A forum on anti-Semitism opened in Prague on Monday as part of two days of remembrance events marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The forum Let My People Live, organized by the European Jewish Congress, is addressing the danger of growing anti-Semitism, the role of the media in shaping public opinion, the role of politicians in combating xenophobia and legislative measures against intolerance. In the evening there will be a gala reception at Prague’s Municipal House. On Tuesday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a commemorative ceremony will be held at the site of the Terzin ghetto, north of Prague. The commemorative events in the Czech Republic will be attended by around 500 foreign guests including two presidents, around thirty heads of parliament and cultural figures.
Heavy snowfall at the weekend saw pyrotechnics experts sets aside work at the damaged Vrbětice munitions plant in Moravia until the weather improves. A police spokesman said that plans for all munitions to be transferred to a new site by the end of January remained on track, barring further weather complications. The site saw a massive explosion in October last year which claimed two lives. Additional uncontrolled explosions followed and the site has since been guarded by the military to prevent injury or further deaths.
The country’s Supreme Court has upheld an earlier ruling which classified a machete attack by four Romany assailants in a bar in Nový Bor as attempted murder. Three people were injured in the attack in 2011, with one man almost dying, and the four received sentences ranging from five to 17.5 years in jail. Afterwards, the incident sparked anti-Roma protests in northern Bohemia. The decision by the Supreme Court was reached in December but only made public now.
President Miloš Zeman as well as a number of prominent Czech politicians commented the results of the Greek election on Monday, won by leftist-party SYRIZA, which is aiming for austerity measures in place to be softened. The president’s spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, said Mr Zeman had no intention of interfering in Greece’s internal affairs, but relayed the president’s comment that “debts should be repaid”. Czech right-wing parties called SYRIZA’s promises “unfeasible”; deputy chairman and MEP for the Civic Democrats, Jan Zahradil, maintained that the Greek leftist party had won as a consequence of the radicalisation of Greek society which he said stemmed from strict austerity measures imposed by the Euro zone.
The head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, has said that Jews in Europe are close to a new exodus as they faced both economic pressure in some countries and threats from radical Islam. Mr Kantor made the statement ahead of an international forum on the Holocaust which began in Prague on Monday. The head of the EJC recalled violence last year and this - the recent attack at a kosher grocery store in Paris following the attacks at Charlie Hebdo – and called on the European government to do more to improve security for Jews. Mr Kantor is a Russian billionaire, allegedly with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. He did not answer questions concerning Moscow´s policy towards Ukraine on Monday, the Czech News Agency reported, but called Mr Putin a great friend to the Russian Jewish community.
Olemic Thommessen, the speaker of parliament in Norway on a visit to the Czech Republic, declined on Monday to comment on a high-profile case involving a Czech mother, Eva Michaláková, living in Norway whose children were placed in foster homes. The two boys - now aged six and nine - are thought to have been taken from their mother and father over alleged sexual abuse; but the Norwegian authorities have refused to make the information public to protect the children’s privacy. Mr Thommessen is to meet with the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, when it is expected the case will be discussed.
January 26 marks two years to the day since Miloš Zeman’s triumph over rival candidate Karel Schwarzenberg in the country’s first direct presidential elections, the Czech News Agency noted on Monday. In the second-round in the election in 2013, Mr Zeman secured some 55 percent of the vote (or some 500 thousand more votes) in the run-off against the former foreign minister. Later on the day, the president-elect pledged to represent all Czechs, not just those who cast their ballot for him, but critics charge Mr Zeman has since pursued a style of leadership which has been largely divisive. Others suggest divisions have remained since the election, with the president in the past claiming that supporters of Karel Schwarzenberg had still not come to terms with his defeat.
Almost 50 percent of Czechs are satisfied with the state of the Czech health care sector, a new poll conducted by the CVVM agency has revealed. The number is the highest since 2002. According to the polling firm, the results may reflect the recalling of a fairly unpopular doctors’ fee of 30 crowns per visit. According to the poll 18 percent remain unsatisfied with the state of Czech healthcare. According to the survey, 73 percent of those queried see as most problematic issues in public financing, followed by the functioning of Czech insurance companies, and issues in the sale of medicines.
The mountain rescue service in Jeseníky Mountains has called a third degree avalanche alert on a five point scale. Relatively mild temperatures, strong winds and up to thirty centimetres of fresh snow over the weekend are reported to have created a highly unstable layer of snow on many slopes. Skiers have been warned not to take risks or stray from marked trails.
Czech men’s No. 1 tennis player Tomáš Berdcyh faces Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday looking to put the brakes on a less than lofty record against the star Spanish player: 17 loses in their last 17 match-ups. If Nadal wins their 18th match, he will set a new record in the Open era dating back to 1968. Since then, no player has beaten the same opponent 18 times in a row.
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