Daily news summary

Social Democrats celebrate Labour Day on Střelecký island

The ruling Social Democratic Party organized a Labour Day happening on Prague’s Střelecký island on Thursday attended by close to a hundred party sympathizers. Prime Minister and party leader Bouhslav Sobotka highlighted the government’s achievements in its first 100 days in office, promised the public a lower, 10 percent VAT rate on medicines as of 2015, measures to create new jobs and urged them to go to the polls in European elections later this month. The Social Democrats used the opportunity to campaign in the European elections, handing out leaflets and outlining the party’s priorities.

Communist Party celebrates May Day at Holešovice fair grounds

The Communist Party traditionally invited its supporters to the Holešovice fair grounds. Speakers at the gathering included the last Communist Party head of government Miloš Jakes, who said that over the past 20 years the masses had been impoverished, while the rich had grown richer. Politics is moulded according to the business in interests of a select, privileged group, the 91-year-old former leader said. Like other parties celebrating May Day, the Communists used the occasion to present their candidates for the European elections and urge voters to come to the polls.

Radicals protest in Ústi nad Labem

Two left-wing radicals were arrested in the north Bohemian town of Ústi nad Labem on Thursday at a gathering of anarchists. A police spokeswoman said that a group of ten anarchists provoked a conflict with the police, which was out in force to maintain law and order. Special anti-conflict teams were on site to prevent trouble as anarchists and members of an ultra-right gathering demonstrated a few streets away from each other. No other incidents have been reported.

Václav Havel memorial unveiled in Prague

A memorial dedicated to the late Václav Havel was unveiled in Prague’s Maltézské square on May Day. The memorial –a seating area comprised of a circular table and two wooden seats is a symbolic invitation for reflection and debate on the former president’s legacy. At the dedication ceremony Mr. Havel’s close friend, and his one-time chancellor at Prague Castle, Karel Schwarzenberg said that today, when the centre-left government had traded human rights for business deals in China, it was more important than ever to reflect on Vaclav Havel’s principles. Similar memorials have been unveiled in Georgetown, US, and Dublin, Ireland.

Putin as dictator hoisted on church facade

An outsize painting on cloth depicting the Russian president Vladimir Putin as a dictator was placed on the façade of the Church of St. Jacob in the west Bohemian town of Sokolov on Thursday. A group of local citizens thus protested against the annexation of Crimea by Russia and its aggressive policy in eastern Ukraine. They chose to place the painting on the main square at a time when the Communist Party was holding its May Day rally there. The picture had previously hung in public places in Mladá Boleslav, Liberec and Prague.

Greenpeace activists’ attempt to stop Russian tanker foiled

Some 80 Greenpeace activists, among them two Czechs, on Thursday tried to prevent the delivery of the first oil from Russia's new Arctic drilling platform reaching port in Rotterdam. Their attempt to stop the oil-tanker Mikhail Ulyanov failed after Dutch police intervened giving the tanker clear passage to port. The activists were briefly detained aboard their own ship to allow the tanker to enter the port unhindered. Police said the activists had reneged on an agreement they had made with the harbour authorities not to interfere physically with the ship during their protest. Greenpeace is opposed to drilling in the Arctic Sea which it says risks causing a catastrophe in a fragile ecosystem.

Czech interior minister pledges to crack down on drug crimes near Czech-German border

The Czech Republic has pledged to introduce strict measures against drug crimes in areas near the border with Germany where the situation has been getting out of control. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said after talks with his Bavarian counterpart Joachim Herrmann on Friday that the police would focus especially on Asian marketplaces in the border areas, where dealers sell crystal methamphetamine to tourists and smuggle it across the border. In recent years, Vietnamese gangs based in the country started producing crystal methamphetamine and growing marijuana. The drugs are not only exported, but they have become more easily available in the Czech Republic, at discos and elsewhere.

Family escapes unhurt in four-seater plane crash

A four-seater plane crashed in the vicinity of Sulice, near Prague on Thursday afternoon. The plane was carrying a family of four, two of them small children, but no one was reported hurt in the accident thanks to the fact that it fell from a low altitude. The plane overturned, spilling fuel but did not catch fire. The cause of the accident in under investigation.