The Czech Republic is giving Bulgaria financial aid to help the country deal with a wave of Syrian refugees. Outgoing Interior Minister Martin Pecina signed an agreement to that effect with his Bulgarian counterpart Cvetelin Jovchev in Sofia on Monday. The 25 million crowns are to be used for the construction of new refugee centers and logistics. The Rusnok cabinet approved the aid package in November along with an aid package for Turkey which has already received 500.000 euro for the same purpose.
President Miloš Zeman, made clear in his regular broadcast Hovory z Lán on Sunday he will not boycott next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, unlike, for example, his German counterpart Joachim Gauck. Mr Zeman did say he was prepared, while there, to voice his views on human rights. A number of world figures are refusing to attend the Olympics over legislation in Russia discriminating gays and lesbians. Mr Zeman said in the broadcast that sexual orientation was a personal matter in which politics should have no part, which he could say at a press conference there. Mr Zeman will travel to Russia for two days to show support for the Czech Olympic team. According to the Czech News Agency, the president will also attend a reception of heads-of-state to be held by Russian President Vladimir Putin together with the country’s sports minister.
The prices of goods and services rose in November by 1.1 percent year-on-year after four months of steady numbers. The rise is presumably related to intervention by the Czech national bank aimed at weakening the Czech crown to improve conditions for export and spur consumer spending at home. The steps were introduced in the first week of November. Foodstuffs including dairy products, non-alcoholic beverages and vegetables as potatoes saw the highest price increases.
Interior Minister Martin Pecina on Monday launched administrative proceedings to determine who – of the country’s two police presidents – will lead the force. The move follows the minister’s reinstatement of Petr Lessý after he was cleared of criminal charges. But the current president, Martin Červíček, has been of no mind to step down after serving in the post for a year-and-a-half. President Miloš Zeman criticised the outgoing interior minister for steps leading up to the situation, saying the matter should be resolved once a new minister is named – expected during the first half or so of January – if the three parties negotiating on the new government agree on a final deal.
Three people this year received the Michal Velíšek Prize awarded to those who display courage and help others, often in dire situations. The three - Lukáš Voborník, Petr Uchytil and Jiří Němec - saved a motorist and her two-year-old daughter from a burning car in March of this year. The driver was trapped behind the wheel even as the motor and the front dashboard of the car burned. The three managed to pull both passengers to safety; the fire eventually blazed to a height of around four metres, according to reports The Michal Velíšek Prize is named after an editor at TV Nova was shot and killed in Prague in 2006 while defending a stranger from an aggressor.
Ústí nad Labem’s regional court sentenced a gang of six on Monday for the theft of valuable paintings by leading 20th century avant garde painter Emil Filla. The four oil paintings, dating back to the 1940s and worth an estimated 66 million crowns, were stolen around mid-November. One of them, estimated at four million, was sold to a buyer for a quarter of a million crowns. According to the police, the theft was not commissioned. The highest sentence received in the case was 12 years for Vojtěch Hlouška, who also committed other thefts.
A Romany boys’ choir, including an eight-year-old boy, was accosted by a group of five youths on Friday, seeing punches thrown, kicking and bullying. Respected performer Ida Kelarová, the choir leader, revealed the information; but, she said, the attack was not racially-motivated. The police are searching for the group of five; the youths could be charged with disorderly conduct. None of the boys needed medical treatment, suffering only bruises or scratches; the choir had been due to perform at the Wannieck Gallery in Brno.
Closely Watched Trains, director Jiří Menzel’s masterwork which won the 1967 Best Foreign Language Oscar, will be digitally restored in time for the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival next year. The decision was announced on Monday by festival organisers together with representatives of the National Film Archive. The film is one of the best-known to come out of the Czech New Wave in the 1960s. It was based on a book of same name by Bohumil Hrabal and starred a young Václav Neckář in the lead role.
Karel Schwarzenberg was reelected leader of TOP 09 at the party’s conference in Prague on Sunday. He received 160 votes from an overall 173 delegates present. In his address to the conference Mr. Schwarzenberg said that, despite having been relegated to opposition benches, the party was in a good starting position to fulfill its ambitions. He said its main task now was to work for the good of the country and defend parliamentary democracy. Deputy chair Miroslav Kalousek, who likewise defended his position in the party leadership, echoes these sentiments, warning against Andrej Babis’s ANO party which he said presented an extreme corruption risk in view of its leaders business activities and ambitions.