Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told the daily Mlada fronta Dnes on
Saturday that his coalition government was on the verge of collapse. Mr
Topolánek said that if the current coalition, consisting of the Civic
Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens, does not undergo “a
catharsis” over the summer, the government might fall.
Several MPs in each of the coalition parties have repeatedly voted against drafts prepared by the government. While rebels within the right-wing Civic Democrats object to way the restitution of church property was calculated, some Christian Democrats and Greens oppose the government’s health care reform as well as the planned Czech-American treaty on siting a U.S. tracking radar base on Czech territory.
Czech soldiers may not refuse serving in the army’s foreign missions, a spokesperson for the General Staff of the Army said on Saturday. Any such refusal would be considered a breach of their basic duties and might result in dismissals of the reluctant army officers. Several media outlets in the Czech Republic recently reported that Czech helicopter pilots were leaving the armed forces to avoid serving on missions in Afghanistan. An anonymous pilot told TV Nova on Thursday that he never thought he would be sent to what he described as “a regular war.” The Czech Army is currently taking part in international peace-keeping and reconstruction missions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Czech national football team beat the host Switzerland 1:0 in the opening match of Euro 2008 in Basel on Saturday. The Swiss were better throughout much of the game but were unable to convert any of several opportunities, mainly due to the Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech who showed some spectacular saves. The decisive moment came in the 70th minute when Václav Svěrkoš, who had replaced another striker Jan Koler shortly before, scored the only goal of the game. In their next appearance at Euro 2008, the Czech Republic will face Portugal on Wednesday.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bém said he would like to change the controversial theatre subsidy system in the Czech capital. Earlier this year, Prague City Hall came up with a new system of financing Prague’s theatres and other art scenes which tied subsidies to ticket sales. The system has been criticized for not distinguishing between genuine art and commercial projects catering to tourists. Last month, many of Prague's theatres staged a week of protests against the programme and were also backed by playwright and former Czech President Václav Havel.
Some 300 activists protested against uranium mining near Liberec, northern Bohemia, on Saturday, despite a recent denial by the Environment Ministry to conduct preliminary tests in the area. Local inhabitants, mayors of nearby communities as well as environmental activists oppose any possible plans to launch uranium mining in northern Bohemia, a region with an estimated 20,000 tons of uranium ore.
Saturday marks the Tax Freedom Day in the Czech Republic, three days earlier than last year, the Liberal Institute think-tank reported. Tax Freedom Day is the day on which Czech taxpayers stop working for the government and start earning money for themselves. This year, the government collects more than 43 percent of individual and corporate incomes.
Nine out of ten Czechs over 15 years of age use cell phones, according to a poll carried out by the Factum Invenio agency. The most popular cell phone makes with Czechs are Nokia, with almost a 50 per cent share of the marker, followed by Sony Ericsson and Siemens. At the end of the first quarter of 2008, Czechs had 13.1 million cell phones, which is 126 phones per 100 people.
Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil has said he will not recommend to the government that Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecká be dismissed from her post. He made the statement after a Prague court ruling on Thursday cast doubts over steps she and others took in a high profile investigation of Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek. He was investigated on allegations of corruption but was cleared of all charges. The court on Thursday ruled that shadow justice minister Marie Benešová did not have to apologise to Mrs Vesecká for suggesting she was corrupt. The decision can still be appealed. Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil made clear on Friday repercussions could be discussed once the court decision was final. The prime minister, meanwhile, has firmly backed Mrs Vesecká in her post.
In related news, the Social Democrats have pushed for the Chamber of Deputies to hold a special session on the judiciary next week. Representatives of the opposition party have expressed concerns over unauthorised interference by the supreme state attorney in Jiří Čunek’s corruption case, and they - as well as some in the government coalition such as the Green Party’s Kateřina Jacques – say Supreme State Attorney Vesecká should be dismissed. The Social Democrats failed to push the issue onto the agenda in the lower house on Friday. It is expected the ruling coalition will try to block the special session set for the end of next week.