Three parties set to make up the Czech Republic's new centre-left
government outlined its priorities on Monday by signing a coalition
agreement that could bring to an end the government crisis that ensued
following the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla in June. Prime
Minister Stanislav Gross led negotiations on the new government with
original coalition partners the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union,
arriving at Monday's agreement. Mr Gross has made clear the new cabinet's
priorities will include supporting business, education, and young
families, while fighting unemployment and lowering the public deficit.
However, the cabinet has yet to be officially named by President Vaclav Klaus who has reportedly already expressed dissatisfaction with several names put forward for ministerial posts.
Following the cabinet's naming the government will have 30 days to ask for a vote of confidence in the Lower House. A likely date for the vote, already being discussed, is August 24th.
A Czech investigator has said that a blast that injured 18 people in
downtown Prague on Sunday has roots in the assassination of Israeli
underworld boss Felix Abutbul in Prague two years ago, gunned down near
his Casino Royal in the capital's Na Prikope Street. The investigator
said that Sunday's attack, aimed at Mr Abutbul's son Assaf as he
arrived in his car, was part of a continuing settling of accounts
between two underworld families, whose battles have targeted several in
various cities around the world, including in Israel. Police are now
putting together a composite of the assailant who managed to escape the
scene of the crime in the confusion following the blast.
Czech politicians have said an investigation would be held to ensure adequate security especially near gambling sites, while Prague's Deputy Mayor Rudolf Blazek added police would be consulted to determine possible increases in security measures.
21-year-old swimmer Kvetoslav Svoboda has been named as the athlete who will carry the flag for the Czech delegation at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, on August 13th. The head of the Czech Olympic mission Frantisek Dvorak made the announcement on Monday. Mr Svoboda - a specialist in the crawl - will compete in the 200 metres race in Athens.
The new cabinet to be put forward by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross,
meanwhile, is expected to see many current ministers continue in their
posts. President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday he had expected to see
greater differences between the outgoing and incoming cabinets, while
thanking outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's government for two
year's work at a ceremony at Prague Castle.
During the day Mr Klaus received a list of new cabinet members from Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, with the president's spokesman Petr Hajek saying the president would meet with several of those named in the new cabinet on Tuesday.
Those not expected to continue in the new government include Health Minister Jozef Kubinyi, Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka, and Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares.
At the moment it remains unclear whether Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas will stay on.
Prague's Ruzyne airport reportedly cleared more than one million travellers in July - the first time the airport has ever cleared such a high a number in a single month. Airport spokeswoman Anna Kovarikova said on Monday the number of passengers grew by 20 percent year-on-year saying more detailed information would be provided in the coming weeks. By comparison - in June - 950, 000 passengers were cleared, which had set the record till now. Czech Airports Authority chief executive Martin Kacur has stated that Prague's Ruzyne airport, along with Vienna, has become one of the most important air transport hubs in Central Europe.
At least 18 people were injured when a hand grenade was deliberately detonated on a busy pedestrian street in downtown Prague on Sunday afternoon. The incident is not being treated as a terrorist attack. Unconfirmed reports say the intended target was an Israeli casino owner whose own father, a purported underworld crime boss, was shot dead at the same location less than two year's ago. The attack occurred at about 12:30 in the afternoon on Na Prikope Street, a busy promenade not far from Prague's famous Wenceslas Square. The area is popular with shoppers and tourists. Most of those injured were foreign tourists, including an American couple, a British couple, a German and Slovak. Some accounts said the grenade was thrown from the window of a passing car. It exploded under a white Jeep Cherokee that bore American license plates from the state of New Jersey, the CTK news agency reported. The incident took place on the corner of Na Prikope and Havirska streets, in front of the Israeli-owned Casino Royal bar and restaurant. A police officer on the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency the likely target of the attack was the casino owner. Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross said the incident appeared to be the work of a criminal gang rather than a terrorist attack. "It was a criminal act, more or less a settling of accounts," said Mr Gross, who is the outgoing interior minister. He said there was a "good chance" the perpetrators would be arrested. The Casino Royal owner, Assaf Abutbul, was not injured in the attack, which came less than two years after his father, Felix, was gunned down not far from the casino's entrance, in August 2002. According to Israeli media reports, Felix Abutbul was an underworld crime boss in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya who operated illegal gambling operations in resort towns throughout Israel and whose nickname was "the butcher". Most of those injured in the attack in Prague on Sunday were having lunch or drinks at the casino and sustained only minor wounds from flying shrapnel and shards of glass. The main suspect in the attack is to be a young man who was often seen in the area. Prime Minister Gross said eyewitness descriptions were "quite solid and there is reason for optimism" that the attacker will be apprehended.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said that only three ministers in his future Cabinet — Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Zdenek Skromach, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Minister of Culture Pavel Dostal — will not be asked to give up their seats in Parliament. All other Social Democrat ministers in the new cabinet, including the premier, may be required to do so, so they can concentrate effectively on their ministerial work, Mr Gross told journalists on Saturday. The newly appointed Czech Prime Minister added that, as he finalises his proposed list of Cabinet members, he had informed the chairmen of the other coalition parties that the willingness of candidates to vacate their seats in Parliament would be "one of the factors" according to which he would choose new Cabinet members.
An estimated 15,000 fans of techno music have descended upon a field on the outskirts of Bonenov, some 130 kilometres west of Prague, for this year's CzechTek music festival. The location of the free event was kept secret up until the last moment. This is in part because organisers wanted to generate a sense of excitement among techno fans but mainly because CzechTek enthusiasts don't want to allow locals — and local officials — time to prevent the very loud techno fest from occurring.
President Vaclav Klaus is due to hold talks with several candidates for ministerial posts in the new government of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. According to unofficial reports, President Klaus, who chose Mr Gross to lead a new government, is not pleased with the draft list of Cabinet members that Mr Gross is due to submit to Prague Castle this week, and wants to interview several candidates in person.
Brno-based Romany rights activist Karel Holomek has criticised Czech legislation aimed at compensating Roma who were interned in Czechoslovak labour camps during World War II as being too strict. Only descendents of Roma who are known to have died in the labour and concentration camps are entitled to compensation, he said. The Interior Ministry has received about 8,000 applications for compensation so far. Mr Holomek predicts that at most a few hundred people will receive compensation. He said he regretted the fact that that no experts, historians or Romani people were invited to participate in drafting the bill.