Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has slammed state official Ladislav Bátora in an interview for Právo, telling the daily that having him run Human Resources at the Education Ministry was like hiring a “pedophile to head a girl’s school”. The minister, who was the target of recent derision on facebook from the ministry aide, also indicated someone who had past ties to the ultra right-wing National Party had no place in such a post. Mr Schwarzenberg who is the head of TOP 09, a collation member in government, also confirmed he would boycott cabinet meetings along with other ministers from his party in protest.
Earlier this week, his deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek, as well as other TOP 09 members, called for either the Education Minister Josef Dobeš or Mr Bátora himself to resign. Earlier, the education minister apologised on behalf of his employee but TOP 09 has insisted the move is not enough.
In related news, a new poll by SC & C commissioned by public broadcaster Czech Television has suggested that some 47 percent of Czechs believe that Education Ministry employee Ladislav Bátora should apologise for an insult on the internet in which he referred to Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg as “a sad little old man”. At the same time many of those queried about the case said that TOP 09’s response of boycotting upcoming government meetings was excessive. Almost 700 people took part in the survey. Seventeen percent of respondents said that the controversial state employee had a right to express his opinion. The incident has put additional strain on a government which has already weathered a number of crises, at a time when the cabinet is set to debate tax reforms.
The Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has said that the opposition Social Democrats are revising their policy programme in the hope of early elections. Changes include slashing support for year-end monthly bonuses or 13th salaries or ending across-the-board social benefit rises, the head of the party Bohuslav Sobotka said. Mr Sobotka expressed the hope that one of the coalition members in the current government would help pave the way for early elections in the autumn of 2012. The parliamentary elections would, in his view, be combined with Senate and regional elections. The last time Czechs went to the polls in 2010 the Social Democratic party won narrowly but was unable to find a coalition partner to form a viable government.
Over the last several weeks Japanese police arrested four Czechs in separate incidents at Narita International Airport in Tokyo for alleged drug smuggling. TV Nova reported the developments, saying the suspects faced up to 10 years in prison. The spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry, Vít Kolar, confirmed that the ministry had registered a rise in the number of Czech nationals detained in Japan over drug smuggling. Until now, similar cases there were rare. In one of the incidents police arrested a Czech woman who tried to smuggle in 900 grams of the methamphetamine pervetin from Paris: a single gram of the illegal drug in Tokyo sells for the equivalent of 18,000 Czech crowns (or more than 1,000 US dollars); on the Czech domestic market, by comparison, a gram sells for roughly 1,000 crowns.
The famous Spanish tenor and conductor Placido Domingo will perform at the 20th anniversary edition of the International Music Festival Česky Krumlov on Saturday. It will be the performer’s first appearance in the Czech Republic in 17 years. The singer is a 12-time Grammy winner and has performed both in the baritone and in the tenor range. He garnered international fame as one of the Three Tenors with José Carrera and the late Luciano Pavarotti. His performance on Saturday, in which he will be accompanied by the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, will be under the direction of American conductor Eugene Kohn. The performance will feature arias and duets from operas by Verdi, Puccini and others.
Prague residents have been marking the 120th anniversary of the famous Petřín tower and funicular on Petřín hill. Organisers put together a series of events for visitors on Saturday which wrap-up at five pm local time. Free admission has been on offer for those arriving in 19th century costume. Historic vehicles, including antique fire trucks, are on view near the venue. Petřín Tower - the Czech capital’s answer to the Eiffel Tower in Paris – was completed for the Prague Jubilee of 1891.
Czech cross-country mountain bike racer Jaroslav Kulhavý – who clinched the European championship title and clinched the World Cup cross-country last week – earned his fourth straight win in the final race on the World Cup circuit on Saturday. In the finish he defeated Nino Shurter of Switzerland at Val di Sole in Italy. The Czech racer has had a phenomenal season and is consider a strong contender for a medal at next year’s the summer Olympic Games in London.
Sunny conditions are expected to continue throughout the weekend; daytime temperatures on Sunday should reach around 28 degrees Celsius.