Over the coming days, 100 soldiers from the Czech Army will take control of a dangerous munitions site near Zlín which was partially destroyed by a massive explosion, in which two people are feared to have died. The soldiers are to fully seal-off the site ahead of ahead of a visit by the prime minister at the weekend. Some 15,000 tonnes of munitions, according to estimates, are still in the vicinity and random explosions make conditions in the area extremely volatile and unsafe. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said his ministry was prepared to help firms which operated at the depot with the relocation of ammunition to a safer site.
The Czech government has outlined the core parametres of its kurzarbeit plan, aimed at helping firms and employees hit hard, for example, by EU-Russian sanctions or by a natural disaster. Under the plan, employees in times of difficulty could receive 70 percent of their regular wages, with 20 percent being paid from the state budget and 50 percent being paid by the employer. Each application by companies would be assessed and approved by the cabinet.
Almost one hundred events will mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which saw communism begin to fall in Czechoslovakia on November 17th, 1989. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, at a press conference on Monday, stressed that the anniversary was of major importance not least because of the non-violent nature of events in the Velvet Revolution - a peaceful transition which he said was rare today and had won the country respect. One of the most anticipated events around the time of the 25th anniversary will be the unveiling of a bust of late former president Václav Havel in Washington. Mr Havel went from being a dissident to becoming Czechoslovakia’s first democratically-elected president after 1989. A conference will be held in Washington to discuss Mr Havel’s legacy; it will be attended, among others, by the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.
Experts from the Institute of the Czech Language of the Academy of Sciences have weighed in on the president’s use of vulgarisms in an interview, with some suggesting Mr Zeman opted for the lewdest possible translation of the name of the political band Pussy Riot. Petr Kaderka, the head of the linguistics department at the Institute of the Czech Language, pointed out that a well-known dictionary's first listing was a far tamer definition of the word meaning “cat”. The head of the institute, Karel Oliva, expressed the view that a public apology by the president was in order, the Czech News Agency reported. Prague Castle has downplayed the incident: spokesman Jiří Ovčáček suggested the president had used “explosive” terminology to intentionally lower himself to the level of his political opponents.
Monday saw further reaction to the president’s live broadcast a day earlier, in which he used unusually vulgar terminology to explain the name of activist group Pussy Riot, who he heavily criticised. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in a message that Mr Zeman was hurting the reputation of his office, and was setting a very poor example both at home and abroad. The head of TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, who was mentioned in the broadcast by the president, sent a barb of his own against Mr Zeman on Monday, suggesting that worse than bad language was the president’s approach to China on a recent visit. Sunday’s programme, the only time that a Czech head-of-state has used such language in a live interview, will be assessed by the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting.
The Environment Ministry has rejected plans for a controversial ski lift in Šumava National Park, which would have allowed access from the Czech side of Hraničník Peak to the commercial Hochficht ski hill in Austria. An Environment Impact Assessment study found all four variations of the project unacceptable. According to the ministry, the planned lift would have contravened Europe's nature protection system, Natura 2000, as well as Czech legislation for the protection of the environment. The planned lift consistently came under criticism from ecologists and part of the scientific community; it was supported by others, including former president Václav Klaus, and the environment minister in the last centre-right government.
Israel’s ambassador to Prague, Gary Koren, has said that Israel has no issue with the Czech Republic strengthening ties with countries in the Middle East such as Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia or Morocco, but made clear Israel was less than happy with a similar initiative to improve ties with Iran, the Czech News Agency reports. According to ČTK, Mr Koren said that for Israel, Iran represented a strategic challenge, if not a threat. The ambassador made the comments ahead of a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by the Czech Republic’s Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek. The Czech Republic, like other countries, has sought to improve economic ties with Iran, even as western nations continue to press the country on the issue of its controversial nuclear programme. In the past, Prague has been a staunch supporter of Israel.
Former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek on Monday criticised Czech President Miloš Zeman for vulgar language used by the head-of-state in a live programme broadcast on Sunday, Interviews from Lány. In the programme, broadcast by Czech Radio, the president explained – in explicit terms – the name of Pussy Riot, the activist group whose members were jailed in Russia, whom he likened to “deviants”. Mr Kalousek suggested that in his language the head-of-state was marring a legacy founded by Czechoslovakia’s first president, T.G. Masaryk and continued by post-1989 president Václav Havel. In the past, Mr Kalousek himself has not shied away from strong language on the Czech political scene.
The majority of Czech hospitals are lacking doctors, according to a report carried out by the Ministry of Health cited by Czech Television. The situation is most acute at regional hospitals, followed by municipal and district facilities. In terms of specialisation, internists are in shortest supply, followed by intensive care specialists, surgeons and gynecologists, the report said.
Czech Radio says it was not at fault over an interview with President Miloš Zeman in which the head of state used a number of vulgar expressions. A spokesperson for the station, Jiří Hošna, said it could not influence the language that reached listeners of Sunday evening’s broadcast in the occasional series Interviews from Lány as it had been live. Mr. Hošna said Czech Radio’s Jan Pokorný, who conducted the interview, had pointed out the inappropriateness of some of the bad language used by Mr. Zeman.