The ministers for EU affairs of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden have outlined a road-map of EU policy priorities for the 18-month period during which they will consecutively hold the rotating EU presidency. The seventy-page-long document includes chapters on energy and climate-change, security, labour and social issues. News of the agreement was announced by the Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra in Prague, following a meeting with his Swedish and French counterparts. Details of the agreement will not be disclosed until it has been debated by a summit of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on June 16th.
France will open its job market to eight central and east European EU members who joined the alliance in 2004, including the Czech Republic. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made the announcement in Prague on Tuesday, saying that the move should take place during France’s EU presidency in the second half of 2008. A work permit for citizens from these countries will still be required. Paris originally planned to open its job market to citizens from central and eastern Europe in May 2009.
A final resting place has been found for around 4,000 German soldiers who
died on Czech soil during World War II, ending a protracted and
embarrassing search for a burial place. Germany’s war graves authority
signed an agreement for the soldiers’ remains, until now kept in storage,
to be buried at a specially arranged graveyard in the West Bohemian town of
Cheb. The drawn-out search for an appropriate burial ground started in
March 2006 when Czech media uncovered the soldiers’ remains at a disused
factory in the northern city of Ustí nad Labem.
It is estimated that around 178,000 German soldiers died in the former Czechoslovakia fighting Soviet forces closing in from the north and east and US forces from the west. Some of the fallen are already buried at 10 war cemeteries dotted across the country.
The opposition Social Democrats have called on the government not to take any follow-up steps to the recognition of Kosovo, such as establishing diplomatic relations with the former Serbian province. The Czech government officially recognized Kosovo’s independence last week and is now preparing to turn its liason office in Pristina into an embassy. The office’s head Janina Hřebíčková is expected to become the new Czech ambassador to Kosovo. The move has divided the Czech political scene with the two opposition parties, the ruling Christian Democrats and President Václav Klaus advocating restraint.
Two Czechs who went on a hunger strike on May 14th in protest against the Czech government’s acceptance of hosting a US radar on Czech territory are reported to be having health problems but have resolved not to let-up in their protest. Jan Bednář and Jan Tamáš want a public referendum on the issue and claim that the government has no right to decide against the will of its citizens. Opinion polls suggest that the majority of Czechs are opposed to the idea of a US radar on Czech soil, and even more so to the idea of foreign troops and observers which would be a part of it. The protesters say they will continue in their hunger strike until politicians heed the voice of the people.
Emotions are running high in the Green Party of the Czech governing coalition, with some party members demanding an extraordinary conference which would confirm the mandate of party leader Martin Bursík. Mr. Bursík has come under fire in recent weeks for what his critics call his authoritative style of leadership. This weekend Mr. Bursik further angered the Greens by coming out in strong defense of the planned US radar base on Czech territory, although he is aware that many party members are vehemently against it. The deputy chairwoman of the Green Party Dana Kuchtová on Tuesday urged her party colleagues not to put the party’s performance in the autumn regional and Senate elections at risk by forcing an extraordinary conference at this time.
Milan Šošovička, the head of the anti-corruption police in Olomouc, who collected evidence for filing corruption charges against Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek, has left his post, the daily Pravo reports, indicating that the police chief’s departure was not voluntary. The paper also notes that Mr Šošovička is the fifth detective to leave the anti-corruption police in connection with Jiří Čunek’s case. The media are also speculating about similar purges in the judiciary. Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek was suspected of having taken a two million crown bribe when he was the mayor of Vsetín in 2002 but the charges against him were dropped for lack of evidence.
The head of the international section of the Czech Green Party Jiří Čáslavka has added fuel to the fire with regards to questions about party leader Martin Bursík’s style of leadership. In an open letter to Mr Bursík, Mr Čáslavka accused the Green party leader of seeking to remain in the governing coalition at all costs and at the expense of the party. He also stated his belief that Mr Bursík was labeling as enemies those within his party that have a different view from his own. The comments represent an escalation of infighting within the party, which remains divided over the acceptance of the proposed US radar base, and was also shaken earlier this year by the re-election of President Klaus, whom the party strongly opposed.
The Interior Ministry has disseminated proposed legislation to football clubs around the country that would enable them to access a central database of Czech football hooligans. The government is hoping that by the next football season, which begins in August, the proposed database will be up and running. The move represents attempts by the government to address hooliganism in the country in which additional security cameras and other security measures at stadiums are also being considered.
Newly released police figures have revealed that the country has just experienced one of its worst weeks for traffic accidents for some time. The figures reveal more than 3000 accidents, 506 injuries and 25 fatalities occurred last week. Estimated financial costs are about 153 million crowns. Last Tuesday proved to be a peak for fatalities with eight people killed in a single day. The accidents are in part attributed to wet weather, with more consistently prevalent factors such as speeding and alcohol also playing a role. The country is known for its relatively high levels of traffic accidents and fatalities compared to the EU average.