The Czech regional development minister, Pavel Nemec, assured European Commissioner Michel Barnier that the Czech Republic would try to spend money allocated for the country in EU's ISPA funds for regional development and environmental protection. There are 50 million euros remaining in the ISPA fund that the Czech Republic is required to spend by the end of this year or forfeit completely. The Czech Republic has had problems presenting feasible environmental projects, especially given the fact that financial support from EU funds is conditional on part of the budget being covered by the recipient country.
The ruling Social Democratic Party is divided over the possible nomination of former Education Minister and university Professor Jan Sokol as the party's candidate for the presidential office. Party leader and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla asked Mr. Sokol to stand as his party's candidate on Friday. Some other political parties admitted they might support Mr. Sokol. However, the Social Democrat MPs are divided over his nomination. In the previous two unsuccessful election attempts, they were unable to agree on any of the candidates officially nominated by the party leadership. February 28th has been set as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, whose term in office ended last Sunday.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Vldimir Spidla has asked former education minister and university Professor Jan Sokol to become his party's candidate for the presidential office. Sokol has not rejected the offer and is waiting for the reaction of other political parties. According to the Czech public service television, a junior member in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats have expressed support to Mr. Sokol and the opposition Communist party did not rule out their support either. The right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats have already nominated their former leader Vaclav Klaus as their official candidate. On Friday, the speaker of the Lower House set February 28th as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, whose term in office ended last Sunday.
The German federal government said it would maintain controls on its eastern borders even after the Czech Republic and Poland join the EU in May next year. Germany believes it may be necessary to keep passport controls on the border for up to ten years after the enlargement. Their abolition is conditional on the ability of the new member states to meet the criteria stipulated by the Schengen Treaty on the security of the European Union's external borders.
The speaker of the Lower House, Lubomir Zaoralek, has set February 28th as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, who stepped down last Sunday. Midnight, on Tuesday, February 25th, will the final deadline for deputies and senators to submit the names of presidential contenders. At the moment the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, two parties in the country's governing coalition, are attempting to come up with a joint candidate, while the opposition Civic Democrats are backing former party chairman Vaclav Klaus. Many observers still say, however, that the chances of quickly finding a successor to former president Vaclav Havel remain low. If parliament fails to elect a president on February 28th, the Czech Republic will remain without a figurehead for several months, before changes in the constitution would lead to a direct presidential vote.
On Friday, just a few hours after the speaker of the Lower House Lubomir Zaoralek announced the date for new presidential elections, all 26 Civic Democrat senators in the Upper House voted unanimously to nominate Vaclav Klaus. In the first two sets of elections in January Mr Klaus was nominated first by Civic Democrat MPs.
The chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek has said his party is in favour of direct presidential election but does not oppose a possible third attempt by the Czech parliament to elect a new head of state. The Civic Democrats' candidate, former party leader Vaclav Klaus, won the most support in both inconclusive votes held in January and, according to opinion polls, stands the most chance if a popular vote were to take place.
The three parties in the governing coalition remain divided over whether the Czech parliament should attempt to elect a new Czech president for a third time or whether the president should be elected in a popular vote. While representatives of the Freedom Union pushed for a direct vote at Thursday's meeting, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats are still hoping to find a common candidate who could gather enough votes in both houses of parliament. The senior coalition partner, the Social Democrats propose the vote should take place within the next thirty days.
Mr Rychetsky's announcement came less than 24 hours after two other candidates - both academics with no political background - also withdrew from the race. The ruling coalition has given itself three weeks to find a suitable candidate, ahead of a third attempt by parliament to elect a successor to President Vaclav Havel, who retired on Sunday after 13 years in the post. However, the two junior parties in the ruling coalition say they want to abandon a third attempt and begin moves to introduce a popular vote instead, something supported by a large majority of the public. Changing the Constitution to introduce direct presidential elections would take several months.