News

Zizka in a T-shirt

Apr 23, 16:04 Filed under news

Jan Zizka in the T-shirt. CLICK FOR ENLARGEMENT A few days ago, a group of activists (what a broad term) decided to point their finger at the Communist Party in a way that drew some attention. They dressed the Vitkov- placed statue of Jan Zizka in a t- shirt with a “I won’t bear another totalitarianism” sign printed on it. In Czech the sign is somewhat smarter, but it would be difficult to translate.

The group behind the action calls itself Decomunization, a sister term of the widely- used Denazification. No wonder they draw a parallel between the Nazi regime and the Communist one and they advocate an approach towards the Czech communists based on the German post- war strategy: banning the party and trying its main figures at court.

It’s a question of individual taste whether one likes or detests such a form, anyway it draws attention to a painful question of Czech contemporary history. The Czech society did not find a way to deal with its Communist (or Real- Socialist) past.

Firstly, the argument whether the regime may be compared to Nazism is far from resolved. Both opinions have strong advocates with powerful arguments. The question is all the more difficult depending on the way we state it: should we compare the Soviet Communism and Nazism or should we speak only about Czech Communism and Nazism? One of the difficult points is that should we take the radical way and declare the 1948- 1989 regime a system similar to Nazi terror, it would mean that nearly every family was partly involved in collaboration and the guilt would be almost unbearable.

Beside the theoretical argument there’s the physical state of things, which is what the decomunizers are complaining about.

After 1989 nobody really knew what to do about the Party and its members (there was just too many of them).The question was not resolved. It’s not only that even the most “obvious” criminals avoided punishment. The problem is there was not really any model, any road taken. The nineties suffered a split personality in this question. On one hand nothing really was done in the juristic field, on the other, major media often tended and still tend to portrait everyone who ever was a party member as a criminal. Many ordinary people felt insulted and degraded, though they personally did no harm to anyone. The power holders, in contrast, were left untouched, the Party structure staying similar, including the name (slightly changed by including Moravia). Once in several months there comes a Great Revelation that an actor or a singer we all know from the TV is on this or that list of contacts of the Czech secret police. Hardly anyone says a thing about what the person really did and why we all need to know it nearly twenty years after the Velvet Revolution. And the Party still keeps its ten percent presence in Parliament, carrying out mostly unproductive, declamatory policy and causing trouble during every coalition- building.

I don’t by any means want to summarize the whole of the problem, for this is too complicated a question. It is an unresolved, difficult one, and has been somehow marginalized in the nineties, partly because there were other problems, mainly the economy. It didn’t fade away, these things don’t fade away, they wait any number of years until they are confronted.

The dressed statue is only the latest in a line of events, which attempt to draw attention to the question, usually to the very existence of and support for the Communist Party. My problem with these would be that it is already accompanied by a radical position on the problem, so it doesn’t really provoke a debate on the nature of the regime and the majority’s complicity on the fact that it survived for forty years.

Question of New Building of Czech National Library Still Opened

Feb 29, 10:04 Filed under news

There is an urgent need for a new building of the Czech National Library as the old building of Klementinum is not sufficient any more. So there was organized a public competition for a new building design. Any architect interested could have participated. The jury was international, its chairman was a prominent architect Eva Jiricna, very important personas of contemporary architecture world were among its members, such as Zaha Hadid, Irene Wiese-von Ofen, John Eisler and others.

In the beginning of March 2007 Vlastimil Jezek, the director of the National Library, announced the winner: Futura System Studio of the famous Czech architect Jan Kaplicky, who currently lives in London. He won the competition with his extravagant project of the building of amorphous shapes in green and purple color. The design became known as “Blob” or “Chobotnice” (The Octopus). And it was supposed to be built at Letna, which is an important Prague location with nice view of Prague Castle.

After a few months, a number of questions was aroused. Some people did not like the design, the others did not want it to be placed at Letna, such close to the old Prague. And Czech architects came up with the claims, that the competition was manipulated, Kaplicky put the deposit rooms under the ground, which was not originally allowed, the chef of the jury – Czech architect Eva Jiricna, who also lives in the London, is a former partner of Jan Kaplicky and so on. The Czech president Vaclav Klaus said he was very strongly against the building, the director of the National Gallery said that it should not have been in Letna, but in another locality. Some others also came up later with ideas like the library should not be so close to the historic town reservation, among them Prague mayor Pavel Bem. And the prime minister Mirek Topolanek even added, that he was not sure, it the Czech Republic will have the money for the building at all.

