Wednesday, June 1, 2011

News 6.1.2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

By: Christian Falvey

* The Czech Foreign Ministry says the seizure of the country's artwork
by an Austrian court as compensation for damages is a breach of
international law.

* A chapter of the Public Affairs party is pressing charges for libel
against Civic Democrat MP Petr Tluchor for referring to the party as a

* Former president Vaclav Havel has criticised the planned demolition
of a protected building on Prague's Wenceslaus Square.

* The newly reconstructed Golden Lane has reopened to visitors.

Foreign Ministry says artwork seizure is breach of international law

The Czech Foreign Ministry says the seizure of the country's artwork by
an Austrian court as compensation for damages is a breach of
international law. In a statement released Wednesday the ministry
contended that the seizure was inconsistent with generally accepted
principles of international law regarding the jurisdictional immunity
of states and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The
Viennese court seized three modernist paintings owned by the Czech
state to compensate for damages claimed by the Swiss company Diag
Human, which demands over 500 million US dollars from the Czech state
for allegedly harming its blood plasma business in the country in the
1990s. In 2008, a court of arbitration ruled in favour of the firm but
Czech authorities say the decision has not yet come into force.

LN: Smerda dismisses Barta appointee at Transport Ministry

Transport Minister Radek Smerda, who replaced embattled Public Affairs
leader Vit Barta in April, has dismissed one of the deputies appointed
by his predecessor, the daily Lidove Noviny reports. The paper sees the
move as an indication that the new transport minister no longer counts
on Mr Barta returning to the post, which he said he would take up only
until Barta cleared his name of corruption allegations. According to
Lidove Noviny, deputy minister Jana Kalvodova was dismissed in order to
lessen the former minister's influence after a sharp exchange of words
between Smerda and his former boss. A ministry spokesman told the paper
that the position would be filled by Jiri Zak, a former senator who is
best known for having had an assistant regularly give him half of her

Public Affairs chapter brings libel charges against Tluchor

A chapter of the Public Affairs party is pressing charges for libel
against Civic Democrat MP Petr Tluchor for referring to the party as a
"sect". The reference reportedly comes from a letter Mr Tluchor sent to
party members in which he also called the junior coalition partner
"pseudo-moralistic" and hypocritical, and impossible to govern with as
a matter of principle. One of those bringing charges from the Central
Bohemian chapter of Public affairs said that while the deed may have no
concrete result, it would send a message to the public that the party
will not allow its reputation to be tarnished. Public Affairs accuses
Mr Tluchor, formerly the chair of the Civic Democrat's parliamentary
club, of trying to orchestrate a coup within their party.

Havel criticises destruction of Wenceslaus Square building

Former president Vaclav Havel has written an open letter to Culture
Minister Jiri Besser protesting the demolition of a protected building
on Prague's Wenceslaus Square. Mr Havel wrote that even greater than
his regret at the destruction of the building is his fear of the
monster that is to be built there. The decision to tear down the
building at Vaclavske namesti 47 has met with a great deal of
opposition, not least because the building is protected both by the
City of Prague and UNESCO. Proponents of the demolition say that
continuous remodelling of the building have left nothing of the
original 19th century structure and that the building is not a cultural
monument. The demolition is planned for this November and a nine-storey
office and commercial building is to be constructed in its place.

National Heritage Institute condemns destruction of Stvanice stadium

In related news, the Prague office of the National Heritage Institute
has condemned the Culture Ministry's decision to also tear down the
winter stadium on the Prague island of Stvanice and asked for the
demolition to stop. Demolition began last the weekend due to the
building's poor structural condition, however the institute wrote on
its website on Wednesday that it can be saved. The National Heritage
Institute says that it was neither consulted about the demolition nor
provided with any structural assessments beforehand, despite the fact
that the stadium is a protected monument as of the year 2000. The 1932
stadium held the first hockey rink in the country, was in state of
severe disrepair. Four world ice hockey championships were held there,
the last in 1959.

