Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has offered condolences to Turkey in the wake of the Reina nightclub terror attack that left 39 dead and 69 injured. A terrible start to 2017 for Istanbul, the minister wrote on his Twitter account. My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this terrible crime. The Foreign Ministry has said it has no information as yet as to whether Czech nationals may have been among those killed or injured in the attack. According to Turkish sources at least 16 foreigners were killed in the attack. The Foreign Ministry has advised Czechs in Istanbul to exercise extreme caution.
Doctors have concluded that the Polish national who made a bomb threat on a Polish flight from Spain to Warsaw was unbalanced and he is in the care of psychiatrists. The incident forced an emergency landing in Prague on Friday evening. The plane, operated by the Polish company Enter Air, was carrying 162 passengers and six crew. No one was hurt in the incident.
A 12-year-old girl from the Czech Republic died and her 11-year-old cousin is fighting for her life after they were struck by a car in a “hit and run” in Manchester on Saturday night. A nationwide search is on for the driver. The young girls were hit coming out of a shop, with their parents nearby, local media reported. The family moved to Great Britain eight years ago.
Several thousand people celebrated the New Year in the streets of Prague, attending a concert on Old Town Square or congregating on Wenceslas Square for a street party. Only minor incidents were reported and the celebrations took place among heightened security. The traditional fireworks display celebrating the arrival of the New Year will take place at 6pm on Sunday, January 1st. A few years ago the event –traditionally held at midnight- was rescheduled so that younger children would be able to enjoy the sight with their parents. The fireworks are set off from the Metronome at Letna and people congregate on the opposite bank of the Vltava River to watch the show.
Several thousand Czechs and Slovaks traditionally celebrated the arrival of the New Year together at Velka Javorina in the Carpathian mountain range on the Czech-Slovak border. The tradition started in 1992 in protest against the planned division of the country. This time the New Year celebrations were attended by a record five thousand people. They exchanged news, enjoyed a feast of roasted meat and plum brandy and ended the event by singing the Czechoslovak national anthem. People have lived here together for centuries, we belong together, we need one another, the fact that politicians have drawn a border here makes no difference, Martin Beňatinský, mayor of Lubina,a small village on the Slovak side of the border, told news site Novinky.cz.
The new year will bring a series of legislative changes, among them a higher minimal wage, tax advantages for families with children, a tougher environment law which will enable the authorities to check what people are burning in their stoves, higher wages for health workers and higher pensions. The year will also see the introduction of a tougher new smoking law in May, the second and third phase of the law on electronic cash registers and very likely a tougher law on conflict of interest. The fate of the latter remains uncertain since it was vetoed by President Zeman on the grounds that some parts of it are in violation of the constitutional order. Its advocates in the lower house will try to override the president’s veto in January.
Czechs are preparing to mark the 40th anniversary of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto this year. The text, spearheaded by dissidents such as Vaclav Havel, criticized the communist regime for failing to implement human rights provisions of agreements it itself had signed. They included the Czechoslovak Constitution, the so-called Helsinki Accords on human rights and United Nations conventions on political, civil, economic, and cultural rights. The manifesto was signed by close to 2,000 people. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes is preparing a series of exhibitions starting in January and signatories of the manifesto are to mark the anniversary at a remembrance meeting at Prague’s Lucerna Palace. An exhibition will also focus on Charter 77 spokespeople among them former foreign minister Jiri Hajek, playwright Vaclav Havel and philosopher Jan Patocka.
Monday should bring clear to partly cloudy skies with snow showers around the country and day temps between -1 and 3 degrees Celsius.