By the time more and more people came into the discussion, architects, politicians as well as the public and the building of the National Library became one of the most discussed topics of the last year in the Czech Republic.

The architect Jan Kaplicky admitted that the library maybe does not need to be in Prague. And the towns of Brno and Edinburgh showed great interest in the building.

The question about the library should have been solved by the end of last year, but it is still opened now. The problem is to be solved in the cooperation of the architects, politicians, lawyers as well as conservationists. Jan Kaplicky even said that he might consider to put a charge to the international court if his design would not be accepted. And there is also not answered the question if there are money for this building at all. The cause looks now quite as a too long played tragicomedy with no end in a short time.

Prague - The candidate for the Olympic Games in 2016…

Feb 27, 14:43 Filed under news

czech olympic logo In 2008, the world will focus the attention towards the Olympic events in Beijing. In 2012, everyone will be watching the Olympic Games in London. In 2016, could it be Prague? Is this city the right candidate for the Olympics? Is the Czech Republic ready for Olympics preparation?

I think Prague is the right candidate. This is a great opportunity for our country. If we win the candidature, we will be hosting this enormously important world event Olympic Games in 2016. In case of we were the winner of this bid, we would need to build three new sports areas. One would be the ceremony stadium in Prague Letnany, another one would be the aquapark and the last one would be the cycling hall.

The decision about the candidature for the Olympics will take place in Copenhagen in 2009. The committee will decide about the next location for the Olympic Games. There are six other cities that applied for the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. These cities are Baku – Azerbaijan, Chicago – the USA, Doha – Qatar, Madrid – Spain, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil and Tokyo – Japan. If you want to wish Prague good luck, now is the time.

2008 – The Year of Presidential Elections

Feb 9, 15:26 Filed under news

The year 2008 is a year of great changes when talking about the heads of states throughout the world. Just to name the two most powerful countries – the USA and Russia – those immensely influential countries are both going to have new presidents this year. The whole world is watching tensely since the role of president is crucial there. However, not only Americans and Russians can expect new presidents to come. Other countries choose their heads of states this year as well.

As you probably know, the Czech lawmakers are electing the country’s president at this very moment. The election is both important and interesting, for the two candidates have very similar chances of being elected. But only one of them can be the winner, of course. Will Vaclav Klaus, the incumbent, have a chance to serve his second term? Or will a US citizen, Jan Svejnar, become the President of the Czech Republic?

As I see it, neither candidate for the presidency is suitable for the job. The first is known as an EU-skeptic and an Anti-global warming activist, whereas the latter has not been living in the Czech Republic since he was 17! Isn’t that crazy?

Fortunately, the role of the Czech President is rather representative, more power is concentrated to the hands of the Prime Minister and the Parliament. The term of office of a Czech president is limited to 5 years. He, or she, can be elected only twice in a row, serving thus 10 years at most.

The voting procedure is not going to be easy. The president must be supported by the majority in both chambers – Chamber of Deputies has 200 seats and Senate 81 seats. This means that he must gain the support of at least 101 deputies and 41 senators. If there is no president elected in the first round, second round follows in 14 days. This time the rules of election change slightly. A president must be elected by the majority of present deputies as well as the majority of present senators. Again, if there is no president elected, the third and last round follows in 14 days. This time a president will be chosen if he gains the majority of deputies and senators who are present. If there is still no president, the process must start all over again.

Five years ago, when Vaclav Klaus moved his office to Prague Castle, 3 round ballots were needed. It is expected that this year there might be more than 1 round as well since the support of both candidates is tight.

Svejnar or Klaus? The February Presidential Vote

Jan 11, 11:47 Filed under news

As a scholar and an emigrant, Jan Svejnar would have to face the suspicious, or at least cautious Czech public- if there was a direct public vote. There isn’t, so all the commentators’ speculative wordplay is directed towards the 281 legislators in Czech Parliament. The key question our MPs and Senators are to answer: is everything OK at the Prague castle or do we need a change? While it may sound paradoxical, the negative answer to the first part does not imply the same to the second.

Vaclav Klaus is the face of the early nineties economic transformation. Unlike Thatcher herself, Klaus’s Thatcherist experiments left him in fine shape and, after a brief period of insecurity, he was more or less at the top level for the last sixteen years. He is credited for kick- starting the standard political party system in CR and for doing the same with the economy- but in the latter case some of the consequences were seen as disastrous.

jan svejnar vaclav klaus Svejnar has been living in the US since 1969 and he’s a professor at the Michigan University since 1996. He has higher education than Klaus, but his role in the post- 1989 politics is less visible, though he was an advisor to Václav Havel. Regarding the transformation, he had challenged Klaus from the very beginning, having worked out a conception of his own in 1989. The dispute is ongoing and fundamental, on the ideological level. Klaus as a devoted follower of Friendrich Hayek or Milton Friedman always claimed that the market should be left in peace, untouched by the state. The competition will fix all the problems. He went even further than many other liberals by understating the role of law in the establishment of the market: his market was indeed free, the question is whether it wasn’t free of rules. Svejnar promoted the role of rules of the competition.

