President Václav Klaus has expressed concern over developments surrounding Kosovo since the former Serbian province announced independence last Sunday. Responding to a letter from the head of the Czech Communist Party, Mr Klaus said on his website he understood the frustration and disillusionment of the Serb people; he also made clear tensions over Kosovo must not continue to escalate. The Czech Republic has not yet recognised Kosovo’s independence but is expected to do so, as indicated by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. President Klaus has said the Czech decision should help calm, not complicate, the situation.
Coalition members the Christian Democrats are continuing to up the pressure for the return of their party leader, Jiří Čunek, to the cabinet. In a radio interview on Thursday Christian Democrat deputy head Michaela Šojdrová said the prime minister should reinstate Mr Čunek before leaving for an official visit to Washington. The controversial head of the Christian Democrats was forced to step down as deputy prime minister and minister for regional affairs last year after being hit by bribe and fraud scandals; he was later cleared. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has already indicated he will propose Mr Čunek’s re-nomination, but Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg remains opposed to the Christian Democrat’s return. The foreign minister told Friday’s Hospodářské noviny that he was not convinced Mr Čunek’s financial affairs had been adequately explained. In December, Mr Schwarzenberg said he would resign if Mr Čunek returned to the cabinet without fully explaining past dealings.
Police have begun an investigation into a bribe claim made in connection to the country’s recent presidential election. Prior to the election – which was won by incumbent Václav Klaus – Independent/European Democrats Senator Josef Novotný claimed he had been approached and offered a 2 million crown bribe by a Civic Democrat MP, in return for supporting Mr Klaus. The incident allegedly took place after the first election to choose a new Czech head of state proved inconclusive. Senator Novotný has refused to publicly reveal the MP’s name, but has disclosed the information to the police.
Opposition Social Democrat MP Evžen Snítilý has told internet news site aktualne.cz he and his family will no longer be protected by police but by private bodyguards, after a commercial broadcaster revealed that the MP’s home was being watched round-the-clock by officers. Only a handful of individuals in the Czech Republic receive similar protection. The move was approved by Interior Minister Ivan Langer after the MP received a death threat in the form of a bullet in a letter, in connection with the recent presidential elections. Mr Snítilý broke party ranks – and was expelled from his party’s deputies club – for voting for incumbent Václav Klaus. He and a number of other Czech politicians received anonymous envelopes containing bullets or in one case gun powder, ahead of the second and decisive vote.
Two US citizens, Joseph Carrano and John Moore, who were detained in the Czech Republic in early February for overstaying the 90-day visa-free period and were facing deportation, have withdrawn an appeal and will voluntarily return to the United States. A spokesperson for the Foreigners Police revealed the news on Friday, saying the US nationals would return next week. The two US-born brothers, who were adopted in the US and whose parents live in Prostějov, south Moravia, arrived in the Czech Republic last October to reunite with their family. One of the brothers is banned from returning to the Czech Republic for one year, the other six months.
An agreement on the burial of German WWII soldiers' remains at a cemetery in Cheb, west Bohemia, is soon to be signed Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Friday after meeting with his counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A final resting place for the remains of soldiers killed in Czechoslovakia during the Second World War has been an unresolved matter in Czech-German relations for some time. Cheb authorities agreed to establish a final site last November on the condition that German partners would help fund necessary repairs to the local cemetery. The total costs have been estimated at 24 million crowns.
The Czech crown reached record highs on Friday of 25.04 to the euro and 16.86 to the dollar. The Czech currency was pulled higher against the dollar by strength of the euro, Tomáš Vlk of Patria Finance told the AFP news agency. No special domestic factors played a role, he also said. The Czech crown is now the fasting appreciating international currency this year, surpassing the Israeli shekel and Chilean peso, say Czech economists.
Czech trust in the European Parliament is higher than its own, a new poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested. The poll was conducted just days before a recent presidential election in February. More than 1,400 respondents over the age of 18 were queried. The poll suggests that half of Czechs trust the EP, while only about one-third express confidence in the country’s own Chamber of Deputies; less than 30 percent say the same for the Senate. The Czechs' trust level in the EP and the EU has not considerably changed in the past few years. Confidence decreased in 2005 during sharp disputes between the EU member states over their influence on European institutions.
Michal Slesingr earned his second medal on the third day of the European biathlon championships in Nové Město na Moravě. On Friday he finished 3rd in the biathlon 10 km sprint behind Artem Goussev of Russia and Norwegian Stian Eckhof. Earlier, the Czech earned a silver medal in the endurance race. In the women’s 7.5 kilometre Zuzana Tryznová earned a silver on Friday, finishing just 3.4 seconds behind Oksana Jakovleva of Ukraine.
The Czech government will deal with the issue of recognizing Kosovo “when the time is right”, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Thursday. The Czech Republic is aiming to maintain good relations with Serbia; in the European Union, the Czech Republic has made several positive steps towards Belgrade and it does not want to reverse its policies. Serbia is one of eight countries in transition which the Czech Republic has been assisting. The Czech Foreign Minister said that whether or not the Czechs recognize Kosovo will have no impact on the situation in the former Serbian province. Mr Schwarzenberg had already announced that the Czech Republic would recognize Kosovo after a majority of EU countries do so.
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