Union representatives and employers to discuss stand on planned
government reforms

Union representatives and employers are to meet on Wednesday to discuss
their position on planned government reforms. Both oppose the
government's plans to make changes to the pension system. The head of
the trade union umbrella organization CMKOS said that both unions and
employers share similar views on the government's plans, and the
meeting will serve to come up with a unified position on the issue. The
trade unions have announced a general strike to take place June 10
should the centre-right cabinet decide not to relax its health and
pension reforms.

Golden Lane at Prague Castle reopens

President Vaclav Klaus and first lady Livia have reopened the newly
reconstructed Golden Lane, one of Prague's top tourist attractions. The
Prague Castle alley, with its picturesque row of Mannerist-style houses
dating back to the late 15th century, has just undergone the most
extensive reconstruction in its history. The lane had to be repaired
mainly because of its outdated sewer system, which threatened the
houses' foundations. The repair works were launched last May at a cost
of 34 million crowns. Some of the houses will now serve as museum
exhibits with their interiors reflecting their legendary uses as
goldsmiths' workshops or alchemists' laboratories. The houses were in
fact mostly inhabited by castle guards and servants.

Poll: Christian Democrats back in action, Public Affairs out of office

A new poll conducted by the company Factum Invenio puts the Christian
Democrats back in Praliment at the expense of the Public Affairs party,
whose numbers have suffered the worst. According to the survey, the
Social Democratic Party would receive 30% of the vote, seven points
higher than they received in the last elections. The Communist Party
also increased its vote to 14.3%. The Civic Democrats and TOP 09 would
receive 20.2% and 15.4%, respectively. The poll puts the Christian
Democrats at 6%, while Public Affairs with 3% would not cross the
threshold needed for seats in Parliament.

Poll: two thirds see tension between rich and poor

Another poll released by the STEM agency on Wednesday suggests that
more than two thirds of Czech citizens believe there is strong tension
in the country between rich and poor, and between company managers and
employees. More than half of those surveyed said there was a great deal
of tension between people of different political persuasions, 42% saw
tension between young and only people, and 27% between city and country

George Lucas heading to Prague to record music for Red Tails

Hollywood director and producer George Lucas will be coming to Prague
in June to record music for an upcoming film, the daily Hospodarske
noviny reports. The paper says it was informed by the Czech National
Symphony Orchestra that the Star Wars creator would be working with the
FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague on the 5th to the 9th of June to record
an original score by Terence Blanchard for a film he is currently
producing. The movie, Red Tails, was filmed in part in Prague's
Barrandov Studios and tells the story of African-American combat pilots
during World War II.


Currently cloudy conditions are expected to clear up over the coming
days with forecasts of clear skies and daytime temperatures of around
24o Celsius.

Articles posted on today

The university Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis in the centre of Prague

In a lovely corner of Prague just south of the busy square Karlovo
Namesti is one of the city centre's special secrets. The Charles
University Botanical Gardens are not the biggest in the city but they
have the distinction of a perfect location: crammed into a normal city
block between the old town and the hill of Vysehrad are the enormous
greenhouses that with the surrounding eight acres host some 5,000 types
of plants from all over the world and provide a peaceful oasis for
Prague denizens.

Culture Ministry orders return of state-owned artworks from abroad to
avoid seizures in arbitration case

The Czech Republic will bring back home state-owned artworks that are
on loan abroad in an effort to avoid their seizure in a protracted
arbitration case. The decision comes after an Austrian court last week
upheld the claims of the Swiss firm Diag Human and seized three
modernist artworks lent to a gallery in Vienna. The Czech Foreign
Ministry considers any seizures of Czech property in breach of
international law.

New initiative aims to promote the country's foster and adoptive
families' system

June 1 marks International Children's Day in the Czech Republic, where
more than 11,000 children who cannot be raised by their biological
parents live in institutionalized care - an unusually high number
compared with other European countries. Widespread institutionalized
care is a legacy of communism, when children's homes were the only
option and foster families did not exist. A new initiative,, is aiming to change that. I spoke to Roman Pavlik, the
coordinator of the initiative which aims to promote alternative forms
of child care, such as foster and adoptive families, in the Czech
Republic. I started by asking him to describe the typical situation of
a child who cannot be raised by his or her parents here in the Czech

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