Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has accepted his party’s nomination for the Czech presidency. TOP 09, which is holding a convention this weekend, is thus the first party to select a candidate for the post, which will be filled in early 2013 either by direct or indirect election. Though consistently ranked one of the most popular politicians in the Czech Republic, Mr Schwarzenberg will likely face an uphill battle for the presidency as left-wing parties are likely to dominate the Senate. It was for precisely this reason, he said, that he had decided to join the fray, despite stating previously that he would only participate in direct elections. His candidacy, he hopes, will show the party as a strong alternative and unwilling to back down under averse circumstances. The 73-year-old nobleman also addressed his age, saying he had taken it into consideration, but has proven robust in his travels as foreign minister.
Civic Democrat chairman and Prime Minister Petr Nečas has received an extended mandate to lead his party until the end of next year. The concurrent convention of the senior government party voted according to expectations, with 439 delegates for and 24 against. Mr Nečas took the opportunity to praise the results of the government thus far, which he said meet 80% of the Civic Democrats’ platform. He also called for policy and media cohesion within the party and the government. The next vote on the leadership of the Civic Democratic Party will likely be in the autumn of next year after regional and senatorial elections.
Three Czechs are being charged with espionage in Zambia. According to the local press, they were arrested in the capital, Lusaka, for making sketches of an air force base and barracks. They were released on bail on Friday, but their passports were taken to prevent them from leaving the country. A relative of one of the suspects told the Czech Press Agency they had come to the country as tourists after a business trip to South Africa, and had been casually photographing buildings in the city. The Czech ambassador in Zimbabwe is attending to their case.
A demonstration is being held in Prague on Saturday to protest government reforms. Some three thousand people gathered at Prague’s Náměstí Republiky in the early afternoon, calling for the resignation of the premier and his cabinet. They then began a march across Old Town to Malostránské Náměstí to attend speeches by politicians and activists. The demonstration is organised by the left-wing ProAlt initiative, trade unions and other organisations.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš says next year’s 1.2 billion crown budget cut for colleges will be compensated from EU funds. Responding to criticism from academics that the cut will damage the quality of schooling, Mr Dobeš said that up to 40 billion crowns in EU funding would be available over the next three years for science and education. Prague however, as a wealthy region, will not be eligible for the funding. The education minister said it was unfortunate that the economic situation in the Czech Republic could not allow the ministry to have the money it needs and deserves. While the total budget for college funding will be lower, the number of students is steadily increasing, nearly doubling in ten years.
Senator Veronika Vrecionová of the Civic Democratic Party has released a statement saying that Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra is the father of her 19-year-old son. Mr Vondra confirmed the statement, and both told the news website Týden.cz that the admission was in response to an attempt to discredit them ahead of the Civic Democrat convention this weekend. Both politicians have families of their own, which they say are aware of the situation.
A vestment with a drop of the blood of Pope John Paul II has been given a reliquary in the Church of St Michael in Ostrava. The cloth will remain in the church permanently as a shrine for prayer. The relic was requested from the Archbishop of Krakow, who served as the late pontiff’s secretary of many years. The vicar of the church said he hoped the reliquary would bring more visitors to the church in one of the most atheistic regions in the country. Pope John Paul II visited the Czech Republic on three occasions and canonised a number of Czech saints. He himself has been beautified as a step towards sainthood.
The Czech Foreign Ministry says it is prepared to send a team of Czech doctors to Libya and treat some victims of the civil war in Czech hospitals. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vít Kolár said on Friday that Prague had responded to a request for assistance and Czech diplomats in Libya were negotiating what form it should take. It appears most likely that a team of Czech doctors will fly to the north of the country to provide medical assistance and select those patients who would be flown to Czech hospitals for treatment.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have ended a drawn-out dispute over EU competences, according to the internet website aktualne.cz. The dispute over who holds the EU agenda arose after Prime Minister Petr Nečas appointed a state secretary for EU affairs in the Office of the Government. The foreign minister promptly made an identical appointment at the foreign ministry. On Thursday the two officials signed an agreement on procedural matters in covering the EU agenda including who should represent the Czech Republic at various talks in Brussels.
The Czech army chief of staff General Vlastimil Picek on Friday awarded Czech soldiers who served in Afghanistan with achievement medals. Among them were twelve officers who trained Afghani police at the military base in Wardak province, 11 doctors from the Czech military hospital and five flight instructors who trained pilots at Kabul airport.
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