In the News 12.1.09

Gas squabble, Zlín renamed, Prague a tough town...

Written by Naďa Straková
Aktuálně.cz CzechNews

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GAS SQUABBLE AND CZECHS LEADING EU TALKS. The Czech EU presidency kicked off 12 days ago and found itself very busy from the very first moment.

The gas crisis, dominating the headlines last week, dominated also the EU agenda. The Ukraine-Russia gas war, experts say, gives a chance to the EU to restore the broken relation with Russia.

Now PM Topolánek left for Ukraine to negotiate a deal with Kyiv only to leave shortly after for Moscow to negotiate the same deal with Moscow. 

Due to the “frantic EU shuttle diplomacy”, as BBC called the Czech-led EU delegation’s negotiations in Ukraine and Russia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed the deal on the terms for the deployment of gas monitors in Ukraine, but then he annulled the accord, pointing fingers at Ukraine and the latest news is Russia is ready to turn the gas taps back on.

The Russia-Ukraine gas squabble has left thousands of people in Central and Eastern Europe struggling to keep their homes heated. Whether Russia will eventually resume the gas supplies remains to be seen in the next few days.

Energy is one of the three priorities of the Czech EU presidency and it looks like there are going to be plenty of occasions to prove to the EU energy is the priority number one in this continent.


ERASING MEMORY BY RENAMING. The residents of Zlín were commemorating 60 years since the city was renamed. They celebrated the end of 1948 as Zlín citizens but woke up in 1949 as the residents of Gottwaldov.

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The city was renamed after the first communist president of Czechoslovakia, Klement Gottwald on order of high-ranked members of the party and the government and thanks to the activity of the local communist organization.

The act of renaming was designed to erase the memory of Tomáš Baťa, the founder of Zlín and the symbol of a successful businessman.

You can erase the name from the map but you can hardly erase a real person, especially someone who achieved so much.


PRAGUE AMONG THE TOUGHEST TOWN. British TV station Bravo broadcast the first part of a documentary series called World’s Toughest Towns. Prague is the first town which British investigative reporter Donal MacIntyre explores.

Prague has undeniably become a destination number one for British tourists and MacIntyre attempts to expose the links between prostitution and the Russian Mafia.

“Prague is the only city in Central Europe that we chose,” says the Irish-born journalist. “It is not because it would be worse or better than the others but just because it is a popular destination for British tourists,” says MacIntyre.


MUSLIMS IN EUROPE AND EUROPEANS ON DECLINE. Twenty years following the fall of communism the Czech Republic is at EU’s helm. But so far the EU member states have failed to agree on the form of the EU constitution.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, is adamant that behind the failure to adopt the euro-treaty is the absence of what Europe feels natural about – Christian values.

“When the Irish said No to the Lisbon Treaty, they said it because the European Union and Lisbon Treaty have dropped the Christian roots,” said Cardinal Vlk in an interview for Aktuálně.cz.

In the interview Cardinal Vlk talks about Muslims and demography in Europe, family values missing in the euro-treaty and Europeans lacking respect for their religion.


BLUE MORNING FOR MR. PRESIDENT. Shortly before the French handed over the EU Presidency to the Czechs, French President Sarkozy called it an “outrage” that some Czech public buildings have been refusing to fly the EU flag, which was widely understood as a reference to the Prague Castle, the seat of the eurosceptic Czech President.

Greenpeace activists tried to restore the Czechs’ reputation with the EU’s cheerleaders , or at least with the French president, and projected the image of the EU flag and Czech and English slogans one early morning on the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle itself.

Blue morning, that´s what president Klaus had when he got a dose of blue light projected into his bedroom that morning.


TOMB BELONGS TO THE SCHWARZENBERGS. The Constitutional Court ruled in favour if Alžběta Pezold, the heir of the Hluboká line of the Schwarzenberg family, who filed a complaint against the violation of her private and family rights. The state now has to return to her the confiscated family tomb.

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The Constitutional Court overturned the ruling of a district court, a regional court and the Supreme Court, saying the lower courts’ rulings denied the basic rights to private and family life.

The neo-gothic building with a chapel in Domanín near Třeboň is part of the large property of the Hluboká branch of the Schwarzenbergs that was confiscated based on a decree signed by President Edvard Beneš in 1947, which became known as the Lex Schwarzenberg.

The District Court in Jindřichův Hradec will again have to rule whether the tomb is part of the Schwarzenberg heritage. Only then a regular inheritance proceedings can start with a goal to determine which of Adolf Schwarzenberg’s heirs has ownership rights to the tomb.

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