President Vaclav Klaus has backed Serbia’s ambition to start talks on joining the EU as soon as possible. Following talks in Prague with Serbian President Boris Tadic President Klaus said the EU should find the time for accession talks with Serbia and should approach the Serbs as neutrally as other candidates. Serbia is hoping to win EU candidacy after having arrested two remaining war crimes fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, and handed them over to the United Nations war tribunal. President Tadic said that his country had done everything possible to meet all EU requirements for accession talks but he reiterated that Serbia would not recognize Kosovo’s independence or withdraw its representatives from northern Kosovo even if this policy were to block its chances of becoming an EU candidate state. Serbia’s adamant position has created a problem with EU members who have recognized Kosovo’s independence. President Vaclav Klaus has been one of Serbia’s staunchest supporters, condemning the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 and refusing to appoint a Czech ambassador to Kosovo after it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
The Czech Republic has formally recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people. A statement issued by the Czech Foreign Ministry on Monday says the Czech Republic is ready to forge bilateral relations with the country’s new transitional leadership and has offered to assist the country on the road to democracy. The Foreign Ministry is considering the possibility of the Czech ambassador’s return to Tripoli. The Libyan National Transitional Council has now been recognized by over 50 states.
The Czech Republic should support Europe’s quest for fiscal discipline, take a prudent stance regarding the adoption of the euro and forge stronger business links with potential partners outside Europe in view of the country’s export oriented economy, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said at a meeting of Czech ambassadors in Prague on Monday. In view of the present economic situation the prime minister said business diplomacy was of strategic importance. The prime minister also stressed that any declarations made by ambassadors were to be consulted in advance with the Czech government. The directive came in the wake of controversy over whether it was acceptable for foreign ambassadors to publicly support the recent Prague Pride gay parade in the Czech Republic. The Office of the President was critical of statements in support of the parade by several foreign ambassadors only to find that Czech ambassadors abroad had taken a similar line.
Public Affairs, the junior coalition party, has requested a meeting of coalition leaders on Tuesday to debate social reform. Party leader Radek John said there was plenty of fine-tuning left to be done in proposed legislation concerning the social sphere, including the recently approved package of tax amendments. Public Affairs, which describes itself as a centrist party, has been pushing for socially kinder reforms and is unhappy about a series of amendments including the removal of tax breaks on some employee benefits such as lunch vouchers. The proposal comes at a time of heightened tension between Public Affairs and TOP 09 over the continued presence at the Education Ministry of Ladislav Bátora, the controversial head of human resources who has come under fire for his past links to an ultra-right party. TOP 09 ministers are refusing to attend cabinet meetings until Mr. Bátora has been dismissed. Public Affairs Education Minister Josef Dobeš is refusing to do so.
TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said on Monday that his party would not give way over the Bátora scandal and rejected the nation that the controversy was “a storm in a teacup” during the silly season. Mr. Schwarzenberg said fascist tendencies in society had to be fought and democratic values defended and said he considered it of vital importance to take a principled stand on the matter.
Former Czech caretaker prime minister, now vice-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Jan Fischer said in an interview for Euro magazine that he was shocked by the intolerant remarks with regard to gays and lesbians made by some Czech public officials. He said that in his view tackling extremism was as important as introducing reforms and fully supported calls for the dismissal of Ladislav Bátora. Mr. Fischer said the ball was in the prime minister’s court and pointed out that if the prime minister was not in a position to sack Mr. Bátora himself he could certainly recall the education minister for failing to act.
Two demonstrations –one in support of Ladislav Bátora –one against him - are scheduled to coincide with the start of the new school year on September 1st. One demanding his immediate dismissal is organized by the head of the Green party Ondřej Liška, the other, in defence of Bátora’s right to freedom of expression, by the civic initiative D.O.S.T. A poll on the Bátora scandal indicates that 57 percent of Czechs would support his dismissal from office. Forty-four percent of respondents moreover view him as a racist who should never have been appointed to the post.
A fire that broke out at the five-story Palladium shopping mall in the centre of Prague around midday on Monday has been extinguished, with no injuries reported. The police evacuated over five hundred people from the building as firemen fought to prevent the blaze spreading through the air conditioning system. Although the fire which started in one of the boutiques was not extensive two floors quickly filled with smoke causing panic among shoppers. The cause of the fire is being investigated. The preliminary damage estimate has been put at between 20,000 and 50,000 crowns.
A thirty-two-year old man has been charged with attempted manslaughter after a brutal assault on a 12-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy. The man attacked them with a metal rod near a Prague lake where they were spending the afternoon. The girl was taken to hospital with head injuries, the boy suffered fractures. The motive behind the attack in unclear, though the police have ruled out a racial motive. If convicted the man will face up to 18 years in jail.
Veronika Mullerová, a Czech chemical engineer, finished third at the weekend at the 2011 World Air Guitar championships held in Oulu, Finland. The annual festival, in its 16th year, sees competitors play invisible guitars on stage; contestants are not judged on whether they can play a real instrument, but on overall enthusiasm in their performance. Ms Mullerova, a 28-year-old newcomer to air guitar, finished in top spot in the Air Guitar Final in the Czech Republic in June; the competition was held at the United Islands Festival in Prague.
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