The highest level three flood warnings were in force at 13 points and four regions across the Czech Republic on Saturday afternoon. The four worst hit regions are Plzeň, the Karlovy Vary region, Central Bohemia and the Ústí region. Overall, water levels are mostly falling at the upper reaches of rivers and climbing downriver.
The situation of a reservoir around 20 kilometres outside the western city of Plzeň is being closely watched. There, water levels have reached critical levels with authorities having to evacuate as much water out of the reservoir as entering it. There is a risk that even more water will have to be released causing a surge in rivers already at danger levels downstream. People were evacuated from holiday homes on the Berounka river at Černošice, west of Prague, late on Friday. A level two flood warning is expected to be declared for the capital, Prague, on Saturday as the Vltava continues to rise.
Social Democrats are meeting in four Czech regions on Saturday to elect local leaders and delegates to a party congress in March that will select a new party leader. Meetings are taking place in the Moravia and Silesia, Zlín, Plzeň and Ústí regions. The main contenders for the March leadership contest are acting party leader and former finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the regional head of south Moravia, Michal Hašek. Former interior minister Martin Pecina announced on Saturday he would not stand in the leadership contest and gave his backing to Michal Hašek.
Former party leader and prime minister Jiří Paroubek stepped down after elections to the lower house of parliament at the end of May when results fell well short of expectations and the party was not able to take the lead in forming a coalition.
Czechs gathered at Prague’s Olšanský cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to student Jan Palach who set fire to himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of 1968 and reversal of the reforms that sparked it. Jan Palach made his protest on January 16, 1969, and died of his injuries three days later. His funeral in Prague a week later was a mass demonstration against the invasion and the ‘normalisation’ that followed. Palach’s remains were taken from the Prague cemetery in 1973 by authorities and moved to his home village outside Mělnik, north of Prague. They were returned to Prague in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime.
Heads of the national sports association Sokol have recommended that an outside investor be brought into troubled state lottery company Sazka. Saturday’s recommendation from the second biggest shareholder in the lottery company follows a similar stand taken earlier in the week by the biggest shareholder, the Czech Association for Physical Education. Sazka is in serious financial problems unable to pay the debt and interest payments on the former Sazka arena, now O2 arena, built for the 2004 World Ice Hockey Championships. The company’s rating was downgraded to ‘D’, or default risk, by international ratings agency Standard and Poors during the week. Betting company Synot and financial group Penta have offered to invest in Sazka in return for a stake in the company.
A Czech union has called for the government to take immediate steps to find out the origin of foodstuffs and clearly labelled packaging. The call from the Union for Farm Workers and Nutritionists follows criticism on Friday that German authorities failed to fully communicate the real breadth of the dioxin scandal. The union also demanded stepped up checks on imported food.
A spokesman for the Czech veterinary administration said that despite repeated inquiries, German vets failed to provide the Czech authorities with information about exports of dioxin-contaminated products to the Czech Republic. German officials said on Friday that 4.5 tons of contaminated meat from Germany was sold on the Czech market at the end of December. Czech authorities also banned on Friday the sale of 200,000 eggs from Germany which lacked a precise designation of origin.
The Czech government has signalled that it will push through a proposal to cut the prices paid and reimbursement offered for medical drugs. The government has suggested that a backbench member of parliament’s call to cut the prices paid for a range of drugs by 7.0 percent with a corresponding cut in the reimbursement paid by health insurers be supported. The proposal counts on costs of around a third of drugs whose prices have not undergone a price review by the State Institute for Drug Control. Eleven international drug companies have said that will start legal action against the Czech state for setting maximum prices for their products with around 20 more expected to join the action.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is to make a working visit to Israel and the Palestinian autonomous territory between January 22 and 24. The ongoing conflict in the region will be at the top of the agenda for talks. Relations between the Czech Republic and Israel have been close in the aftermath of communism. Mr. Schwarzenberg made a similar visit at the end of 2008 during his first stint as foreign minister. His successor in the post, Jan Kohout, visited the region at the end of 2009. Current Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman visited Prague in 2009.
Hundreds of people, along with the country’s top officials, came to the Czech Senate on Friday to pay their last respects to the late Senator Jiří Dienstbier, former dissident and Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist foreign minister, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 73. The ceremony was attended by President Václav Klaus, former president Václav Havel, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Prague Archibishop Dominik Duka, former German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, among others. Hundreds of people signed condolence books for the late Jiří Deinstbier, who in the early 1990s became a symbol of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Czech tennis player Lukáš Dlouhý has won the doubles title in Sydney together with partner Paul Hanley. They beat top seeded US pairing Mike and Bob Bryan 6:7, 6:3 and took the match tie breaker 10:5. The Sydney international triumph makes it a back to back win for the Czech-Australian pairing after taking the Brisbane doubles title a week earlier. They will now be fancied to do well in the first grand slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.
Two years after hosting the world cross country championship, top level skiing returned to the northern city of Liberec on Saturday and Sunday. The World Cup cross country men’s and women’s freestyle sprint events were won by Norwegian Ola Vigen Hattestad and US skier Kikkan Randall. Czech Dušan Kožíšek took third place in the men’s race. Czechs Lukáš Bauer and Martin Jakš were not not taking part following their recent involvement in the Tour de Ski competition.
Occasional showers giving way to brighter weather on Sunday and Monday. Daytime highs should range between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.