The Czech Foreign Ministry says the seizure of the country’s artwork by an Austrian court as compensation for damages is a breach of international law. In a statement released Wednesday the ministry contended that the seizure was inconsistent with generally accepted principles of international law regarding the jurisdictional immunity of states and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Viennese court seized three modernist paintings owned by the Czech state to compensate for damages claimed by the Swiss company Diag Human, which demands over 500 million US dollars from the Czech state for allegedly harming its blood plasma business in the country in the 1990s. In 2008, a court of arbitration ruled in favour of the firm but Czech authorities say the decision has not yet come into force.
Transport Minister Radek Šmerda, who replaced embattled Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta in April, has dismissed one of the deputies appointed by his predecessor, the daily Lidové Noviny reports. The paper sees the move as an indication that the new transport minister no longer counts on Mr Bárta returning to the post, which he said he would take up only until Bárta cleared his name of corruption allegations. According to Lidové Noviny, deputy minister Jana Kalvodová was dismissed in order to lessen the former minister’s influence after a sharp exchange of words between Šmerda and his former boss. A ministry spokesman told the paper that the position would be filled by Jiří Žák, a former senator who is best known for having had an assistant regularly give him half of her pay.
A chapter of the Public Affairs party is pressing charges for libel against Civic Democrat MP Petr Tluchoř for referring to the party as a “sect”. The reference reportedly comes from a letter Mr Tluchoř sent to party members in which he also called the junior coalition partner “pseudo-moralistic” and hypocritical, and impossible to govern with as a matter of principle. One of those bringing charges from the Central Bohemian chapter of Public affairs said that while the deed may have no concrete result, it would send a message to the public that the party will not allow its reputation to be tarnished. Public Affairs accuses Mr Tluchoř, formerly the chair of the Civic Democrat’s parliamentary club, of trying to orchestrate a coup within their party.
Former president Václav Havel has written an open letter to Culture Minister Jiří Besser protesting the demolition of a protected building on Prague’s Wenceslaus Square. Mr Havel wrote that even greater than his regret at the destruction of the building is his fear of the monster that is to be built there. The decision to tear down the building at Václavské náměstí 47 has met with a great deal of opposition, not least because the building is protected both by the City of Prague and UNESCO. Proponents of the demolition say that continuous remodelling of the building have left nothing of the original 19th century structure and that the building is not a cultural monument. The demolition is planned for this November and a nine-storey office and commercial building is to be constructed in its place.
In related news, the Prague office of the National Heritage Institute has condemned the Culture Ministry’s decision to also tear down the winter stadium on the Prague island of Štvanice and asked for the demolition to stop. Demolition began last the weekend due to the building’s poor structural condition, however the institute wrote on its website on Wednesday that it can be saved. The National Heritage Institute says that it was neither consulted about the demolition nor provided with any structural assessments beforehand, despite the fact that the stadium is a protected monument as of the year 2000. The 1932 stadium held the first hockey rink in the country, was in state of severe disrepair. Four world ice hockey championships were held there, the last in 1959.
Union representatives and employers are to meet on Wednesday to discuss their position on planned government reforms. Both oppose the government’s plans to make changes to the pension system. The head of the trade union umbrella organization ČMKOS said that both unions and employers share similar views on the government’s plans, and the meeting will serve to come up with a unified position on the issue. The trade unions have announced a general strike to take place June 10 should the centre-right cabinet decide not to relax its health and pension reforms.
President Václav Klaus and first lady Livia have reopened the newly reconstructed Golden Lane, one of Prague’s top tourist attractions. The Prague Castle alley, with its picturesque row of Mannerist-style houses dating back to the late 15th century, has just undergone the most extensive reconstruction in its history. The lane had to be repaired mainly because of its outdated sewer system, which threatened the houses' foundations. The repair works were launched last May at a cost of 34 million crowns. Some of the houses will now serve as museum exhibits with their interiors reflecting their legendary uses as goldsmiths’ workshops or alchemists’ laboratories. The houses were in fact mostly inhabited by castle guards and servants.
A new poll conducted by the company Factum Invenio puts the Christian Democrats back in Praliment at the expense of the Public Affairs party, whose numbers have suffered the worst. According to the survey, the Social Democratic Party would receive 30% of the vote, seven points higher than they received in the last elections. The Communist Party also increased its vote to 14.3%. The Civic Democrats and TOP 09 would receive 20.2% and 15.4%, respectively. The poll puts the Christian Democrats at 6%, while Public Affairs with 3% would not cross the threshold needed for seats in Parliament.
Another poll released by the STEM agency on Wednesday suggests that more than two thirds of Czech citizens believe there is strong tension in the country between rich and poor, and between company managers and employees. More than half of those surveyed said there was a great deal of tension between people of different political persuasions, 42% saw tension between young and only people, and 27% between city and country dwellers.
Hollywood director and producer George Lucas will be coming to Prague in June to record music for an upcoming film, the daily Hospodářské noviny reports. The paper says it was informed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra that the Star Wars creator would be working with the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague on the 5th to the 9th of June to record an original score by Terence Blanchard for a film he is currently producing. The movie, Red Tails, was filmed in part in Prague’s Barrandov Studios and tells the story of African-American combat pilots during World War II.
Currently cloudy conditions are expected to clear up over the coming days with forecasts of clear skies and daytime temperatures of around 24° Celsius.