Daily news summary
Madeleine Albright in Prague for 20th anniversary of Czech accession to NATO
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in Prague to mark the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO. She was a leading voice in advocating for expansion of the military alliance to central Europe.
In the coming days, the Czech-born Albright will take part in various events marking the anniversary and discussing NATO’s legacy and current role. She will also present her latest book, Fascism: A Warning.
On Monday, Albright is due to hold a public discussion with former diplomat Michael Žantovský at the Law Faculty of Charles University.
On Tuesday, the anniversary of Czech membership in NATO, she will take part in an international forum at Prague Castle. She is among 14 people who will receive the new Medal of Merit Award for Diplomacy handed over by Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček .
Interior minister confident no information on Kapsch case was leaked from police files
Interior Minister Jan Hamáček has said he is confident that there were no police leaks from the investigation surrounding the company Kapsch and the Czech anti-monopoly office in Brno.
Following a meeting with Police President Jan Švejdar, Minister Hamáček said that the information acquired by the media was from documents given to suspects implicated in the case and their lawyers. He said no information from police wiretappings had got out.
Police President Švejdar defended his men earlier, saying that no information at all had escaped until the raids were conducted, and said it was not possible to keep the case completely under wraps once people had been charged.
The country’s organised crime unit last week raided the Prague headquarters of the Austrian firm Kapsch, the Brno headquarters of the anti-monopoly office and the home of ANO deputy chair Jaroslav Faltýnek, among others, on suspicion of corruption.
Kapsch’s CEO Karel Feix, the head of the anti-monopoly office Petr Rafaj and several others are suspected of having tried to manipulate a tender to operate the electronic toll collection system in the Czech Republic.
Cabinet ministers to propose cost-cutting measures
Finance Minister Alena Schillerová will be holding one-on-one talks with individual cabinet ministers this week to try to agree on cost-cutting measures that would save next year’s state budget 25 billion crowns and keep the deficit below 40 billion crowns.
The finance minister has said the cuts are necessary in view of the slowing economy and has suggested individual ministers put forward their own suggestions as to where money could best be saved.
Minister Schillerová herself has suggested making redundant 10 percent of public sector employees.
The opposition has criticized the government for squandering money and the Communist Party, whose votes are essential to keeping the minority government in office, is calling for a 30 billion crown deficit next year.
Czech academics support student protest Fridays for Future
Over 100 Czech scientists and academics have signed a proclamation in support of the global student strike aiming to raise awareness of the need to fight climate change.
The proclamation says that given how significantly the Czech Republic still contributes to pollution, for instance by coal burning, its inhabitants cannot pretend that the problem does not concern them.
The global appeal launched by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg under the motto Fridays For Future has won support from young people around the world.
Over 2,500 Czech secondary school students from Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc and other towns and cities plan to take part in the strike this Friday.
The protest actions will have different forms including pro-climate gatherings and marches.
Brain Week Festival underway in Prague
Visitors to the Brain Week Festival that gets underway on Monday in Prague can learn how to improve their memory, rid themselves of phobias and attend lectures on developments in neurology and related fields.
The festival, held under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, will feature various “mind games”, for example, one that gives visitors a chance to control a flying ball using their brainwaves.
Speakers include Josef Syka of the Institute of Experimental Medicine, who will discuss the brain’s auditory system; Cyril Höschl of the National Institute of Mental Health, who will explain burnout syndrome and how to handle stress; and Jaroslav Hlinka of the Institute of Computer Science, who will discuss data analysis and imaging of brain activity.
Czech Republic battered by strong winds
A clean-up operation continues in many parts of the country in the wake of damage caused by gale-force winds overnight.
Damaged power lines left thousands of homes without power and road and rail traffic was disrupted by fallen trees.
In the Snežka Mountain region the wind blew at over 206 km per hour, in the lower altitudes at around 110 km per hour.
Emergency workers were on call throughout the night, with fire-crews reporting over 2,800 emergency calls in the course of the nigh hours.
Tuesday should be overcast around most of the country with snow or sleet showers and day temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.