Yet another demonstration took place on Saturday in the North Bohemian town of Varnsdorf, where racial tensions have been running high for a number of weeks. Police dispatched several hundred riot officers to counter a similar number of protesters, among them members of the extreme-right Workers’ Party for Social Justice, the successor of the banned neo-Nazi Workers’ Party. The protesters were blocked from marching on an area inhabited predominantly by Roma and then dispersed. The demonstration was the seventh to be held in the area this month. Last week a protest attended by some 1,000 people turned violent as extremists attacked riot police with bottles and stones. Thirty-seven people were arrested and six injured.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has cited previous ‘overly generous’ social policies as one of the causes of racial tensions in the area of Varnsdorf. Speaking at a conference of Civic Democrat mayors in Brno., the prime minister said that it continues to be more comfortable for many people to accept social welfare rather than take up legal employment. The main priority of the state, he said, is to ensure people’s security and protect their property. Mr Nečas will apparently be visiting the area next week.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has left for the United States, where he will be attending the UN General Assembly meeting in New York and an economic forum in Florida. The Czech delegation to the General Assembly meeting will be led by President Václav Klaus, who will arrive in the US on Monday. The meeting is expected to vote on a Palestinian motion for full UN membership, something the Czech government has indicated it may vote against. Mr Schwarzenberg has said that the Czech position on the matter would depend on the final wording of the resolution. The foreign minister will then be taking part in a conference on nuclear energy convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, followed by a meeting of EU ministers with American and Russian officials.
President Klaus and Prime Minister Nečas have offered praise for filmmaker Otakar Vávra, who died on Thursday at the age of 100. Mr Klaus called Vávra a phenomenon of 20th century Czech and Czechoslovak film and said he would be greatly missed. Prime Minister Nečas noted the remarkable fortune that allowed Vávra such a long life and called him a distinct figure in the Czech artistic world. Otakar Vávra’s filmmaking career spanned 80 years and dozens of films. He also founded the department of direction at FAMU and taught many of the most well-known Czech directors.
A crackdown on illegal aliens is underway at several locations around the country. Police began checks on Friday and will continue at least until Sunday, focusing on places most frequented by foreigners. Five persons sought nationwide were arrested on Friday and some 1,500 people had been checked by Saturday afternoon and 58 had been detained. Outside of Prague, police found about a dozen foreigners with invalid documentation at the market at Studánky on the Austrian border.
Grape harvest celebrations are underway around Prague, with thousands turning up to taste this year’s new wine. Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad in Prague 3 was packed on Friday evening with visitors enjoying traditional activities, concerts and Moravian wines. Another event at nearby Náměstí Míru commemorated the ancient festival of Bacchanalia and was likewise attended by thousands of people, with 2,000 litres of new wine on hand from Prague’s Grébovka vineyard. Other grape harvest celebrations are taking place at Prague Castle and Kampa island on the left bank of the Vltava.
A total of 64 Czech cities are participating in European Mobility Week, which was launched on Friday. The theme of the tenth year of Mobility Week is "alternative mobility" and is intended to promote resource-saving alternatives to the personal automobile. In Prague, Wenceslas Square will be closed to traffic for several hours on Sunday and a festival is underway around Náměstí Jana Palacha. Brno has begun the week with a festive program and roller-skating attractions. The east Bohemian town of Pardubice plans to end European Mobility Week with a large public picnic on the main shopping boulevard. The main organizer of Mobility Week in the Czech Republic is the Ministry of the Environment.
Conditions over the weekend are expected to be partly cloudy to cloudy with a likelihood of showers on Sunday and daytime temperatures in the low 20s Celsius.