Czech politicians have paid tribute to Senator Jiří Dienstbier, who died in on Saturday at the age of 73. The internet news website idnes, has reported that while many were aware Mr Dienstbier had been ill for some time, they were nevertheless caught off guard by his rapid decline. Among the first to react on Saturday were former president Václav Havel, current Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and the acting head of the Social Democratic Party, Bohuslav Sobotka. All praised Mr Dienstbier as a major force in Czech politics, with Mssrs. Havel and Schwarzenberg saying he had been a close friend.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said he held the senator in high regard for his actions under the former regime and for setting the course for a new foreign policy after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. President Václav Klaus called him a key figure in the events of November 1989 and said he respected him despite their differences on numerous issues. The president also praised Mr Dienstbier as a true gentleman and said the Czech political scene would be poorer without him.
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle offered written condolences, saying he had been badly shaken by the news of Mr Dienstbier’s death. In his words, the Czech Republic and Europe had lost a great democrat as well as a dedicated defender of human rights.
The governor of south Moravia Michal Hašek, a candidate to head the Social Democrats, has told news website idnes that the party will have to build up its coalition potential, if it is to be successful in the future. He suggested it was not possible to continue with an antagonistic approach that had been used in the past. Many pundits attribute the Social Democrats weak victory in the national election last year, which sidelined them from forming the next government, to the combative style of its former leader Jiří Paroubek.
Asked whether the Communist Party was a viable coalition partner, Mr Hašek said it was not with regards to its current makeup and policies. On Saturday, the governor received backing from a majority of Prague delegates over fellow candidate and acting party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. The next Social Democrat chairman will be decided at the party’s leadership conference in March.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said he wants to meet with Interior Minister Radek John to discuss steps on choosing the new police president. Speaking during a TV debate programme on Sunday he indicated he would have done so already had the minister not been ill. Last week Mr Nečas blasted Mr John’s plans for a ten-member committee to choose a successor to Oldřich Martinů who stepped down at the end of December; he called it ridiculous for the future police chief to be chosen by those lower down in the hierarchy. The prime minister suggested on Sunday it would be better if Mr John handpicked a candidate he backed fully, rather than play bad political theatre. Mr Nečas is not only unhappy with the committee itself, but the limited time candidates for the post would have to prepare – effectively three days.
Transport Minister Vít Bárta, the founder of the Czech Republic’s largest security agency ABL, has said the company will sell its detective services division within a matter of weeks. In his view, the move will calm ties between the Civic Democrats and his own party Public Affairs within the coalition government. The Civic Democrats have expressed growing concern over ABL’s influence within the police force, which is led by interior minister and Public Affairs head Radek John. Mr Bárta sold his original 50 percent share in ABL to his brother and sister-in-law upon joining the government. Last year it was revealed that in the past ABL had surveyed a number of Czech politicians including a Prague district mayor.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that on Monday he will announce the name of new environment minister - to succeed Pavel Drobil who stepped down in connection with a recent corruption scandal. The prime minister refused to reveal any details other than the fact the person is a member of the Civic Democratic Party. The mayor of Prague 6, Tomáš Chalupa, fits that bill and has consistently been mentioned as the most likely candidate. A source told the Czech news agency, ČTK, that all indications were that he will get the job. Mr Chalupa, who is 36, has been a district mayor since 2002.
An extreme flood alert remains in effect for the Plzeň region although levels on the Radbuza River declined somewhat on Saturday evening. Specialists expect levels may again rise on Sunday with temperatures above zero leading to more melting snow.
Meanwhile, the danger of some 50 homes being flooded on the Berounka River on Saturday has passed. Large ice floes that had blocked sections broke away early in the evening, with rising water falling back to normal levels at around midnight, experts said.
A new edition of A Memoir: My Film Century (Paměti aneb Moje filmové století) – written by Czech filmmaking legend Otakar Vávra – is being published on the occasion of the director’s 100th birthday. Mr Vávra, who began his career in early sound film in Czechoslovakia, will turn one hundred on February 28th. The book, recalling the director’s work with the people like writer Karel Čapek, actors Hugo Haas or Lída Baarova, as well as newer filmmakers, features additional new material co-written by Marie Formáčková. Mr Vávra’s best-known films include Witches’ Hammer (1970) and Jan Amos Comenius (1983).
A 47-year-old skier was seriously injured at the Zadov ski centre in Šumava on Saturday when he hit a column hoisting snowmaking machinery. The accident took place on a downhill run known as ‘Kobyla’; the man suffered injury to his spine and five broken ribs and had to be sedated because of the pain as he was brought down the hill and taken to hospital. He remains in intensive care. A spokeswoman for the Czech Mountain Rescue Service said that the column had been properly covered by safety material but that the skier, because of his speed, had torn straight through it. Another member of the Mountain Rescue Service said the accident would never have happened if the skier had respected safety rules.
Cross-country skier Lukáš Bauer has clinched the bronze medal in this year’s Tour de Ski, coming first in the final race – the men’s 10 kilometre – in Val de Fiemme on Sunday. His time was 30 minutes 28.3 seconds. The final stage win moved him from tenth to third spot in the overall standings. Fellow Czech racer Martin Jakš finished eighth overall in the Tour. Lukáš Bauer won the gold last year; this time the top medal was won by Swiss racer Dario Cologna.
Milan Hejduk scored twice and David Kočí scored his first of the season for the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday but it wasn’t enough for their team to overcome the New York Islanders. The final score was 3:4 in overtime. In other action, Martin Havlát had a goal and an assist for Minnesota who beat Pittsburgh 4:0.
New snowfall is expected at the beginning of the week, with a chance of rain in places. Daytime temperatures should reach highs between 0 and 2 degrees Celsius.