Public Affairs leader and Deputy Prime Minister Radek John, who announced his resignation from the centre-right government last week, said coalition talks would determine his party’s future role. In a panel debate on Czech Television Mr. John said he had no intention of backtracking on his decision and noted that whether or not his party stayed in government would depend on the agreement reached with its coalition partners –the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. Public Affairs has made a list of demands under which it would be willing to remain in the government –or possibly support a minority cabinet from the back benches. Mr. John, who is resigning because of what he calls a lack of tangible support from the prime minister, has criticized the government for allegedly not being serious about fighting corruption and for failing to make progress on badly-needed reforms.
The TOP09 leadership is meeting on Sunday to debate the crisis and map out its position at the forthcoming talks. In view of the scandals surrounding Public Affairs both its coalition partners have heard calls from inside party ranks that it would be wiser to continue without them and lean on their support as a parliamentary party in pushing through key reforms. Moreover Public Affairs has conditioned its continued presence in the government on the dismissal of three more ministers from the other two parties and would like to hold on to four ministries, which the two strongest parties find hard to comply with. Labour Minister Jaromir Drabek of TOP 09 said on Sunday that despite all these drawbacks it would be harder to continue without the junior party in government. The two strongest parties only have 94 seats combined in the 200-member lower house and they would thus be entirely at the mercy of Public Affairs.
Kiev has rejected claims that the expulsion of two Czech diplomats from Ukraine on spying charges was in retaliation for Prague’s decision to grant asylum to the country’s former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn who has been charged with abuse of power. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that it was expelling two Czech diplomats from the military attaches office for “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status”. According to the ministry they were gathering information and documents on the Ukrainian armament industry with the aid of two paid Ukrainian collaborators. The Czech Foreign Ministry has rejected the claims, linking the expulsions to the Danylyshyn case.
Czech top officials on Sunday attended a commemorative ceremony for Holocaust victims in Terezin, the site of a former Nazi concentration camp. President Vaclav Klaus, the speaker of the lower house, senators and a number of foreign dignitaries laid wreaths at a mass grave for Holocaust victims at Terzin cemetery. Speaking at the annual ceremony marking the camp's liberation the Czech president said the lessons of history must never be forgotten. Also known as Theresienstadt, the 200-year-old fortress town was transformed by the Nazis into a camp where Jews from across Europe were massed until they could be transported to extermination camps. Over 150,000 prisoners entered its gates. 35,000 died there of stress, hunger and atrocious living conditions.
A museum documenting the atrocities of the communist era has opened in the border town of Rozvadov,at the site of a former heavily-guarded communist border crossing where many people were shot to death trying to escape to the West. Called Museum of the Iron Curtain, the permanent exhibition offers visitors a glimpse of life under communism, documented on a thousand photographs and some eight hundred artefacts, including a military transmitter and an authentic phone that was the communist president’s hot-line to Moscow.
The dean of the medical faculty of Charles University Tomas Zima has warned Czechs against heavy drinking. He said Czechs frequently underestimate the danger of alcohol or even believe that a certain amount of alcohol daily is beneficial for their health. Recent figures show that on average Czechs over 15 consume 16.5 litres of pure alcohol per year, while the world average is 6.13 litres. An alarming trend is the growing number of women and teenagers who develop a dependency on alcohol.
The Czech Republic won the bronze at the world ice hockey championship in Bratislava on Sunday beating Russia 7:4. The Czechs who were out to defend their world title, executed a stunning series of wins in the tournament, but were stopped in their quest for the gold by Sweden in a 5:2 loss on Friday. It was the Czech team’s only defeat in the tournament. A disappointed Jaromír Jágr said later that the team had taken fallen prey to euphoria and taken their victory for granted. However the mood was upbeat after Sunday’s victory over Russia in which Roman Cervenka treated fans to a hat trick.
Two Czechs who were found guilty of a 74-million crown robbery have been arrested in Thailand. The two young men were sentenced to ten years in prison by a Czech court but only served a year of that sentence before the former justice minister Daniela Kovářová ordered their temporary release on the grounds of a complaint pertaining to an alleged violation of their rights. By the time the matter was investigated and Kovářová’s successor Jiří Pospíšil reversed the order, both men had disappeared. The two men were arrested on an Interpol warrant with the help of Austrian police.
Public Affairs deputy chair Michal Babák has withdrawn his candidacy for the party’s top post. Babák broke the news on Saturday saying that the media attacks against his person were harming the junior coalition party. The deputy chair has been unable to satisfactorily explain the origin of six million crowns he donated to the party, giving rise to speculation about shady financing. The party is expected to elect a new leader next weekend. The current chairman Radek John will be defending the post, other candidates are Karolina Peak, head of the party’s deputies club, and MP Dagmar Navratilova. The party’s unofficial leader Vít Bárta originally announced his candidacy but later withdrew it urging party members to unite under Radek John.
The Muller company, a multinational producer of dairy products, is pulling its milk-rice pudding off the shelves after slivers of glass were found in some of the products sold. The Czech Food Inspection Office said it had received a fast-alert warning late Friday. The warning concerns milk-rice with cinnamon and cherry flavour, as well as the natural variety with an expiry date May 23rd. Over twelve thousand cases of these puddings were imported to the Czech Republic and have been put on sale.
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