Prime Minster Mirek Topolánek said on Tuesday that he plans to announce changes in the centre-right coalition government before the end of the week. A reshuffle has been on the cards ever since the coalition’s crushing defeat in regional and Senate elections in October but the prime minister had postponed the move until his own party confirmed his mandate as party leader and head of government two weeks ago. The three party ruling coalition has been racked by infighting and defections which have weakened its position in the lower house, making it difficult to push through further reforms and undermining its position ahead of the EU presidency.
The Christian Democrats of the ruling coalition want the government to set a timetable for euro adoption by the end of May at the latest. Czech exporters have long been pushing for the move but so far the government has been reluctant to make a commitment. Prime Minister Topolánek says the time is not yet ripe for such a commitment in view of the global financial crisis, the need to complete economic reforms and stabilize the country’s public finances. Last year Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek of the Christian Democrats proposed that the euro be adopted in 2012, but the government later backpedaled on the proposed date. The opposition Social Democrats say 2012 seems like a realistic target. Slovakia, the Czech Republic’s eastern neighbour, will adopt the euro as of January 1, 2009.
The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that the Czech
Republic could organize not only an EU-Israeli summit during its EU
presidency but also a summit between the EU and Palestine. He made the
statement after talks on Monday with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister
Ahmed Aboul Gheit. The two ministers discussed the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, the situation in the Mediterranean and the priorities of the
Czech Republic's upcoming EU presidency. Israel has said that Prague can
assist the peace process during its presidency by intensifying the EU role
as mediator in the dialogue between Israel and Palestine. At the same time,
Israel has made it clear that it is mainly the countries in the region that
bear the responsibility for peace.
The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said during a visit to Israel earlier this year that he would welcome a more active role by the EU in the Middle East peace process. The Czech Republic takes up the EU presidency on January 1.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday criticized the Czech Republic in the European Parliament for the fact that EU flags had not yet been hoisted on all public buildings in the country. He also lashed out at President Vaclav Klaus saying that his treatment of a visiting delegation of the European Parliament had been unacceptable. Several MEPs on Tuesday also criticized the fact that Prague Castle had seen fit to publish a transcript of the talks between the Czech president and the visiting EP delegation. President Klaus asked for the transcript of the talks to be made public, saying that he had been treated in an aggressive and disrespectful manner in particular by the head of the Greens group Daniel Kohn-Bendit.
Former Czech president Václav Havel on Tuesday criticized the European
Union for what he called an "overly cautious" policy towards
Russia and accused it of putting economic interests ahead of human rights.
Speaking at a conference organised by the pro-EU civic group Yes For Europe
in Prague, Mr. Havel said that Russia was a new type of authoritarian
regime that is far more sophisticated than a classic dictatorship and that
it was extremely important for the EU to communicate with it openly, for
instance to ask about the politically motivated murders of certain Russian
In early December, the 27-nation bloc resumed key partnership talks with Russia, aimed at boosting economic and diplomatic ties three months after they were frozen in the wake of the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Denmark will fully open its labour market to Czechs, Slovaks and other EU newcomers as of May next year, the Danish labour ministry said on Tuesday. Czech officials have welcomed the decision. The Czech Republic has long advocated the removal of barriers to labour across the EU. Czechs are still denied free access to the labour markets in Germany, Austria and Belgium.
Jiří Drahoš, 59 is to succeed Vaclav Paces as president of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Mr. Drahoš, who is currently the academy’s deputy-president was elected to the post on Tuesday and will take up the post in March of next year when Mr. Paces’ term in office ends. Jiří Drahoš is an expert in physical chemistry with over 60 scientific works to his name.
The Prague Stock Exchange weakened during morning trading on Tuesday, with the PX index losing more than 1 percent to 826.9 points. Erste Bank came under significant pressure losing 2.05 percent to 3,680 crowns while Komerční banka shed 2.25 percent, trading at 2,950 crows against Monday's close at 3,018. The biggest loser was the tobacco company Philip Morris, which lost 2.86 percent to 6,361 crowns.
A group of Czech deputies has begun a visit to Czech army units in Afghanistan. Ten members of the lower house’s foreign affairs and security committee have travelled to the war-torn state just ahead of a vote on whether to increase the number of Czech soldiers there. The government wants to increase from 415 to 645 membership of a provincial reconstruction team in Lowgar province. If Wednesday’s vote passes, 100 specialised soldiers will also fight the Taliban as part of the US-led Enduring Freedom campaign. Deputies will also consider whether to maintain the Czech mission of 550 soldiers in Kosovo.
The Finance Ministry has signed a contract with the Deloitte Advisory and CMS Cameron McKenna consortium on consulting in the privatisation of the country’s national carrier, Czech Airlines (ČSA). The state holds a 91.5 percent stake in the carrier and is aiming to find a buyer by the second half of next year. ČSA has been estimated as worth 5 billion crowns (close to 260 million US dollars). The successful bidder in the tender will be chosen over two rounds.