US President Barack Obama will meet leaders of several Central and East European states when he comes to Prague to sign a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia next week. Among the first to confirm participation at the planned meeting are the Hungarian prime minister, Gordon Bajnai, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, and Romania’s President Constantin Stefanoaie. According to the CTK news agency leaders from Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and the Baltic states have also been issued invitations. The US president and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev are due to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty in Prague on Thursday.
The former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said on Thursday he would resign as head of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party, just two months before a general election. He told reporters he would resign from his post after an April 12 meeting of the party leadership. Topolánek already quit as the party's election leader last week after a series of scandals that have alienated his party colleagues and damaged the party’s standing before the vote. The post of party leader will be taken up by deputy-chairman Petr Nečas who is leading the party into the May elections.
Political analysts say that Toplánek’s departure from all party posts is likely to help the Civic Democrats in May’s general election. Petr Nečas is seen as a conservative and prudent politician who may succeed in turning attention away from the party’s scandals to its policy programme. His non-confrontational attitude is likely to be in sharp contrast to Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek’s aggressive style of campaigning.
The two strongest political parties, the Civic and Social Democrats have admitted that their finances are heavily in the red. Despite hefty contributions from sponsors the Civic Democratic Party has acknowledged a debt of 165 million crowns, while the Social Democrats have posted a debt of 158 million. Both parties took out big loans to boost their finances for the election campaign. All parties are bound by law to publish annual reports on the state of their finances.
Jiří Pernes has become head of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. His first day in office was marked by continuing controversy over his appointment, with three members of the council refusing to acknowledge him in the post. The head of the council Naděžda Kavalírová refused to sign the papers confirming his appointment and two other members - the former dissident and writer Jiří Gruša and military historian Eduard Stehlík - resigned their seats on the council in protest. Jiří Pernes lost their support after it emerged that he had taken evening classes at the communist academy of Marxism and Leninism.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer is due to meet the leaders of the two strongest parties –the Civic and Social Democrats – to discuss changes in the interim government following the resignation of two ministers nominated by the Green Party. Jan Dusík left the post of environment minister in protest of the planned modernization of a coal-powered plant and Michael Kocáb resigned as human rights minister earlier this week after the Green Party withdrew its support for the caretaker government. Prime Minister Fischer gave the environment portfolio to Agriculture Minister Jakub Šebesta which sparked hostility from the Civic Democrats who claim that the cabinet is leaning left. The prime minister has said he is ready to discuss a solution which would be acceptable for all. The Green Party has refused to attend the talks.
The International Monetary Fund said late Wednesday it had signed an agreement with the Czech Republic to borrow up to 1.03 billion euros (1.4 billion dollars) to boost its lending capacity. The Group of 20 developed and developing countries committed in April 2009 to triple the IMF's resources so the Washington-based institution would be better positioned to help struggling member nations amid the global economic crisis. To date, 17 IMF members, including 11 EU countries, have signed agreements with the Fund to increase its financing capacity, either through direct loans or bond purchases.
The Czech Republic’s public finance deficit rose to 5.93 percent of the GDP in 2009, up from 2.72 percent of the GDP in 2008, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Thursday. The fact that the country’s state deficit is almost double the 3 percent limit set down for euro adoption has raised concerns in Brussels. The country’s caretaker government has proposed a convergence plan that would cut the deficit to 3 percent of the GDP by 2013 but its implementation will depend on the government which will emerge from May’s general election.
Former communist prosecutor Ludmila Brožová-Polednová who is serving a six year prison sentence for her participation in the notorious 1950s show trials can count on an early release in March of next year. The Prague High Court on Thursday upheld an earlier ruling by the Hradec Králové regional court according to which Brožová-Polednová’s six year sentence will be reduced to three years on the grounds of two presidential amnesties from 1953 and 1990. Brožová-Polednová has already served a year of her sentence and according to Czech law she can request an early release on the grounds of old age in another years’ time. She is the only person jailed for taking part in the 1950s show trials and at 87 is the country’s oldest prisoner.
Czech tennis player Radek Štepánek is taking two months off to rest. The 31-year-old, who is the Czech men’s number one, is suffering from fatigue syndrome. A spokesman for the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup team said that Štepánek could miss the World Team Cup in Germany’s Duesseldorf in May. The world number 18 could also be out for the French Open, which begins on May 23, and the Davis Cup quarter-finals, which take place in Chile in July. Last year, he helped the Czech team reach the final.
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