Klaus sees the EU as a disposable and potentially dangerous institution, though he doesn’t reject the project altogether. Švejnar is in overall positive towards the concept, although he does notice the problems it faces (bureaucratization, lack of effectiveness etc.) and promotes more of concentration on effectiveness and flexibility. There’s another cleavage concerning the climate change. Švejnar is more of a moderate supporter of the eco- politics, but that makes anyone a radical in comparison with Klaus, who presents the climate change campaign as a new form of Communism.

Klaus has strong support in the public and the parliament. The public opinion is important for while the vote itself is parliamentary, the position on and conduct during the presidential election is a part of the parties’ profile. He has the last elections winner on his side and the Christian democrats likely to join. Svejnar has a not-so-reliable support of the left. The Social Democrats have really less of a problem with Klaus staying- he’s a nuisance for them, but no real harm. The Communists have even less reasons to vote for Svejnar, seen a rightist only an inch more socially aware than Klaus.

On the opposite side, there may be members of the ODS slightly fed up with their founder’s anti- European and anti- environmentalist attacks and if it is so there is hardly a more suitable counter-candidate than an experienced liberal economist. Svejnar also has the Green Party on his side, the only party that really does wish Klaus to leave the Castle.

Olympic Games in Prague, fact or fiction?

Oct 5, 11:10 Filed under news

On September 5th, the Mayor of Prague Pavel Bem together with the President of the Czech Olympic Committee Milan Jirasek signed the letter in which they applied for candidature for organizing Olympic Games in 2016. Is it an unreal dream or a good and achievable idea? The Czech nation is riven. Some people believe that Olympic Games could make the Czech Republic visible and that we can make a profit on it. On the other hand there are opinions concerning corruption and economic collapse. I will write some informations about this “big action” for you to make your own opinion.

Olympic Games will cost 135 milliard CZK. This amount was counted by financial experts from PriceWaterhouse Coopers who produced economic analysis of the project “Praha olympijska” (Olympic Prague). “The state will share approximately 28% costs which is about 37 milliard CZK (1,23 milliard €) and 660 millions €) fall to Prague. The rest of the costs will be covered by revenues of International Olympic Committee for media rights, tickets etc.”, said Tomas Petera, the chairman of generaly beneficial company Praha olympijska. He also said that all concept of Olympic Games will be completed in the middle of November and that the development of approximately 130 sport fields in 70 towns or places in the whole Czech Republic is being envisaged. However there are other expenses for building infrastructure – motorways, beltway in Prague etc. which will cost other 487 milliard CZK (16,23 milliards €). There could be also other cities hosting Olympic Games; for example: Ostrava, Olomouc, Brno, Jihlava, Plzen, Racice and Lipno.

The Czech President Vaclav Klaus is belongs people who are not obviously for Olympic Games. He sees the estimations of profitable Olympic Games as impossible. According to him, If we want to make the Olympics, we should stand for it and don’t look at the costs. He also claims that we should simultaneously say that the Games will be at the expense of a lot of things.

So what do you think now? Is the Czech Republic prepaired for that big event? Or you think that there are other things which should be financed and Olympic Games are a waste of money…

Skyscrapers in Pankrac

Sep 15, 17:16 Filed under news

Possible new buildings in Prague-Pankrac [visualization:ECM] The Ministry of Culture permited construction of two new high-rise buildings in Prague Pankrac. Skyscrapers will cost 2,5 milliard CZK and should be built in three years. One building will be a flat-building City Epoque and the second will be a hotel Epoque. Both buildings are a part of the City project of the value of 8 milliard CZK. Thirty–floor residence building City Epoque which will reach the height 104 metres will offer 150 flats. In four-star hotel Epoque there will be more than 300 apartments. Every building will have 320 parking places.

But some arguments against this project occured. UNESCO expressed serious disquietude in July this year. This is the first step before striking Prague’s historical centre off the UNESCO list. After this step registration of the city to the list of threatened monuments might follow which may finally lead to striking the monuments off the UNESCO list. Prague has the term until 1st February from UNESCO. During this time the project should be reconsidered and a study, which will guarantee the protection of the historical heritage of the city, should be made.

