The Czech Foreign Ministry has joined the EU's criticism of the court verdict that sent Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Kozulin, a presidential candidate in this year's election, to prison, the Ministry said in a statement on Friday. Mr Kozulin was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison on Thursday for organising protest rallies against the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as Belarusian president. The Czech Foreign Ministry said the decision could be viewed as another step in a series of politically motivated repressions against the opponents of the current Belarusian regime.
The outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said his Social Democrats
will take a tougher stance in the negotiations with the emerging
centre-right coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and
the Greens. He labelled the three-party coalition as an unviable project
and again called for the establishment of a caretaker government as a way
out of the post-election deadlock.
On Friday, the leader of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek rejected Mr Paroubek's proposal to meet along with President Vaclav Klaus in order to try and find a solution to the stalemate.
The new Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has arrived in the Czech Republic for his first official foreign visit since becoming prime minister. Mr Fico met Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle and also his Czech counterpart Jiri Paroubek. Among the topics discussed were Czech-Slovak relations and also cooperation in approaching the traditional foreign markets of the former Czechoslovakia which split up in 1993.
Czech authorities have handed over a top ranking Sicilian Mafia member to their Italian counterparts, a Czech police spokesman said on Friday. Forty-four-year old Luigi Putrone was given a life sentence in Italy by a Palermo appeals court in 2003 and according to Italian police was implicated in about 10 murders. Czech police swooped on Mr Putrone, one of 30 most wanted criminals in Italy, in the northern town of Usti nad Labem in August last year. He had been living in the Czech Republic for five years without people being aware of his past. The Italian authorities demanded Mr Putrone's extradition a month later with the Czech ministry of justice approving the application last month.
President Vaclav Klaus said on Friday he expected Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek to report to him on the state of the coalition talks by the first week of August. On Thursday and Friday President Klaus held separate meetings with the heads of all parties in parliament. Last month President Klaus authorised Mr Topolanek, whose party received the largest share of the votes, to launch talks on a new governing coalition. However, the negotiations have produced no concrete result as both the right and the left have 100 deputies in the 200-member lower house after the June parliamentary elections.
The next round of the election of the leadership of the lower house will take place next Friday, on July 21, the lower house election commission announced on Friday. The chamber's constituent session was suspended after 30 minutes on Friday morning - the vote could not be held as no candidate for a lower house chairperson had been fielded. The deadline for the nomination of candidates for chairperson will be July 19.
Health Minister David Rath has filed a lawsuit against the former deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Party Miroslav Macek over the slap he had dealt him during the May national conference of dentists, a spokesman for the Prague City Court said on Friday. Besides a one-million crown compensation, Mr Rath is demanding an apology to be published by the national news agency, and broadcast by the public Czech Television and the commercial TV station Nova. Mr Macek says he stands by his act, adding the slap was in retaliation for Mr Rath's having insulted his wife.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek proposed to President Vaclav Klaus on Friday that he arrange a joint meeting along with the leader of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek to try and solve the post-election stalemate. Speaking after meeting Mr Klaus on Friday morning, Mr Paroubek reiterated the view of his Social Democrats that a caretaker government was the way out of the stalemate. However, Mirek Topolanek who met President Klaus on Friday afternoon rejected the idea of a joint meeting with Jiri Paroubek and President Klaus.
The leader of the British Conservative Party David Cameron has announced a new grouping in the European Parliament made up of his party and the Czech Civic Democrats. At the request of its new partner, however, Mr Cameron said the new alliance would not be created until 2009. The new alliance will mean the Conservatives will withdraw from the European People's Party, the main centre-right group in the European Parliament.
The biggest Czech steel producer, Mittal Steel Ostrava, and a subsidiary seek to cut around 1,000 posts from their combined workforce of 9,280, the group said Friday. An incentives package that encourages workers to quit the parent company and its Vysoke Pece Ostrava subsidiary is part of an ongoing restructuring aimed at increasing productivity at Mittal Steel's Czech operations, it added. The company's personnel manager Jiri Gwozdz said the company has still not achieved the productivity of Western European companies or even the European average. Mittal Steel Ostrava is 70.67 percent owned by Netherlands-based Mittal Steel, the biggest steel producer worldwide, while the remainder is held by the Czech government.