Over 500 guests are expected to attend a birthday bash for ex-president Vaclav Havel on Saturday. The party in honour of Mr. Havel’s 75th birthday next Wednesday, is to be a surprise event organized by some of his closest friends. The former president who spent most of the summer at his country cottage recuperating from a bad chest infection is reported to be feeling much stronger and is expected to attend a number of public events in the coming weeks. Among the guests of honour invited to his birthday party on Saturday night are the former US secretary of state Czech-born Madeleine Albright,w ho is a close friend of Mr.Havel’s and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg who served as Mr. Havel’s chancellor during his presidency.
Anti-Romany demonstrators from the north of the country took their grievances to Prague on Saturday where they verbally clashed with Roma rights activists and anarchists. The two groups demonstrated on Prague’s Palacky Square, held apart by a cordon of riot police as they hurled insults at each other. Demonstrators from Varnsdorf, which has been racked by ethnic unrest, chanted “Send the gypsies to Prague” while Roma-activists and their supporters held up signs reading “neo-Nazis out”. The demonstrations reflect growing tension in the north of the country where a rise in crime and petty theft –together with a high unemployment rate - have unleashed a wave of anti-Romany sentiment.
Police reinforcements in the north are costing taxpayers close to a million crowns a day, according to police spokesman Jan Melsa. Riot police units, psychologists and mediators were sent to the hotspots of racial tension in the north such as Varnsdorf and Rumburk in mid-August when extremist groups started organizing anti-Roma marches and demonstrations on weekends.
Government officials and local councils are working to defuse tension and address long-neglected problems but there has so far been little sign of tangible progress. The cost of police reinforcements in the area has so far amounted to 30 million crowns - at a time when the cash strapped interior ministry budget can ill afford it.
As of Saturday, October 1st, drivers around the country will be able to use pay cards when paying fines for traffic violations. The police introduced electronic payments in a limited measure last year and have decided to extend the network of mobile electronic terminals to all districts. The move is expected to both reduce corruption and facilitate payments for drivers.
Prague’s mayor Bohuslav Sobotka has praised the outcome of a flood response training exercise conducted in the Czech capital on Saturday. He said the exercise had met the highest expectations and indicated a high level of preparedness even in the event of a serious flood. Within the exercise firemen and emergency crews erected a flood barrier along a three kilometre stretch of the Vltava river in one and a half hours flat. The deadline was four hours. The head of the team said good weather conditions and the fact that the city is half empty on weekends helped the effort. The flood barrier is to be dismantled by midnight and all traffic restrictions lifted.
The three Czechs who died in a car crash in Nicaragua this week were university teachers who were working in the country on an EU-funded assistance project. The fourth passenger in the van – a young Czech student – who alone survived the tragic accident - remains in serious condition in hospital though he is reported to be out of danger. The driver of the lorry with which the van collided head on was reportedly driving without lights at night and is in custody. According to local media both vehicles had exceeded the speed limit. Brno’s Mendel University said it was devastated by the tragedy.
Aviation watchers are expected to descend on Prague’s Ruzyne Airport on Sunday afternoon for the first ever landing in Prague of the superjumbo A380 airbus. The colossal double-decker airliner will be sporting Lufthansa colours and is expected to land at precisely 3pm Central European Time.
The weather should continue warm and sunny with day temps between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius.