Coalition leaders on Thursday assured President Václav Klaus they would
strive to save the pro-reform government despite a corruption scandal that
has brought it to the brink of collapse. Following a meeting at Prague
Castle Mr. Klaus told journalists that he was relieved to find that all
three party leaders were fully committed to seeking a way out of the
and said they would all have to “back off a little” in order to find
President Klaus called the meeting on Wednesday evening saying that it was essential to find a way out to the crisis since public trust in the government was badly damaged after weeks of in-fighting and mudslinging.
The ongoing crisis was triggered by a corruption scandal within the junior coalition party, Public Affairs. Its de facto leader, Transport Minister Vít Bárta, tendered his resignation after being accused of corruption and having established the party in order to further his own business interests. The prime minister has also proposed the dismissal of two of Mr. Barta’s closest allies –Interior Minister Radek John and Education Minister Josef Dobeš. A secretly taped conversation between MP Kristýna Kočí and two other former members of Public Affairs has further complicated the crisis, leading to allegations that the corruption scandal went beyond the junior coalition party and that Mr. Nečas’ Civic Democrats were also involved in it.
Talks on a government re-shuffle have been postponed until Monday to give party leaderships time to debate the proposed changes. After a brief inconclusive meeting on Thursday Prime Minister Nečas said there was still a long way to go to an agreement. The prime minister said seven different proposals were now on the table, but more could emerge over the weekend. The coalition leaders are to meet again on Monday to try to find a way out of the crisis. If they reach agreement, the centre-right cabinet will seek a fresh vote of confidence in the lower house.
A flash poll commissioned by Czech Television suggests that the public’s patience with the present coalition government is at an end. According to the poll results, 67 percent of respondents said they did not want the governing coalition to remain in office. Forty-two percent of respondent said they were deeply ashamed of their government and 41 percent said they were disappointed with the state of Czech politics. On the other hand 55 percent of Czechs approve of the way President Václav Klaus has handled the crisis, saying that he was acting in a reasonable and responsible manner. Individual politicians credit ratings have also plummeted in the wake of the government crisis.
Visiting Italian President Georgio Napolitano and Czech President Václav Klaus opened the newly renovated hall at Prague’s main railway station on Thursday. The renovation was financed by the Italian investment company Grandi Stazioni which has acquired a 30-year lease on it. President Klaus hailed the project as a successful, mutually-advantageous bilateral endeavour. The renovation has turned the once seedy railway station into a modern facility that meets European standards.
The Czech Republic would be prepared to send medical staff to Libya within a possible humanitarian aid operation in the country, the Czech ambassador to NATO Martin Povejšil said after an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin on Thursday. He said the launch of such an operation was conditioned by a request from the United Nations. Mr. Povejšil was standing in for Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg who could not be present at the talks due to the ongoing government crisis.
Two-thirds of Czech students say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment. A survey among female students at an unspecified Czech university revealed that over 60 percent of them had been exposed to lewd remarks, sexist jokes and even direct offers of better grades in exchange for sexual favours. Seventy percent of those polled said they had no idea how to deal with the situation and either tolerated such behavior or tried to avoid coming into contact with the offender.
Thursday is the last day when Czechs can hand in their forms in the 2011 population and housing census. The census concerns not just Czech nationals but foreigners residing in the country as well as those who are here for a period of over three months. Population and housing censuses have taken place on Czech territory since 1869 and are conducted once in ten years. For the first time this year Czechs were able to fill in their forms on the internet. Forms can also be handed in at any post office in the country. The results of the census should be available by the end of the year.
The Czech finance ministry said on Thursday it had lowered its economic growth forecasts for both this year and 2012 on uncertainty about the global recovery. The growth forecast for this year was cut to 1.9 percent from a previously forecast 2.2 percent, and for 2012 to 2.3 percent from 2.7 percent. The main risk sources for the Czech Republic are linked to the condition of public budgets and the situation in the banking sectors of some eurozone countries," the ministry said in a statement on its website. In 2010, the Czech economy posted 2.3-percent growth, following a 4.1-percent contraction the year before.
The European Commission is considering suspending payments into the Environment and North-West operational programmes run by the Czech Ministry for Local Development, deputy minister Daniel Braun told the ctk news agency on Thursday. Mr. Braun said the commission was reportedly considering the move in connection with cited shortcomings in management. Earlier this week the European Commission suspended payments into the Enterprise and Innovations programme, run by the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, citing non-transparent evaluations.
The price of petrol on the Czech market has reached a new all-time high at 35 crowns per litre, according to data published by CCS, a company monitoring fuel prices at petrol stations around the country. The price of petrol rose by 47 hellers on average in the past week alone. The price of Diesel oil upped by 42 hellers to an average 34.49 crowns per litre. The ongoing conflict in Libya and unrest in other Arab countries are cited as the main reason and analysts expect further price growth in the days to come.
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