The new Czech ambassador to the United States, Petr Gandalovič, has offered his credentials to the American president and may now assume his duties. Mr Gandalovič met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, roughly a month after arriving in the United States. The issues likely to dominate his agenda in the US are a lucrative tender for further construction on the Temelín nuclear power plant and economic and scientific collaboration between the countries. Petr Gandalovič is a former government minister and former deputy chairman of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party. He also served as Consul General of the Czech Republic in New York between 1997 and 2002.
A Czech soldier, who was shot during an attack on the Czech army base in Afghanistan’s Vardak province on Wednesday, has been transported back to the Czech Republic for treatment. He arrived on Thursday and remains in very serious condition. He and two other men who had been injured in Afghanistan in late June will be treated in Prague’s Central Military Hospital. Several Czech soldiers have been injured in Afghanistan in the last month, in those cases due to mines and IEDs. To date, four Czech soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, most recently in late May.
President Václav Klaus, after deciding not to endorse the government’s ‘minor pension reform bill’, has withheld his signature from a second piece of legislation, this time covering biofuels. The bill will require sellers to have certification proving that the bio component added to fuel meets ecological criteria. The certification is required by the European Union and new certificates are to be issued annually. In a letter to the chairwoman of the lower house, Mr Klaus expressed dismay over the new regulations within the Czech legal system, suggesting further debate was needed; the president is a vocal critic of ‘Green politics’, including environmentalists' stance on global warming. While the president criticised the law, he did not veto it, so it will come into effect.
In related news, a number of constitutional experts told the ČTK news agency on Friday that in their view the president’s refusal to sign the bill on ‘minor pension reform’, and by extension the bill on biofuels, was inconsistent with regular constitutional procedure. Under the Czech Constitution, the president has the right to return a bill while a presidential veto can be overridden by a simple majority in the Chamber of Deputies. The legal expert Jan Kysela told the agency that it ensued clearly from the Constitution that the president had the duty to sign bills passed at the end of the legislative process. Others agreed the move was outside of the prescribed steps. By failing to sign, the president has allowed legislation he disagrees with to stand while sending a 'personal' message.
The Czech daily Lidové noviny reports that the likelihood the country’s
centre-right government will push for a ban on the Communist Party, the
successor to the pre-1989 KSČM, is fading. The daily cites analysis by a
team of legal experts at the Interior Ministry that previously prepared a
successful lawsuit against the far-right Workers Party; this time the team
has recommended that a ban not be sought.
According to Lidové noviny, the analysis suggests a move to outlaw the party as extremist would have little chance of success with regards to statements by party leaders, internet material, and official documents. The cabinet is to make a decision on the case next week; it is not bound by the team’s recommendation. The Czech public, meanwhile, is split on whether party should be outlawed. A SANEP public opinion poll held early this year suggested that roughly 50 percent of respondents supported a possible ban, while 40 percent were against.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, will attend the funeral of Otto von Habsburg, the eldest son of the last ruling Austrian monarch who died on Monday at the age of 98. Mr Schwarzenberg, the first deputy prime minister, will not be attending as a public official but as a private citizen, ČTK reported. The funeral will be held on Monday, July 11, with the son of the Habsburg dynasty being laid to rest within the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. According to reports, Mr Schwarzenberg – himself a member of a highly-respected aristocratic family – knew him well. The foreign minister praised him this week by underlining Otto von Habsburg’s opposition to Hitler and the Anschluss - the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938.
The former TV programme announcer and host Milena Vostřáková – who was fired from Czechoslovak Television in 1969 for a single statement deemed as anti-Soviet – has died at the age of 77. Her family revealed the information on Friday. In March of 1969, after the defeat of the Soviet Union by Czechoslovakia at the Ice Hockey World Championships, Mrs Vostřáková called the victory not only athletic but ‘moral’ – a statement that would see her banned from the small screen and other media for 20 years. The Communists charged that her statement, which followed the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia by roughly half a year – was intended to stir up anti-Soviet sentiment. Mrs Vostřáková returned to the TV screen in 1990 and continued working in television for a number of years before retiring for good.
The third child in less than a week has been left at a baby-box, this time at a hospital in Liberec, North Bohemia. The newborn is a boy in good health. The newborn is the 53rd unwanted child saved by a baby-box facility since the system was first implemented. Recently the system came under criticism from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which claimed it violates several provisions of the UN Convention. Supporters of the system, including its founder, have countered by saying it prevents conditions or developments regarding unwanted newborns that could potentially be far worse. When a child is left in a monitored baby-box facility, medical staff are alerted immediately.
A new survey conducted by the CVVM agency suggests that 74 percent of Czechs are unhappy with the situation in Czech politics. The poll registered an 18 percent jump from a previous survey six months earlier. It was conducted in June, coinciding with a prolonged government crisis which threatened to bring down the cabinet. June also saw heated organised protest by the country’s unions against the government’s planned reforms. In the poll, 84 percent of those queried also said they were unhappy about corruption, while 78 percent economic crime was a troubling issue. Unemployment was also singled-out as a concern by 73 percent of people questioned.
A 36-year-old Czech BASE jumper was killed during a jump in Lauterbrunnen, in the canton of Bern in Switzerland on Thursday, after losing control and hitting a cliff wall. Medical personnel arrived at the scene but the man could not be saved. BASE jumpers, using specialised techniques and equipped with parachutes, by definition use areas such as buildings, antennae towers, bridges, and cliffs for jumps. Lauterbrunnen is considered a ‘Mecca’ for the sport Mladá fronta Dnes reported, noting the tragedy came on the heels of another fatality just ten days ago when a 31-year-old French sportsman fell to his death.
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