With further rain expected, three rivers broke their banks at points on Friday, increasing concern over the threat of large-scale flooding in parts of the country. As water levels pass critical points on the Sázava, Dyje, and Jihlava Rivers, authorities in Prague have closed floodgates as a preventative measure, though the capital is not presently expected to be at serious risk of flooding. Above-average water levels were reported in places on Friday, however no risk to life or property was reported and by evening the levels of some rivers were falling. The Czech Republic was hit by devastating floods in 2002 which wreaked hundreds of millions of crowns in damages.
Speaking in Prague at the European Summit of Regions and Cities, the President of the European Commission José Barroso announced on Friday that new EU member states, the Czech Republic among them, will be able to make early use of more than 7.5 billion EUR, or roughly 210 billion Czech crowns. The European Commission has decided to free up money from European funds set to expire in 2013 as a means of combating the persisting economic crisis. The money is primarily recommended for easing the strain on small and medium-sized enterprises and for projects supporting the environment and sustainable resources. 350 million EUR from EU funds remains available to the Czech Republic until the end of the year.
The Czech daily Hospodařské noviny has reported that former advisor to Bill Clinton, Lee Feinstein has been tapped to become the new US ambassador to the Czech Republic. The 50-year-old has previously also served as top security advisor to Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign and as a State Department functionary under Madeleine Albright, where he dealt with issues such as missile defence, among others. Prior to official appointment, nominees for ambassadorships must be approved by the US Senate and certified by the guest nation.
The Polish parliament on Friday honoured Polish accountant Ryszard Siwiec, who set himself on fire in 1968 in protest of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in the summer of that year. Addressing the lower house of parliament, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk praised the deed as a defining sacrifice of the generation and the parliamentary distinction as a testament to the importance of Polish-Czech-Slovak relations.
Siwiec, a former Home Army officer and father of five, set himself alight during a harvest festival on September 8, 1968, in front of roughly 100,000 onlookers. Several similar self-immolation protests would follow, including that of Jan Palach.
A young mother who is attempting to regain the baby daughter she left in a “babybox” in January will not yet have the child returned to her, authorities in the woman’s town of Havířov said on Friday. The case was highly publicised as the first of its kind in the country and the return of the child has been complicated by the fact that the baby was found to have previously suffered a broken arm, a fact that the police are currently investigating. Whether Barbora is returned to her single mother will hinge on the results of that case and on an expert determination the woman’s parenting skills. The mother is herself currently in the care of her boyfriend’s mother and was found to be lacking a suitable home environment for the child.
15 babies have been left in “babyboxes” since the system was introduced in the Czech Republic in 2005. The hatches are intended as a way for parents in dire straits to anonymously and legally relinquish a small child to foster care.
Considered one of the most outstanding works of 20th century European surrealism, the painting Spící, or Sleeping, made by Czech artist Toyen in 1938 is set to go on sale on March 22 when it returns to the Czech Republic after 60 years abroad. Bidding will begin at the highest starting price ever asked for a work of art in the country, 20 million crowns, or nearly 750,000 EUR.
Marie Čermínová, better known by her pseudonym Toyen, was an avant-garde painter, illustrator and notorious tomboy who moved to Paris before the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948 and died there in 1980. Her last work to be auctioned fetched 5.5 million crowns.
The general slump in the transportation industry has not bypassed Prague’s Ruzyně airport, which has recorded a year-on-year decrease in passengers of 14% for January. Along with the reduction in travellers, the density of traffic has also dropped off by 10%, with less than 12.000 airplanes departing from the airport in January. Cargo transportation also has plunged by more than 25%. The reduced traffic figures are occurring at a time when the state is seeking to sell the company to a strategic investor, a transaction that could bring the Czech Republic as much as 100 billion crowns.
The White House confirmed on Friday that US President Barack Obama would be visiting the Czech Republic on April 4-5. Mr Obama will visit Prague during an informal summit of European leaders to discuss strengthening EU-US ties. A week ago, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek suggested that Mr Obama would make his ‘European speech of the year’ in the Czech capital. The White House has yet to unveil Mr Obama’s programme for the trip. The US president will be accompanied by his wife Michelle on his visit to Prague, the White House has announced.
The STEM polling agency has released the results of a poll showing that three out of four Czechs see a solidified EU defence policy as more important than security cooperation with the United States. The results of the poll directly relate to public opinion surveys regarding the proposed building of a US radar base in the country. According to those polls, only 28 percent of Czech citizens are in favour of the presence of such an installation on Czech soil.
Conditions over the weekend are expected to remain largely overcast at 6 to 10 degrees Celsius with occasional showers and heavier precipitation later Friday in the south and east.