The Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, is in Prague for a three-day visit at the invitation of ex-president Vaclav Havel and Forum 2,000, of which he is co-founder. His meeting with Mr. Havel on Saturday took place in a cordial atmosphere. Dalai Lama said he greatly prized his friendship with Vaclav Havel, calling him “a great moral authority and a friend of the free world ”. He presented his host with a white scarf and golden wheel, a symbol of strength in adversity. “I asked him to live another ten years at least” the Dalai Lama later told newsmen. The ex-president thanked the Dalai Lama for coming to the Czech Republic where “he was much loved by the people and slightly feared by politicians”. Mr. Havel, who has been ailing, returned to Prague for the meeting after spending weeks in seclusion at his country cottage.
In the coming days the Tibetan spiritual leader will be speaking at Charles University on the subject of China and its human rights record and he is expected to lead a debate on the search for happiness in an uncertain world.
There have been mixed reactions from pundits on the Czech Republic’s cautious approach towards the intergovernmental treaty on fiscal policy agreed on at Friday’s EU summit in Brussels. While political analyst Zdenek Zboril welcomed the government’s reserved stand, saying that the imposition of financial restrictions from Brussels could create many problems, economics professor Vladimira Dvorakova said the Czech Republic could pay dearly for its “yes and no” approach. She pointed out that the Czech Republic is not Britain and the crown is not the pound, noting that in view of its position and economy the country was better off in an alliance than standing isolated.
The upcoming VAT hike on foods and medicines due to come into effect in January has arrived early as many shops have gradually started increasing the price of various products, the internet daily idnes reports. The paper says that this “creeping” price rise is an old business tactic that served well in the last VAT hike in 2008 when the tax on food products went up from 5 to 9 percent. In the new year prices will stay put and people will get the impression that nothing much has changed. Czechs will be paying more next year not just for the said items but for water, power and public transport as well.
The Social Democratic Party has unanimously approved its budget for 2012. Marin Starec, the party’s deputy for financing, said the budget reckoned with a 237 million income and expenditures to the tune of 261 million crowns. The deficit of just over 23 million crowns is linked to next year’s regional and senate elections.
Police have cracked down on a gang of ID forgers, arresting eight people including two Slovak nationals. The gang was active in south Moravia where it forged passports and IDs for illegal migrants. According to a police spokeswoman the forgeries were of an exceptionally high quality and the gang was well-organized. A complete set of IDs per person, including a false driver’s license, was allegedly available for 3,000 to 4,000 euro.
The gorilla baby Tano which was rejected by its mother soon after birth at the Prague zoo and found a new home in the Stuttgart zoo several weeks ago is said to be prospering unexpectedly well and has become a big local attraction. The gorilla baby is being fed artificially and has round-the-clock care. Tano was the fifth gorilla baby born in Prague’s Troya Zoo. After several rejections by its mother, the zoo’s management decided to send it to Stuttgart zoo which has a specialized centre for rejected gorilla offspring. Tano is the 59th gorilla baby it has saved.
Czech Railways and Prague City Transport have announced an imminent change in many intercity train and Prague bus schedules. Some Prague busses have been cancelled altogether and others have been re-routed. The change comes into effect on Sunday December 11th and will be valid for a year. Passengers will find the new schedules at bus stops, on the internet (www.dpp.cz)and Prague City Transport has set up a special call line for those in need of advice.
The coming days are expected to be cloudy to overcast with rain or sleet showers and day temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.