President Miloš Zeman and the First Lady will meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his wife Olga for a traditional New Years’ lunch at Lány Chateau on January 1st, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told the ctk news agency. The head of state has invited the Speaker of the Lower House Jan Hamáček and the Speaker of the Senate Milan Štěch to attend a New Years’ lunch in a weeks’ time.
Work on clearing the Vrbětice munitions depot continues unabated through the New Year holidays in view of preparing the ground for the transport of undamaged munitions to a new site in mid-January. Some 150 soldiers are guarding the area and experts have asked locals in the vicinity to refrain from using fireworks on New Years’ Eve. No uncontrolled explosions have taken place at the site for several days now.
Hundreds of young Christians from around the world are in Prague for a five day ecumenical meeting of the Taizé Community initiated by Brother Roger at the end of the 1970s. Their meeting in Prague, from December 29 until January 2, is devoted to joint prayers, reflection and communion. The young Christians who have come to Prague are being hosted by local church communities in and around the Czech capital. The highlight of their stay will be a joint prayer in Prague’s historic St. Vitus Cathedral at 7pm on New Year’s Day.
The lower house of Parliament will meet more frequently for shorter periods in the coming year, according to a procedural amendment which is expected to facilitate the process of debating and approving new legislation, the ctk news agency reports. At present regular sessions take place once in six weeks, as of next year they will be held once in every three to four weeks. The first session of the lower house in 2015 has been scheduled for January 20th.
Shops around the country will close early on the last day of December. Smaller shops are due to close at around two pm while the big supermarket chains should remain open until 5pm. Globus, Kaufland and Tesco alone will remain open until 6pm. Although the Czech Republic has one of the most liberal policies are regards opening hours practically all the shops will be closed on January 1st.
Prague’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display is to take place at 6pm on January 1st. It should last for ten minutes and will be divided into five thematic parts, one of them symbolizing the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism twenty-five years ago. Thousands of people are expected to turn up for the display, congregating on Prague’s bridges and the banks of the Vltava River. The fireworks display was rescheduled from midnight to 6pm so that it could be enjoyed by children.
Traffic police have warned drivers about restrictions in the city center on New Year’s Day in connection with the fireworks display scheduled for 6pm. Due to the vast number of people who are expected to turn up for the event the police will stop traffic along the Edvard Beneš embankment, the Smetana embankment and the Čechov, Mánes and Štefanik bridges for the duration of the event. Traffic along Letná plain where the fireworks display is taking place will also be stopped –including public transport.
Air pollution in the Moravia-Silesia region has worsened, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute reported. The amount of dust particles in the air now twice exceeds permitted levels at all monitoring stations in the region. Moravia and Silesia are one of Europe’s most polluted regions due to heavy industry located on both sides of the Czech-Polish border. Air pollution is a problem especially in the winter months, when the situation is aggravated by coal heating.
Car accidents in the Czech Republic claimed 629 lives in the course of last year, according to police statistics released on Tuesday. The number of victims of car accidents went up by 45 compared to the previous year, but it is still the second lowest annual death toll on Czech roads since police began keeping record in 1961. The number had been steadily decreasing since 2007, when there were 1,123 victims.
Heavy snow and ice continues to complicate traffic around the country. Meteorologists have issued an ice warning for the afternoon and night hours with low visibility in places. Although maintenance crews have been working around the clock there may be snow drifts and ice on less frequented roads. Police have warned drivers heading for the mountain regions to exercise extreme caution and not to head out without winter tires and chains. Thousands of people have been heading for the country’s ski resorts for the winter holidays.