Hundreds of people joined the Roma Pride 2014 march leading from Prague’s Old Town Square through the historic city centre on Saturday afternoon. The event is a celebration of Romany culture and identity and aims to draw attention to the discrimination of Romanies in the Czech Republic, be it in the sphere of housing, education or on the job market. Similar Romany Pride marches are taking place in 15 European countries.
Dozens of music and theatre ensembles are performing at this year’s Mezi Ploty, or Within Fences, cultural festival at Prague's Bohnice psychiatric hospital. The annual festival which opens the doors of the city s main psychiatric hospital to the public aims raise awareness and understanding of mental illnesses, alcoholism and drug addiction and break the taboo surrounding these health problems. The festival is attended by the hospital’s leading psychiatrists who are giving lectures and taking questions from the public.
The Troja Bridge, which is part of the recently completed Blanka tunnel complex, opened to pedestrians on Saturday. Plans for the bridge changed radically in the course of its construction and its initial cost estimate of 450 million crowns reached the billion crown mark. Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček said at the bridges opening that while its construction had been plagued by problems architectonically the bridge was a work of art and a worthy gift to the city of Prague. The bridge will open to cars and public transport on Monday.
President Miloš Zeman has said he is deeply disappointed with the work of the Czech embassy in Kiev. The president told journalists on Saturday that he had voiced his reservations during a meeting with the Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek. Mr. Zeman said he did not believe that the Czech embassy in Kiev had dealt as it should have with the Volynhia Czechs and had therefore decided to hand over the list of 232 people who had sent him a plea for repatriation to the interior minister and would ask him to act on it.
The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitová secured a place in the final of the China Open, after beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-3 5-7 6-2 at the women's singles semi-final matches on Saturday. If she can win a second WTA tournament in a row the third-seed would move back to second place on the world ladder after a three year break. The 24-year-old appears to be in top form at the Peking tournament.
Fire fighters and police evacuated 300 guests and 20 staff members from Pyramid Hotel in Prague 6 after a fire broke out on the fifth floor on Saturday morning. No one was reported hurt. The fire is said to have broken out in a linen storage room. The guests have now been allowed to return and the cause of the fire is being investigated.
The Czech Interior Ministry will look into the situation of ethnic Czechs living in Ukraine and consider the necessity of organizing a broad repatriation, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told Czech Television following a meeting with President Milos Zeman on Friday. The head of state requested the meeting after receiving a plea for repatriation from 70 ethnic Czech families in Ukraine. The foreign minister recently travelled to the Zhytomyr region inhabited by Volynhia Czechs on a fact-finding mission and at the time ruled out a mass exodus saying the families were in no apparent danger and pointing to the fact that the way had been made easy for ethnic Czechs in Ukraine to move back to their old homeland since they would be granted temporary residence merely on the grounds of their Czech roots without having to prove they had resided in the Czech Republic for five years. The president’s chief foreign affairs advisor Hynek Kmonicek said a delegation from the Interior Ministry should assess the situation in Ukraine on the ground and decide on the scope of a possible repatriation and its criteria. Its proposal will then be discussed by the cabinet.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed regret over conflicting reports regarding the situation of ethnic Czechs in Ukraine. In a statement on its web page the ministry said it was in constant contact with the Czech expat community in the country, was monitoring its needs and was ready to provide assistance where needed. The statement came shortly after the Office of the President reported having received a request for repatriation from 70 ethnic Czech families with an appeal to President Zeman to assist their cause. A similar request was reportedly made by forty families in March. On a recent visit to Ukraine Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek dismissed claims that so many families wanted to re-locate. He said moreover that the ethnic Czechs were in no apparent danger and could use existing channels to repatriate if they wished to do so. The president is expected to address the matter at a press briefing on Monday.
President Miloš Zeman will appoint Karla Šlechtová regional development minister next Wednesday. Šlechtová, who was in charge of the department for drawing of EU subsidies at the Regional Development Ministry, confirmed the news after an hour-long meeting with the president on Friday. Her nomination by Andrej Babiš’ ANO party earlier this week was welcomed by the party’s coalition partners –the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats -who described her as a professional.
Pardubice University has counted the cost of last Tuesday’s hoax bomb threat putting the damage at two million crowns. The premises were evacuated for a full day and the university was closed to both students and staff. Construction work underway on its premises was also halted. This does not include the cost of an extensive police operation and measures such as re-directing traffic away from the street where the university is located. The police are now questioning students and staff to try and trace the caller.