Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will remain chairman of the Social Democrats at least until the party's next central committee meeting, to be held on this coming Saturday, when he and other party leaders face a no-confidence motion. Although the junior parties in the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats, have said they will remain in the government, Mr Spidla has come under fire from regional party leaders to step down as chairman. The Social Democrats were routed in the European Parliament elections held the last weekend, placing fifth overall, and popular support for the coalition government has plummeted in recent months. Before Social Democrat party leaders decide on his fate, Mr Spidla may face a vote of confidence in the parliament.
Prague is hot on the heels of Paris as the top weekend-break destination for Britons. Eleven percent of Britons are set to head for Paris over the coming months, according to a new survey by Morgan Stanley Credit Card, the British press association reports that the French capital narrowly clung onto its position as Britons' preferred city break destination. It is closely followed by Prague, where 10 percent of the 2,000 people interviewed said they intended to go in the next three months. Architecture, palaces and cheap beer were cited as some of the top attractions that entice visitors to the Czech Republic's capital city. Prague was the only Eastern European city to make the survey's Top Ten.
The Czech national football team on Saturday night staged a second-half comeback to beat the Dutch side 3:2. It was the Czech sides' second win in a row and the Czech Republic have become the first to qualify for the quarter-final round of Euro 2004, the European football championship games now underway in Portugal. The Czech squad conceded two goals to the Netherlands in the first half of the match, but rallied with goals from strikers Jan Koller and Milan Baros to equalise. Then, in the 88th minute, Vladimir Shmicer scored again and the Dutch were unable to respond before the clock ran out. At the time of the third goal, the Dutch side was playing with just 10 men after a player was sent off for a red card foul. The Czech team will face Germany on Wednesday in their last match in the group stage of the Euro 2004 championship. After a dismal 0-0 draw with Latvia on Saturday, Germany need to beat the Czech Republic to guarantee themselves a place in the knock-out stages.
In related news, the Czech Republic football coach Karel Bruckner has been offered free beer for the rest of his life if his team wins Euro 2004. The Bernard brewery is offering him 60 litres of beer per year - the equivalent amount an average Czech drinks annually -- as an incentive to bring the football trophy home. Each player on the Czech squaw will receive 160 litres of beer for one year if they win the final.
European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday night agreed on the draft text of a new European Constitution. Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said they were pleased with the final draft, while the main opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) have criticised it saying the voting system spelt out in the text weakens the position of small states like the Czech Republic. Under the new voting scheme spelt out in the draft European Constitution, in order to take decisions, at least 15 of the 25 EU member states, or 60 percent, representing at least 65 percent of the EU population, will have to be in agreement. It will take at least four member states to block a decision.
The right-of-centre Freedom Union and Christian Democrat parties have said they will stay in the coalition government led by the centre-left Social Democrats. The Freedom Union has said, however, that it wants the coalition to set out a clearly defined programme for the next two years, while the Christian Democrat have categorically ruled out cooperating with the Communist party.
The Czechs were to face the Dutch on Saturday evening in both teams' second match of the Group D round of Euro 2004, the football championship now underway in Portugal. The Czech squad is thought to have the psychological advantage going in, having beaten the Netherlands 3-1 in Prague and drawn 1-1 in Amsterdam en route to topping the group and forcing the Dutch into a playoff against Scotland.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrat leadership is expected to bring forward the date of the party's central committee meeting to next weekend, when Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will likely face a no-confidence motion as party leader. The meeting had been scheduled for the 11th of July. Mr Spidla is expected to lose the party chairmanship and may also be pressured to resign as prime minister. The Social Democrat party was routed in the European Parliament elections last weekend, placing fifth overall and popular support of his coalition government has plummeted in recent months.
The Czech Republic's nuclear power station at Temelin went back on line on Friday after a two week shutdown, power plant officials said. One of the plant's reactors had to be taken off line on the 6th of June due to a fault in an electricity transformer, which caused three cubic metres of radioactive water to leak out of the primary circuit of the second unit. The Czech nuclear safety authority described the leak as a "minor" incident and Temelin officials have protested the subsequent surprise visit of an inspection team dispatched by the European Commission.