Former Czech president Václav Havel has received the Order of St. George, Georgia’s highest state honour. He was decorated by visiting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday, who cited Mr Havel’s influence and contribution in the democratisation process of post-Communist countries. The honour was awarded at the Georgian Embassy in Prague; after the ceremony Václav Havel expressed the hope that Georgia would see its historic borders restored, reference to the 2008 armed conflict between Georgia and Russia and the separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Mr Saakashvili is in Prague to take part in the 15th Forum 2000 conference.
Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi asked Forum 2000 participants to support the Burmese opposition, in a pre-recorded greeting a few minutes in length that former Czech president and human rights supporter Václav Havel presented at the start of the conference on Monday. Aung San Suu Kyi said she is cautiously optimistic about possible changes in Burma, but stressed that the situation in her country is far from satisfactory. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was released from house arrest last November, shortly after the isolated Burmese regime staged the first elections in 20 years. The previous elections in 1990 were won by the National League for Democracy headed by Suu Kyi. The junta, however, refused to hand over power and she spent 15 years under house arrest. She said in her greeting to Forum 2000 that people in Burma suffer from the absence of the rule of law.
Mr Havel is a vocal supporter of the opposition in states that the international community has criticised for the violation of human rights and lack of democracy, including Belarus and Cuba. This year´s 15th Forum 2000 conference focuses on the theme of democracy and law.
In related news, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga at the Forum 2000 conference told reporters in Prague on Monday that the Serbian minority in the north of Kosovo cannot reckon with special status for their area. Neither the division of the country nor transfers of its inhabitants could be taken into consideration, she stressed. The president did say Kosovo would follow the plan of the former Finnish president and UN Special Envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, adding that dialogue was “the only instrument to reach the goal of the region's integration with the Euroatlantic structures”. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.
The Czech government recognised independent Kosovo in May of the same year. But Czech President Václav Klaus still opposes the diplomatic step and, according to ČTK, will not meet Mrs Jahjaga during her stay in Prague. The Serbian minority living in the north of Kosovo refuses to recognise Kosovo´s sovereignty.
A Czech soldier died on Sunday, succumbing to serious injuries sustained during a mission in Afghanistan. Sergeant Adrian Werner of the 2nd Operational Mentor Liaison Team was shot on in a July 6 attack on a Czech advance post in the Taliban-controlled Wardak province. It was the 31-year-old’s third mission abroad; previously he had served as an instructor for Afghan army soldiers and did two tours of duty in Kosovo. Sergeant Werner was the fifth Czech soldier to lose their life in the ISAF mission, in which more than 7,000 Czechs have served over the last 10 years.
Due to overcrowding in Czech prisons, the country’s Justice Ministry would like judges to impose alternative sentences including house arrests, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday. Deputy Justice Minister Daniel Volák told the paper there was little space to accommodate convicts. The capacity of Czech jails of 26,000 prisoners is now exceeded by 3,000; another 5,500 convicts are yet to start serving their sentences. The ministry admits that its plan to build two new prisons is not viable under the government’s austerity measures. But some judges warned that their capacity to impose house arrests was limited and said there might not be enough officials to oversee alternative sentences.
The unemployment rate in September dropped from 8.2 to 8.0 percent in September, according to new statistics released on Monday, amounting to 475,115 jobless. The news was released by the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs. According to the numbers, almost 40,000 jobs in different sectors are available. The unemployment figures show a higher jobless rate among recent graduates than last year: in September 2010 they ranked 35,313 strong; this year the number is more than 7,000 higher. Forty-three rural districts around the country suffer higher unemployment rates than the national average, among them Most (15.7 percent), Bruntál (14.2), and Děčín (13.2 procent).
Czech police have arrested a 16-year-old boy from Brno for allegedly hacking a webhosting company’s website, after breaking through security, and raising tariffs for regular customers. He then contacted the company and threatened he would only stop if he received 100,000 crowns. The crime took place last spring when the minor – who has apparently had other run-ins with the law – was on a visit to his mother’s. Police investigating electronic data were able to pick-up the suspect’s trail.
Prague City Hall is considering siting Alphonse Mucha’s Slavic Epic cycle in the historic Fanta building at Prague’s Main Station – a plan reportedly backed by the late painter’s grandson John Mucha. The news was revealed by the spokeswoman for the Mucha Foundation on Monday. The Art Nouveau building – formerly a booking hall and now a cafe – was put forward as a location in a study commissioned by Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda. The idea is also reportedly being backed by the firm responsible for the renovation of Prague’s Main Station, Grand Stazioni. The company’s spokesman called the plan an interesting one, suggesting that if it went ahead, the famous paintings could be housed in their new home in early 2014 - soon after renovations of the historic site are completed.
A photograph by Stanislav Krupař capturing racial unrest in Northern Bohemia has won the 2011 Czech Press Photo competition. The jury called the winning work a strong example of photojournalism that brought attention to a serious, contemporary social problem not confined to the Czech Republic. In addition to the Crystal Eye Award, the winner of the Czech Press Photo receives a 120,000 crown prize. A year-long grant, meanwhile, awarded by Prague City Hall for capturing the transformation of the Czech capital was given to veteran photographer Alena Dvořáková and her partner Viktor Fischer. The jury in this year’s 17th competition viewed more than 3,700 photographs from 288 Czech and Slovak photographers.
Czech national football team goalkeeper Petr Čech has the Czech squad will have to try and dictate the tempo and play against Lithuania on Tuesday if the team is to keep alive hopes of reaching the playoff stage to try and qualify for Euro 2012. The Czech team has not missed the European Championship since 1992 but qualification for next year’s tournament in Poland and Ukraine is far from a done deal: a win on Tuesday in the squad’s final qualification match would put the team on firmer ground. A Scotland win over Spain would dash the Czechs’ last chance and a repeat loss to Lithuania by the Czech squad would be equally disastrous.
The current spell of rainy weather will continue into the week, with mostly overcast skies, frequent rain showers and daytime highs between 11 and 15 degrees Celsius.