Two young Czechs who have been on a hunger strike since May 13th in protest against the siting of a US radar in the Czech Republic have asked to meet with President Klaus. Anti-radar activist Jan Tamáš sent the president an open letter requesting a meeting, shortly after Mr. Klaus urged American Vice-President Dick Cheney to speed up the signing of a bilateral agreement on the radar. In the letter Jan Tamáš says he is deeply disturbed by the fact that the president should be going against the will of his people and suggests that by doing so Mr. Klaus is trampling on democracy in the Czech Republic.
The opposition Social Democrats are holding a two-day party conference on policy matters in preparation for the autumn local and Senate elections. Opposition leader Jiří Paroubek slammed the reforms of the centre-right government and said that as soon as it got the chance his party would scrap medical fees, prevent the introduction of university fees and bring back blanket child benefits. The opposition leader said he was confident that the autumn local and Senate elections would reflect the public’s widespread dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs.
Ex-president Václav Havel has launched a stinging attack on Civic Democrats at Prague City Hall. In an article published in Saturday’s Lidové Noviny Mr. Havel criticized the city hall for cutting subsidies to the arts, for its lack of urban planning and for a reliance on tourist revenues. In an unusually blunt intervention in domestic politics the former president said the management of Prague City Hall was hurting Prague’s interests. City lawmakers have sparked a wave of protests from Prague’s theatrical world with a new programme of subsidies which Mr. Havel said would strangle to death non-profit-making theatres. The ex-president also criticized the city hall for sanctioning what he called “uninspired architecture” with giant warehouses and shopping centres “spreading like cancer” and the fact that local life was being forced out of the city centre.
A fight between skinheads and anarchists that broke out unexpectedly on Prague’s Naměstí Republiky on Saturday afternoon left six people injured. The injured, aged between 18 and 38, suffered broken bones, bruises and concussion. One youth got both his wrists broken. Eyewitnesses said the groups appeared to have met by chance and a fight broke out after some verbal provocation. Police are investigating the incident.
Former prime minister Miloš Zeman is not ruling out the possibility of running in direct presidential elections at some future date should he receive broad public support. Responding to rumors that he was considering a return to active politics, Mr. Zeman said that if lawmakers changed the Constitution opening the way for direct presidential elections and if he received broad support from the public he might be tempted to re-enter politics. Mr. Zeman has been living a quiet life in retirement ever since his unsuccessful candidacy for the presidential post in 2003. His chances of getting elected were thwarted by rebels in his own Social Democratic Party after which Mr. Zeman vowed never to return to politics.
A late-night explosion caused a panic in the town of Jablonná nad Orlicí on Friday night. The house where the explosion took place was completely demolished by the blast and the windows of dozens of surrounding houses were shattered within a 100-metre-radius. The owner of the house was found buried under the rubble, badly injured. He was flown to hospital and remains in critical condition. Police are investigating the cause of the blast. According to unofficial sources a gas leak may have been responsible.
Czech President Václav Klaus, on a visit to the US this week, told the US newspaper the Washington Times that an American radar base planned in the Czech Republic was a decision for the Czech government and “not Russia’s business”. Russia continues to strongly oppose the project, rejecting claims US missile defence was protection against rogue states. In his interview, the Czech president said there was little chance Russia would drop its objections. Earlier, Mr Klaus met with US vice president Dick Cheney to discuss the radar, which has been proposed as part of a broader US missile defence shield in Europe. The Czech government has agreed on the treaty covering the base, expected to be signed in the coming months. Despite the government’s backing, polls have repeatedly suggested that two-thirds of the public continues to oppose the project.
Parliamentary leaders of the Visegrad Four – Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – have begun a two-day meeting in Prague to discuss the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech Republic has not yet ratified the agreement, which replaces the failed EU constitution. On Thursday Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said the Czech government supported the treaty but made clear the cabinet will now wait to see how it is assessed by the Czech Constitutional Court – a decision is expected in the autumn. The Czech Republic is the only Visegrad country that has not ratified the treaty, which has been passed by 15 out of the 27 EU countries overall.