Sunday. The Czech head of state is due to meet with Israeli counterpart Simon Perez and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu and is expected to deliver a keynote speech in Jerusalem. Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr. Zeman said the Czech Republic was Israel’s strongest ally in the EU and suggested moving the Czech Republic’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The idea caused outrage among Palestinian leaders and evoked widespread criticism of the president on the home front. The Czech Foreign Ministry promptly issued a public statement reiterating its support for the Middle-East peace process.
Over 100 Romanies joined a Roma Pride march through the centre of Prague on Sunday afternoon. The event was intended to address widespread prejudice against the Roma minority and draw attention to the problems they face. Prague is also hosting an exhibition documenting Romany history and culture, a seminar on hip hop and Roma Pride day should culminate with a mass and concert. Similar events are taking place in 13 other European cities.
The last remaining 38 Czech soldiers serving at the training base in Wardak province, Afghanistan returned home on Saturday. The Military Advisory Team of the Czech Task Force served in Wardak Province for six months - from April to October 2013. Its primary mission was to train and assist a battalion of the Afghan National Army in operational planning and combat use of its units. The effort was focused on improving the unit’s combat capabilities and ability to lead professional operations without support from the coalition forces. In the course of those six months the team faced over 500 insurgent attacks and breaches of security.
The ANO party of business tycoon Andřej Babiš is forging ahead of its rivals in popularity polls just three weeks before the country’s general elections. According to a poll conducted by TNS Aisa for Czech Television ANO would come in second with 13 percent of the vote after the Social Democrats who look set to gain 29 percent. The Communist Party would place third with 11 percent, and the centre-right TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats would get 9.5 and 8.5 percent respectively. The Christian Democrats also stand a chance of winning seats with 6.5 percent of the vote.
Police are investigating the death of a motorbike rider after a shootout in Šumperk where motorbike riders have a home base. According to the ctk news agency motorbike riders from central Europe had congregated in the area for their annual meeting when a fight broke out in the late night hours. A foreign national was found shot and two other men were taken to hospital with serious injuries. One of them was shot in the stomach and had to undergo emergency surgery.
František Štastka, a Czech bartender from New York, has won the International Best Pilsner Urquell Bartender competition. The competition took place at this year’s Pilsner Fest on October 5, the day on which the first Pilsner batch was brewed in 1842. Tomáš Hrnčíř from the Czech Republic came second and Giacomo Fogli from Italy came third. The twenty best bartenders (18 men and 2 women) qualified for the finals with their exceptional knowledge of Pilsner Urquell lager, its specialised brewing process and history. The contestants also proved their practical skills in proper beer care, proper beer serving, and appropriate presentation of the Pilsen original.
The two Czech tennis hopefuls Tomáš Berdych and Petra Kvitová were both knocked out in the semi-finals of the China Open on Saturday. Tomáš Berdych retired with a back injury during his match against Rafael Nadal, handing the 27-year-old Spaniard an easy passage to Sunday's final. Meanwhile Jelena Jankovic beat Petra Kvitová 2:1.
President Miloš Zeman’s proposal to move the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has evoked widespread criticism in the Czech Republic. The president made the suggestion in an interview for the daily Jediot Achronot ahead of a two-day visit to Israel, saying that he would try to get the Czech government to consider the idea. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok immediately distanced himself from the notion, saying his cabinet had no intention of debating it and noting that the president’s statement could temporarily worsen relations with the Arab world.
The Czech Foreign Ministry issued a public statement on Saturday reiterating the country’s support for the Middle East peace process. Prague supports the two-state solution as the only possible means for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security. We firmly believe that through direct peace negotiations the parties will come to an agreement on all disputable issues, including security, borders, Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem, the ministry said. The statement came just hours after Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat voiced a strong protest against President Zeman’s proposal saying it undermined the Middle East peace process and thwarted efforts made so far to reach agreement.
Greenpeace activists in Prague on Saturday staged an event in support of colleagues who are currently behind bars in Russia after protesting at an Arctic oil rig. Greenpeace is collecting signatures on a petition for their release and has urged supporters to write to the Russian embassy and send messages to the detained activists. On September 18, the environmental organization's icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise, approached the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea, owned by a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, and its activists tried to scale the platform in protest against drilling in the Arctic. Russian authorities detained all 30 members of the ship’s multinational crew, comprising citizens of 19 countries, including Argentina, Finland, Sweden, UK, Ukraine and the US. Courts in Murmansk have ordered the activists to be kept in custody until November 24.