Cabinet members of the TOP 09 party have threatened to leave the government unless the Education Ministry sacks and rebukes ultra-conservative advisor and HR chief Ladislav Bátora. All five ministers for TOP 09 walked out of Wednesday’s government meeting to protest insults that the controversial official hurled at their chairman, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, via his Facebook page. Responding to colloquially-phrased criticism by Mr Schwarzenberg that he was inappropriate for his position, Mr Bátora called the TOP 09 chairman a “poor little old man” who he said “sputters brazenly when he knows I can’t challenge him to a duel for at least three reasons.”
A far-right conservative and ally of President Václav Klaus, Ladislav Bátora’s presence in the Education Ministry has been a major point of contention since the president suggested him for the post in February. He was formerly a candidate for the extremist National Party and most recently sought public attention for his stance against Prague’s first festival of homosexuality.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš of the Public Affairs party apologised to Mr Schwarzenberg on Wednesday on behalf of Mr Bátora, but says he does not intend to sack him. Mr Dobeš said Wednesday afternoon that his aide’s comments were within the bounds of acceptable behaviour and that he was entitled to his opinion, even as a state official. Prime Minister Petr Nečas called Bátora’s comments boorish and unacceptable, and criticised the education minister for not offering an apology earlier or distancing himself from the comments. He said he is not considering dismissing Mr Dobeš at present, and would not say how he would respond if the situation continues. Mr Schwarzenberg, for his part, said he did not feel personally insulted, but that a public servant could not speak about a state official in that way.
Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra will represent the Czech government at the funeral of Ctirad Mašín in the United States next week. Prime Minister Nečas announced on Wednesday that the defence minister and former ambassador to the US would be conferring the Golden Linden military distinction upon Mr Mašín in memoriam, and upon his brother Josef. The decoration will likely draw the ire of many, as it is awarded to those who have protected human rights, the principles of democracy or otherwise contributed to the defence and security of the Czech Republic. The Mašín brothers killed six police officers, some of which were unarmed, during their resistance activities and escape from Czechoslovakia in the early 1950s. Ctirad Mašín died of a prolonged illness on Saturday at the age of 81.
President Klaus has ratified an act honouring members of the anti-communist resistance. The government-proposed law allows the Defence Ministry to name members of the resistance and award them 100,000 crowns, or half that sum to their family if they are deceased. Those who have received less than the average pension rates will be reimbursed. Some will also be able to receive war veteran status which would give them rights to special health and social benefits. The president also criticised the law, however, saying he distrusted the intentions behind the legislation and the attempt to legally rewrite and resolve history.
Former Social Democrat chairman Jiří Paroubek will be forming a new party on the basis of the existing Czech National Social Party. National Social Party deputy chairman Přemysl Votava confirmed on Wednesday that the former prime minister would be taking over and reforming the party, potentially under a new name. The party currently has roughly 600 members. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes expects it will be more left-wing than the Social Democratic Party and will rely more on nationalism, ecology and support for private entrepreneurs. The paper speculates that between five and seven Social Democrat legislators may defect to the new entity. Mr Paroubek himself has not yet confirmed the move. Founded in 1898, The Czech National Social Party was popular during the 1920s and 30s but was sidelined during Communism. Attempts to revitalise it since 1989 have been unsuccessful.
Prime Minister Nečas says that it would not be good for the country at present to set a date for accepting the euro. Speaking after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that the current debt crisis in the Euro Zone is turning the euro into something it was not at the time the Czech Republic acceded to the European Union. In May, Mr Nečas said that the Czech Republic would take up the European currency once the costs for maintaining the crown exceeded those for introducing the euro.
Charles University is one of the best universities in the world according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, or “Shanghai ranking”. The list, compiled by the Shanghai Jiaotong University, puts the premiere Czech institution in the top 1.5% out of 17,000 world universities, and gives it second place in Central and Eastern Europe after Moscow State University. The ranking is compiled annually based on results in science and research. The United States had the highest number of high ranking schools, with Harvard University topping the list.
Police have appropriated nearly two billion crowns from criminals in the last half year, the Interior Ministry reports. The sum arises from money and property from criminal activities and amounts to three times the amount appropriated during the same period last year. Some 374 million of that had to be returned as no direct connection to a specific crime could be established. Roughly one billion of the total amount was appropriated by the corruption and financial crime department of the police..
Czech football champions Viktoria Plzeň sensationally beat FC Copenhagen 3:1 in Denmark on Tuesday night, in the first leg of the Champions League’s play-offs. The Czechs weathered the home side’s initial push, and their moments of glory came in the second half. In the 52nd minute, Czech international Pavel Horváth put a long pass in front of the box to Daniel Kolář but Copenhagen’s defenseman Sölvi Ottesen sent the ball into the net, scoring an own goal. Seven minutes later, Plzeň scored again when Václav Pilař amazingly hit the net from just outside the penalty area. The Danes then narrowed the score with a header by Ottesen in the 69th minute. But the most beautiful goal came ten minutes later when Horváth again passed a long ball to substitute Martin Fillo on the right side of the pitch who, alone against five defenders, turned and scored into the goal’s upper right corner, stunning the hosts. The Czechs have a great chance of making it to the Champions’ League group stag; the second leg is scheduled in Prague next Tuesday.
One of the best strikers in the history of the Czech national football team, Jan Koller, has decided to end his professional career. The 38-year-old player for Cannes told the Czech Press Agency on Wednesday that growing health problems involving his leg muscles and heart were a warning sign that it was time to quit. Koller has played for Cannes in the third French league for the past year and a half and he had a contract for another season. He says he plans to attend a one-year course of French and then decide what to do next. Jan Koller played 91 matches on the national team in which he scored 55 times. He won the bronze medal at Euro 2004 in Portugal and has champion titles from the Czech, Belgian and German leagues.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to be mostly sunny, with daytime highs of around 25° Celsius.