On a one-day working visit to Vienna, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Monday met for talks with his Austrian counterpart Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. The cabinet leaders discussed a number of outstanding issues in Czech-Austrian relations, including the enlargement of the Schengen zone of free travel and the safety of the Czech nuclear power plant in Temelín, South Bohemia. They agreed on the need to intensify police cooperation in the border regions in order to curb illegal migration and protect citizens on both sides of the border. Mr Topolánek denied reports which have appeared in the Austrian press that the Czech Republic is planning to expand the Temelín nuclear plant. The Czech PM also said that the Czech government would continue negotiating with the Austrian arms producer Steyr on the delivery of armoured vehicles for the Czech Army which was cancelled in December.
Milena Vícenová became the new Czech ambassador to the European Union on Monday. Her main task will consist in preparing the Czech presidency of the European Union that will begin in January 2009. Ms Vícenová, the former agriculture minister in the first cabinet of PM Mirek Topolánek is replacing Jan Kohout at the head of the Czech mission in Brussels. Mr Kohout became a new deputy Foreign Minister several days ago.
Presidential candidate Jan Švejnar will launch his election campaign on Wednesday, roughly a month before the election. The Czech-born, US-based economist, nominated by the opposition Social Democrats and the coalition Greens, is currently the only other candidate to run against the incumbent Václav Klaus. Mr Švejnar will begin his tour of the Czech Republic in Zlín, central Moravia, before visiting other towns and cities to hold public rallies as well as meetings with local MPs and senators. In the Czech constitutional system, the successful candidate needs a majority of votes in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies consisting of 281 lawmakers.
The Czech Communist Party is considering a new strategy for the presidential election to be held in February, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. In the race between the incumbent Václav Klaus and the only other candidate, the US-based Czech-born economist Jan Švejnar, communist MPs and senators might support neither of the of the two in the first round and bring in their own candidate for the second. With the current composition of the lower and upper houses of Parliament, both candidates are competing for the 29 communist votes that might prove decisive in the ballot.
The Czech National Bank is ready to react to any sharp movements of the Czech currency rate, the bank’s governor Zdeněk Tůma told Financial Times Deutschland on Monday. He told the paper that the Czech National Bank would intervene if the Czech currency rate wavers too much. The changing rate of the Czech crown could have a negative impact on inflation which increased to a six-year maximum in November last year. The Czech crown has been strengthening since the beginning of the year and reached the rate of 26.1 crowns to the euro. This enables the National Bank to increase interest rates more slowly while the main interest rate is now set at 3.5 percent, the lowest of all European Union countries.
Opposition MP Kateřina Konečná, of the Communist Party, wants the Czech Parliament’s lower house to pass a resolution rejecting the independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Ms Konečná said on Monday that even some coalition MPs are strongly opposed to the Serbian province declaring independence. Meanwhile, the deputy chief of the Chamber of Deputies’ Foreign Committee Tomáš Dub, of the coalition Civic Democrats, said that it would be impossible for the Czech Republic not to side with the European Union and the United States if they recognize an independent Kosovo.
Jerome Colloredo-Mansfeld, member of an old Bohemian aristocratic family, has lost his plea at the Supreme Court for the return of almost 3000 objects in the inventory of his chateau in Dobříš, some 40 km south-west of Prague. Mr Colloredo-Mansfeld received the chateau in a property restitution in 1998, after a six-year legal feud with the Czech State, but was not given back any items in the inventory. He then filed another lawsuit against the state but the Supreme Court has confirmed the ruling of lower courts in the dispute.
The Mayor of Prague Pavel Bém wants to meet PM Mirek Topolánek to ask for governmental guarantees for holding the 2016 Olympic Games in the Czech capital. The guarantee of the Czech government should be a part of the city’s application to the International Olympic Committee. The position of the cabinet on holding the Olympic Games in Prague in 2016 is ambivalent. The two smaller coalition parties, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, have been critical of the idea stressing the financial risks associated with the project.
In the course of 2007 the Budweiser Budvar brewery in České Budějovice, South Bohemia, produced the largest volume of beer in seven years. The South Bohemian brewer produced 1.253 hectolitres, which is 8.7 percent more than in the previous year. While most of Budvar’s beer was consumed in the Czech Republic, its exports also increased last year, especially to Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Austria.
Midfielder Marek Matějovský, who has been with the Czech club of Mlada Boleslav for most of his career, has signed a 3.5 year contract with Reading in the English Premier League. Matějovský has played over a hundred games in the top Czech division and has appeared on the national team in seven matches, scoring his only goal against Germany in October.