Prague replies partially to the critique of UNESCO. A study which difines maximum height of building for each part of the city is currently being made.

And what is the opinion of Prague inhabitants? Some of them agree with conservationists and with UNESCO. They think these buildings will destroy the integrity of historical Prague and they see the loss of Preservation of Monuments Movement. But on the other hand some of them do not see any problem in this project. They say that this place is out of Prague historical centre and in the direction of Pankrac there are other skyscrapers. These buldings only help improve the view of Pankrac and Prague needs modern architecture as opposite to the Old Prague. Everybody has one’s own opinion. So it is up to you which attitude you choose.

Autoshow Prague 2007

Sep 14, 16:02 Filed under news

Do you like cars? Do you like quick cars? Do you like tuned cars? Do you like new or historic cars? So do not hesitate and visit Autoshow Prague 2007 together with Transped / Comma 2007 in Prague exhibition area in Holesovice from 18th to 21st October.

Porsche Autoshow Prague 2007 is in its 13th year. It is the international fair of passenger-cars and light commercial motor vehicles and automobile styling. You can see Car & Audio Show, Tuning & Racing, Allroad Show and Veteran Car Show.

Transped / Comma 2007 is 14th international exhibition of trucks, water-rail and air-transport, logistics, warehousing and manipulation.

32 617 people visited the fair last year and they could see expositions from 115 firms. If you are interested in passenger and light utility vehicles participating in Autoshow Prague 2007 there will be: Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Cadillac, Citroen, Corvette, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Gaz, Honda, Hyundai, Hummer, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Kaipan, Kia, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mini, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Saab, Seat, Ssangyong, Subaru, Suzuki, Škoda, Toyota, Uaz, Volkswagen.

Opening Time is Thursday – Saturday from 9.30 to 18.00, Sunday from 9.30 to 17.00. Entrance fees are 120 CZK for adults, reduced fee is 60 CZK and for family it is 200 CZK.

Summer Holiday Ends - changes in Prague transport

Sep 1, 17:02 Filed under news

Time is flying. Especially if you are having fun, don’t you think? And so summer holiday is about to end soon. Although this is usually bad news for children of all ages, it is great news for anyone who is using public transportation in Prague.

Ending of summer holiday signifies at least two positive things for all passengers in Prague. First of all, it cancels summer schedules with long intervals. Trams, buses as well as subways will come in shorter intervals after another. Excellent, right? Well, that is not all! The beginning of a new school year also means saying bye-bye to big rebuilding of tracks and stations which take place during the summer break.

This year, Czech students will return from their holidays and go back to school on September 3. By this day, if not sooner, all major renovations of public routes should be finished. This means no more changes in lines of your buses and trams. No more detours. No more endless waiting. And no more shall you feel lost in streets of Prague. Isn’t it great?

But life would be too simple if there weren’t any hitches. It is true that most of the big renovations will be finished by September 3. However, the crossroad on Palackeho square will be finished not sooner than until October 31!

Conclusion? Even after the summer holiday you should pay attention to trams and busses with orange signs – this indicates that they follow changed route. Trams number 3, 4, 10, 14, 16 will not follow their regular routes until October 31. So be aware of that.

Ruzyne Airport Celebrates Birthday

Aug 15, 12:17 Filed under news

Do you want to visit an exhibition? Then visit the Prague Airport Ruzyne. Do you think I am joking? Exhibition at the airport? It is true that most common place for exhibitions is a gallery or a museum, but this exhibition is special. It celebrates the 70th birthday of Prague Airport.

Jiri Kolbaba's exhibition at Prague Airport 70 years have already passed since the first planes landed and took off at Prague Ruzyne Airport. How many passengers might have checked in and out over the time? That is probably impossible to count. It is to say that Prague Airport is the second biggest airport in Central and Eastern Europe.

With this exhibition you have a chance to travel the world although not leaving the building. On more than 200 large colorful photos by Czech traveler and photographer Jiri Kolbaba you will see the beauty of all continents and will “visit” about 120 countries.

The photos are displayed all around the airport so that not only passengers can admire them. You do not have to be actually departing, arriving or picking up friends to be able to visit this exhibition. The exhibition is for everyone and it is for free.

So celebrate the wonderful anniversary together with Prague Ruzyne Airport and enjoy the truly marvelous photos. The exhibition is held till August 26.

You can get to the airport from subway station Zlicin (yellow line B) by taking bus number 100. It is about 15 minutes ride with the bus. Or you can travel from subway station Dejvicka (green line A) and take bus number 119 which is there in about 20 minutes.

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