Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has said that the price for supporting a transitional government will be the absence of a series of ministers. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Mr Paroubek said four ministers from the outgoing government, including Green Party leader Martin Bursík, should not feature in a new administration. Outgoing Prime Minister and Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek said in a television interview Sunday that discussions over the composition of such a government are still a long way off. The leaders of the country’s two main parties met for around 90 minutes on Friday to discuss a way out of the current political crisis following the defeat of the centre-right coalition in a confidence vote. They agreed early elections should be held but disagreed when.
US President Barack Obama is due to make a set piece speech about the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons when he visits Prague, the Associated Press news agency has reported. As well as the Prague speech, the agency said President Obama is due to make another keynote declaration on transatlantic relations in France. President Obama begins his first European tour since taking office by attending the G20 meeting of the most economically developed countries in London next week. His two day visit to Prague starts on April 4.
Czech President Václav Klaus has expressed surprise at the announcement his country will back Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski as the new head of NATO. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg announced support for his Polish counterpart on Saturday. In a statement released by his office, President Klaus, who under the constitution is head of the Czech armed forces, said the issue had not been discussed at any relevant forum and that Mr Schwarzenberg must have been expressing a personal opinion. NATO leaders are due to meet next week to decide on a replacement for the current Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The favourite in the race so far is Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Police launched a massive campaign in the western Pilsen region on Saturday to check on foreigners’ documents and tell them about the government’s voluntary repatriation offer. Around 300 police officers together with 40 colleagues from the Pilsen city force toured hostels, bars, night clubs and even discos frequented by foreigners. They checked on whether their papers were in order and gave out leaflets about the government offer of free passage home and payments of up to 500 euros. So far 1,041 foreigners nationwide have taken up the offer. The Pilsen region has one of the biggest proportions of foreign workers in the country, many who have been laid off or are facing redundancy.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said that his Civic Democrat party should take a clear stand on adoption of the single currency euro and he would push for such a positron to be included in the party programme for upcoming elections. Mr Topolánek said his party should stop treating the euro and the EU’s reforming Lisbon Treaty as ideological issues during a tv interview on Sunday. Mr Topolánek promised at the start of the year that the government would announce its stance on when the euro could be adopted by November 1. He said on Sunday that it was now uncertain whether this deadline could be kept. But he said he would push for Czech ratification of the Lisbon Treaty ahead of elections to the European Parliament in June. The treaty has still to get through the Czech upper house, the Senate.
Separately, Mirek Topolánek said the outgoing Czech government does not plan to boost its measures to deal with the economic crisis. The stimulus given so far is worth around 180 billion crowns, he said on Sunday. Measures proposed but still to be adopted include changes to the law on income tax allowing faster write-offs of assets by business, cuts in social insurance payments made by employers and amendments to the insolvency law. The Social Democrats have said they would back faster write-offs and insolvency changes but have problems with the social insurance changes, one of the government’s main measures. The lower house should hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss the crisis package.
The Czech fim Hlídač č 47 (Guard number 47) has picked up a series of awards at the Tiburon Film Festival in the United States. The film, directed by Filip Renč and starring Karel Roden, picked up four prizes including the Golden Reel award for the best film. The film already scored well at the Český Lev (Czech Lion) film festival earlier this year.
The Czech Republic’s football team produced a goalless bore draw in the World Cup qualification away match against Slovenia on Saturday night. Captain Tomáš Ujfaluši also picked up a yellow card which will result in him missing Wednesday’s home tie against Slovakia. The Czech team was attacked at home for an anaemic performance. But manager Petr Rada took comfort from the away point which puts his team third in the group with eight points, the same as Slovenia, but behind Slovakia and top of the table Northern Ireland.
In ice hockey, Karlovy Vary booked their place in the extra league finals after defeating Sparta Prague 4 – 1 on Saturday night. Karlovy Vary took a one goal lead in the second period and scored another two goals without reply in the third. The home win gave them a 4-2 lead in the series and the chance to meet Slavia Prague in a repeat of last year’s finals.
A two-day informal EU foreign affairs meeting concluded on Saturday at the South Bohemian town of Hluboká after focussing on bringing in countries from the Balkans. EU foreign ministers backed offering membership to countries in the Western Balkans once they meet EU entry conditions and dropping visa conditions as soon as possible. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg insisted at the meeting that the Balkans are part of Europe and should be part of the EU too. But that view is not shared by all 27 EU countries. Mr Schwarzenberg also warned that EU members and candidates feared the ongoing Czech political crisis could disrupt ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and the entry of new members.
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