President Václav Klaus has named the country’s new interim government to office. 16 new ministers were sworn in at Prague Castle shortly after four pm on Friday. The move was a final step in ending a crisis which ensued when the previous cabinet was defeated by the opposition in a vote of no-confidence (which took place in March). One of the main goals of the new caretaker cabinet, led by Prime Minister Jan Fischer, will be to see through the remaining two months of the Czech EU presidency, as well as to lead the country to early elections. At the ceremony on Friday, Czech President Václav Klaus expressed confidence the government would be successful in facing its tasks ahead.
In related news, one of the tasks faced by the caretaker cabinet will be to improve the image of the Czech EU presidency, which many observers say suffered after the fall of the previous government. Czech news agency ČTK reported on the matter on Friday. A number of recent informal summits hosted by the Czech EU presidency, such as a meeting on regional development, had since seen a low turn-out by European officials. Many, including the Czech ambassador to the EU, Milena Vicenová, described the fall of the previous government halfway through the EU presidency as most unfortunate. The Czech Republic took over the running of the EU on January 1, and immediately had to address a number of international crises - including the conflict in Gaza and the gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
This Friday saw the last in a series of EU summits held in Prague this week: representatives of the Czech EU presidency and the European Commission met with Southern Corridor countries, including Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey and others, to discuss energy transport from the Caspian region to Europe. Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said the corridor could be could be ushered in by the Nabucco pipeline. He stressed that more than energy was at stake but a “two-way exchange on goods, investment, labour and knowledge”.
Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko has told reporters he is pleased with prospects offered by the Eastern Partnership summit, held in Prague on Thursday by the EU and the Czech EU presidency. He made the comment even though he himself did not attend. Mr Lukashenko had been given an invitation for Belarus, along with representatives from five other former Soviet-bloc countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), but opted to send a deputy prime minister in his stead. The leader’s human rights record has put him at odds with individual EU member states. The Czech president, Václav Klaus, had also warned in advance if Mr Lukashenko arrived in Prague, he would not be received at Prague Castle.
The 64th anniversary of the end of World War II was marked by a number of events in the Czech Republic. On Friday, President Václav Klaus laid a wreath at a monument to Czech soldiers who lost their lives in the service of other countries’ armies. The ceremony was attended by senior politicians including outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. Mr Klaus said after the ceremony it was “a duty” to remind younger generations of what had taken place, while the head of the Czech Senate, Přemysl Sobotka, said it was necessary to remember those who had sacrificed their lives. This year, for the first time, the president did not name new generals to the Czech Army.
English football side Chelsea, home to Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech, have failed to advance in the Champions League. On Thursday, the side tied 1:1 with Barcelona in their second-leg semi-final match. The draw means Barca go ahead on aggregate, facing defending champions Manchester United in the final. For most of the game on Thursday Chelsea led 1:0, but Barca were able to level in extra time. It is the second year in a row that Chelsea suffered an agonising defeat in the tournament: last year they lost in the final on penalties.
The Czech Republic’s national hockey team was defeated by Sweden on Thursday at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Switzerland. The final score was 3:1. The loss means that the Czechs are out, with no shot at a medal for the third straight year. During the quarterfinal game the Czechs failed to capitalise on the power play while the Swedes went ahead. Afterwards, coach Vladimír Růžička expressed disappointment, making clear the lone goal simply wasn’t enough. Czech fans had hoped the team might go further through the leadership of players like Jaromír Jágr.
In the NHL playoffs, Martin Havlát scored a goal and earned an assist to help his team Chicago defeat Vancouver in Game 4. Havlát tied the game with less than three minutes remaining, and then assisted on the winner in overtime. Chicago’s series with Vancouver is now tied at two-apiece. The next game takes place in Vancouver on Saturday.
The head of the eurosceptical party Libertas has welcomed President Václav Klaus’s declaration he will not sign the Lisbon treaty following Wednesday’s vote in favour by the Czech upper house, the Senate. Libertas’s head Declan Ganley said he was pleased by President Klaus’s stance. The Czech head of state said after the Senate vote that he would wait on the outcome of an expected referral of the treaty to the Constitutional Court by a group of Civic Democrat senators. Libertas’s leader said President Klaus was standing by the people of Ireland and would not ratify the treaty without their consent. The Czech President has said in the past that he would not sign the treaty until the Irish people overturned their previous referendum rejection of the package of EU reforms.
Prague is hosting two European Union summits on jobs and improving ties with six former Soviet states on Thursday as part of its European Union presidency. Representatives of the 27 members of the bloc are set to discuss how to deal with the impacts of the financial crisis on employment and how to help the jobless get back to work at the city’s Congress Centre. The same venue will later host the launch of the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative, which aims to strengthen ties with, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova. Many EU and Eastern leaders have chosen not to attend the second summit.
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