The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that the Czech state did not violate the rights of two mothers who complained that Czech legislation did not allow them to give birth in the home with the assistance of a midwife. The court took into consideration, in particular, that there was no European consensus on whether or not to allow home births, and that this question involved the allocation of financial resources, for example for an adequate emergency system for home births. In recent years there has been growing pressure on the Czech authorities to enable home births and some maternity hospitals now offer the possibility for mothers to give birth at the hospital with the help of a midwife and doctors on standby should the need arise.
During a question-and-answer session in the lower house on Thursday Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka rejected President Zeman’s suggestion that Ukraine should undergo “Finlandization” meaning that it should have a position analogous to that of Finland in the Soviet era, when it retained its sovereignty but subordinated its policies to those of its powerful neighbour. The prime minister said he considered it unfortunate to bring back a term linked to the Cold War era and stressed that Ukraine alone should decide its future position. The prime minister also expressed objections to the way that the president’s spokesman reported on Wednesday’s meeting between himself and President Miloš Zeman which suggested that there were no discrepancies between them on foreign policy matters.
President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka have agreed to coordinate the country’s foreign policy. After their meeting on Wednesday night, the officials said they would meet with the lower house and the Senate chairs and the foreign and defence ministers three times a year to discuss current affairs so that all officials maintain a single position. The agreement comes after President Zeman faced criticism over his statements on issues such as the Ukrainian crisis and Russia’s human rights record which critics said contradicted the official policy of the Czech government.
A two-day summit of central European presidents has called for the establishment of a European investment fund in support of large infrastructure projects. The Prague summit, which has brought together the heads of state of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia aims to spur debate on the development of transport infrastructure in central Europe and to devise a joint strategy for negotiations with the EU on the construction of new logistics networks after 2020. The visiting presidents will also attend the opening of an exhibition on the Danube-Odra-Elbe channel project which Czech President Miloš Zeman has long promoted. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is scheduled to meet with Austrian President Heinz Fischer on the side-lines of the summit.
Another 100 soldiers have arrived in Vrbětice, eastern Moravia to help contain the crisis at a munitions depot that was damaged by a powerful blast in mid-October. Uncontrolled explosions have been taking place at the site since, preventing the planned transfer of munitions untouched by the first explosion. Last week the government ordered another 500 soldiers to the site to deal with clean-up work and provide security. The clean-up operation is expected to last for months.
The Czech Embassy in Bratislava has confirmed receiving a suspicious envelope containing a white powder. The contents are being analyzed by experts. In recent weeks a number of Czech institutions have received similar envelopes. Two envelopes, sent from Sweden and Slovenia, were found to contain poison, others, such as the one sent to Prague Castle contained a harmless powder. Security has been increased at all public institutions and the case is being investigated in cooperation with the Czech Intelligence Service.
Astronomers are searching for the remains of a bright meteor which landed somewhere in the Zdiar region, in the eastern part of the country, at just after 5 pm on Tuesday. The meteor’s flight was captured on camera by two observation stations as well as a number of amateurs. Experts are calculating its trajectory and likely place of impact in the hope of finding it ahead of treasure hunters who would most likely sell it for money. Astronomers say a meteor of this size only lands in this part of the world once in around five years.
Police are investigating an escalator accident on the Prague metro as a possible case of reckless endangerment. In late November one of the escalators on the Mustek metro station unexpectedly went into reverse operation triggering a mass fall in which several people suffered injuries. Police spokesman Tomáš Hulan told the ctk news agency that parts of the mechanism had been handed over to experts for inspection. In the event of a technical problem the case would be shelved, but according to Hulan, the police have not ruled out the possibility of someone tampering with the escalator intentionally.
Forty cinemas around the country will offer the public a live transmission of a Czech Christmas staple – Jakub Jan Ryba’s Christmas Mass- performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague’s prestigious Rudlfinum Concert Hall. The concert will take place on December 20th and is completely sold out. A number of cameras backstage will also give cinemagoers a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes. A similar live transmission from the Rudolfinum in October of Antonin Dvořák’s From the New World symphony was a huge success.
A record 200,000 visitors are expected to visit Prague for the Christmas and New Year holidays, according to Prague City Tourism. There should be fewer visitors from Russia this year, but more tourists from Germany, Britain, Italy, China and South Korea. On the other hand, the number of Czechs visiting the Czech capital for the holiday season is expected to drop. Prague hosted over 5.8 million visitors in 2013, with 86 percent of them being foreign tourists. Recently Prague City Tourism launched a campaign to attract more Czech visitors to the capital.