The new cabinet met for the first time on Monday afternoon to outline
priorities. Earlier, a number of incoming ministers discussed future
plans. The new Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Petr Necas has
said work on pension reform should begin and that changes should be
implemented within the welfare system in order to motivate individuals
to actively seek employment. New Minister for Regional Development Petr
Gandalovic is planning to change the system of drawing money from EU
funds. Mr Gandalovic says the Czech Republic needs to speed up the
drawing for the years 2004-2006 or risk having to return money to
On Monday, Prime Minister Topolanek confirmed that his government would ask for a vote of confidence on October 4th. Thus far he has shrugged off speculation over the government's chances.
On his final day before stepping down as prime minister, Jiri Paroubek met with US Ambassador William Cabanniss to give his view on the possibility of a US missile defence base being built in the Czech Republic. Mr Paroubek reportedly told the ambassador the Social Democratic party was against the idea. But, the base has approval from the country's new Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, as it did from his predecessor Christian Democrat Cyril Svoboda, who said that the US's interest in the Czech Republic proved that the country was a "trustworthy" ally. Mr Svoboda outlined as benefits not only the fact that the Czech Republic would benefit financially but that it itself would be protected in the anti-missile zone. The US reportedly would like to place radars and ten missiles in Europe by 2011, to intercept possible enemy missiles launched - for example - by North Korea or Iran.
Health union representatives have stated publicly that they are six billion crowns short (roughly 274 million US dollars) in the state budget to be able to introduce a new system of social care that takes effect on January 1st. The chairman of the Health and Social Care Workers' Union stated on Monday if the necessary funds are not allotted there will be a danger the quality of health care in some institutions could worsen, or that some could lack funds for operation altogether. According to the new legislation on social services, patients will be able to directly receive money for services and decide on their own which services to pay for, as well as to choose whether they will be cared for by family, an assistant, or an institution.
President Vaclav Klaus has appointed a new 15-member minority government
led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. In the government nine are members
of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic party while six are unaffiliated.
The new cabinet will have thirty days now to ask for a vote of confidence
in the lower house, a vote many observers think the new cabinet is
unlikely to pass. If it fails, it must step down. Earlier, the new prime
minister made clear that he expects the cabinet to be provisional and to
lead the country to early elections next year. Other issues high on the
agenda will be preparing next year's state budget as well as focusing on
the Czech presidency of the European Union in 2009.
The Civic Democrats were members of the opposition since 1997. Following the June elections which they won, they tried but failed to form a coalition government including the Christian Democrats and the Greens - one mandate short of a majority.
According to the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Prime Minister
Topolanek's first foreign visit will be to neighbouring Slovakia this
Wednesday. According to the report, Mr Topolanek's visit will be
unofficial, but he is to meet Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico - that,
following the two countries' football match-up in a qualifier for the
2008 European championship. Mr Topolanek told the paper the visit would
be a short one.
One day earlier, newly-named Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra will also visit Slovakia to take part in a meeting of the Visegrad Four, made-up of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland.
A number of prominent members in the former government have outlined
future plans, with former prime minister and Social Democrat head Jiri
Paroubek prepared to stay in politics, saying he expected Mr
Topolanek's government to last just two months. Mr Paroubek has made
clear that he would like a chance to form the next cabinet, should Mr
Former Minister for Labour and Social Affairs and Social Democrat deputy chairman Zdenek Skromach has indicated he will devote time towards the Social Democrats' campaign in the upcoming Senate and municipal elections.
Former Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek - a Christian Democrat - meanwhile, is moving to head the country's largest environmental organisation in the Czech Republic. Cyril Svoboda, who stepped down as Foreign Minister has not revealed future plans other than a desire to study French.
Mr Topolanek also said Social Democrat leader and outgoing prime minister Jiri Paroubek has no chance to successfully form a cabinet after his talks with the Christian Democrats about a Communist-backed cabinet collapsed two weeks ago. Mr Topolanek said that Mr Paroubek had lost his chance to form a new cabinet by negotiating a Communist-supported government with former Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek, a step which resulted last week in Mr Kalousek's resignation from the post of Christian Democrat chairman.
Future members of the minority cabinet of the Civic Democratic Party have articulated their concrete ideas of what to do after they are appointed. For example, future labour minister Petr Necas said work on the pension reform must be started and changes should be implemented in the welfare system that would motivate people to actively seek employment. Future local development minister Petr Gandalovic is planning to change the system of drawing money from EU funds. Mr Gandalovic says the Czech Republic needs to speed up the drawing for the years 2004-2006 as there is a big delay in some financial programmes and the country might have to return the money to Brussels.
Prime Minster designate and Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek has said his government's programme is to be based on the outcomes of previous negotiations of his party with the Christian Democrats and the Green Party and also with the Social Democrats. Speaking in a televised debate on Sunday, Mr Topolanek said the new cabinet's programme copied that of the so-called three-party-coalition, that is a coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens who tried to put together a cabinet after the June election but failed as the Social Democrats refused to tolerate such a government. Mr Topolanek's cabinet will be appointed on Monday. In order to receive confidence in the lower house, Mr Topolanek will need to gain the support of at least one opposition MP in the vote that is scheduled for October 4th.
Civic Democrat deputy chairman Petr Necas has said that if the new cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek fails to receive confidence from the lower house, a fresh attempt at forming a new cabinet should take place after the Senate and municipal elections which will be held in late October. Mr Necas said that an attempt to put together a new cabinet before the elections would be too risky for his party.
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