When last month President Petr Pavel set out plans for his first 100 days in office, he said making his official seat, Prague Castle, more open to the public would be his first priority.
On Monday morning he delivered on that pledge. In a press briefing at the Castle that began at 11:30, he said that changes would be implemented within the hour.
“As soon as possible, specifically from 12 o’clock today, the majority of security frames – meaning blanket checks on admissions – will be removed. These checks have caused long queues at the entrance to the Castle and sparked strong emotions, because people who come to visit the Castle, or come here for work, and have to stand in a queue for an hour aren’t particularly happy about it.”
The security checks were introduced in 2016 by the previous head of state, Miloš Zeman, whose office cited the threat of terrorism.
Mr. Pavel said on Monday that what he called the “closure” of the Castle had sparked “very negative emotions” over a long period.
It is true that the checks caused many Prague residents to start avoiding the historic complex, two and a half decades after the first post-communist president, Václav Havel, had taken steps to make it more welcoming.
Standing beside the current head of state on Monday was Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, who took the post in late 2021.
He said the replacement of the security frames with random checks – which he had advocated for in the past – was great news.
“After my appointment I began discussing this issue with the security community. In January last year the situation looked quite promising. It looked like the regime we are now introducing was close. But then came February 24 and the start of the war in Ukraine, Russian aggression. So, logically, the security situation changed.”
President Pavel, who was inaugurated last month, said the removal of physical barriers to the Castle was only part of his aim as head of state.
“By opening up the Castle, I don’t just mean making access easier. It’s also about opening up in terms of information and opening up to many arts and other events. You may have noticed a few such events have already taken place, including a meeting with children and a meeting with representatives of the Roma community.”
Mr. Pavel pointed out to journalists he had already met with Josef Pleskot, his chosen “Castle architect”. Mr. Pleskot is not new to the complex; he left his mark on Prague Castle in Václav Havel’s final term with a tunnel at the Deer Moat.