Central European EU states have called for diversification of gas supplies away from Russia after Moscow's decision to halt deliveries to Ukraine affected other countries in central and eastern Europe. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria are to discuss energy security on Tuesday, with diversification seen high on the agenda. The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes wrote in its Tuesday edition that following the disruption of supplies to this part of Europe, Russia's declaration that it is a reliable energy source best suited to meet growing EU demand can no longer be taken at face value.
Jiri Havel has been appointed deputy prime minister for the economy. He replaces Martin Jahn, who announced his decision to leave politics for the private sector two months ago. Jiri Havel, formerly head of the National Property Fund, was handpicked for the post by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. The Prime Minister described Mr. Havel as an experienced professional whose views of the world were very close to his own. Jiri Havel is a member of the ruling Social Democratic party.
The deficit in public finances for 2005 is lower than originally expected. The Czech Finance Ministry reports a deficit of 56.4 billion crowns, which is 27.2 billion crowns less than the projected figure approved by parliament. Tax revenues last year reached a record 459 billion crowns, that's some 53 billion crowns more than in the previous year. Finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he expected the positive trend to continue.
Heavy snowfall has slowed down traffic in south Bohemia and there have been power cuts in many parts of the region. Many roads are impassable and have had to be closed down. Fallen trees are also complicating rail transport and although trains are still running there are long delays. Maintenance crews are out in force to try and get the situation under control.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and opposition leader Mirek Topolanek of the Civic Democrats, have agreed to join forces to try to block a doubling of the so-called "parental" subsidy. The lower house of Parliament had voted to increase to 7200 crowns per month the non-means tested subsidy as of next January. The subsidy is paid to families with children between 6 months and 4 years of age. The prime minister said the measure is too costly, as it would mean 12 billion crowns more in annual spending. He instead proposed spreading out the increase over a four year period. The Senate has yet to debate the proposal.
The Czech supermodel Eva Herzigova, who became a household name as a Wonderbra model, will make her directing debut in a new movie about her life. She told the Los Angeles Daily News the film would be a frank portrayal of her tough upbringing, wild life as a model, and brief marriage to the drummer of the rock band Bon Jovi.
Police have charged the Civic Democrat deputy Vladimir Dolezal with assisting in attempted bribery. Mr Dolezal, who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last month, denies any wrongdoing. He is accused of demanding the equivalent of some 35,000 US dollars from businessmen on behalf of a Prague district councillor on a local zoning development commission. Police reportedly have recordings of conversations of the alleged bribery attempt.
Winston Churchill wanted the British Royal Air Force to wipe out German villages in retaliation for the 1942 massacre of Czech civilians in the village of Lidice, The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday. Newly declassified wartime cabinet documents show Churchill wanted to attack small German villages "on a three-for-one basis." The plan, voted down by his Cabinet, was formed five days after German forces murdered most of the 450 occupants of Lidice, a village north of Prague. The Lidice massacre came in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
President Vaclav Klaus has urged Czechs to show initiative and personal responsibility in shaping their own future and that of the Czech Republic. In his New Years address to the nation Mr. Klaus said that all round it had been a good year and that he was proud that the country had managed to successfully overcome a government crisis. 2006 should not bring any major upheavals or about turns, since the country had inner stability, a state further enhanced by the country's membership in the EU and NATO, Mr. Klaus said. On the European front, the Czech president said he was glad to see that a real debate on the future of the EU was finally being allowed to develop. Speaking of the 2006 general elections in the Czech Republic, the president urged politicians to refrain from making empty promises and he urged Czechs to go to the polls because the future of the country depended on each and every one of them.