Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has outlined the Czech Republic’s plans for its six-month presidency of the European Union in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He reiterated the motto of the Czech presidency – Europe without Barriers – and the three “Es” Czech officials have made the centre of its programme: economy, energy and external relations. Mr Topolánek told MEPs he wanted to be like the 14th century Czech king and emperor Charles IV, who had to represent the whole of the Holy Roman Empire. In Wednesday morning’s speech, he also strongly rejected criticism of Czech President Václav Klaus over the latter’s Eurosceptic views; he said an EU which had lost the ability to hold a public debate would not be his EU.
At a subsequent news conference, Mr Topolánek said one way of moving things forward in the Middle East would be to create a Palestinian state with a strong administration that would be economically stable. He also said a donors’ conference to help the Palestinians proposed by the Czech EU presidency did not look like taking place. But the Czech leader said such a conference must be held, regardless of who organises it. Mr Topolánek said Europe had been a big payer rather than a big player in the Middle East, and that was something which should change.
Former Czech president Václav Havel is seriously ill. Mr Havel, who is
72, underwent surgery on Sunday to remove an abscess from his throat after
being admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties. His condition
subsequently worsened, with doctors now saying it is serious but stable.
However, they do not believe Mr Havel’s life is in danger. He is
conscious, can communicate and is able to move around his room. The
playwright had most of his right lung removed in 1996 after cancer was
detected. A former chain smoker, he has suffered repeated lung and heart
problems over the years.
One of Czechoslovakia’s most prominent dissidents under communism, Václav Havel led the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He was elected president of Czechoslovakia the same year and later became president of the Czech Republic in 1993, holding that position for ten years. Last year he produced his first new play in two decades.
An art work sponsored by the Czech EU presidency which has stirred controversy in Brussels may be shown in Prague in the future. The piece by sculptor David Černý and two other artists resembles a large Airfix kit with 27 parts representing the states of the EU, in some cases rather crudely. The artist had claimed to have worked with collaborators in other EU countries, before admitting to being behind the whole thing himself. Mr Černý later apologised to senior Czech politicians for the international embarrassment caused by the piece, entitled Entropa. One of the art work’s co-creators, Kryštof Kintera, said they were in negotiations with the National Theatre to hang it on the institution’s New Stage theatre. Entropa is due to be lit up for the first time at the Council building in the Belgian capital on Thursday.
Cyril Svoboda, who is due to take the helm at the Ministry of Regional Development, says he is not taking over in order to bring its activities to an end. The newspaper Hospodářské noviny reported on Wednesday that officials at the ministry were preparing to wind the institution down. The outgoing minister, Jiří Čunek, said last year that it could be incorporated into the Ministry of Agriculture. However, Mr Svoboda said he envisaged some personnel changes, but was not saying the Ministry of Regional Development should cease to exist. The change at the helm of the ministry comes as part of a cabinet reshuffle announced by the Czech prime minister on Monday.
The minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek, says a threatened transport strike has been averted. It would have affected all train and intercity bus services. At a meeting with trade union leaders on Wednesday, Mr Kalousek temporarily withdrew a government decision to tax certain benefits received by transport workers. However, he said he had not given up on a plan to do away with a number of tax exemptions in a new legal code, a proposal strongly opposed by the unions.
Thursday marks 20 years since the unveiling of the country’s first ATM machine. It was located at a branch of the then Czech State Savings Bank on Wenceslas Square, and was initially only intended for use by bank employees. There are 3,500 ATMs in the Czech Republic the; Česká spořitelna bank, with over 1,000, has the most extensive network.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has blamed the poor gas flow to
Europe on weak pressure, the Czech EU presidency said on Tuesday. In a
phone conversation with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who brokered the
agreement on the resumption of gas supplies to Europe, Prime Minister
Tymoshenko blamed technical difficulties, specifically the pressure of gas
arriving from the Russian Federation being too low. According to the Czech
presidency she "promised to act" on a recommendation from Mr.
Topolánek that Ukrainian authorities seek assistance from European gas
Earlier a spokesman for Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz said that
Kiev had blocked the transit of gas to Europe because of "unacceptable
transit conditions" imposed by Russian energy giant Gazprom.
The six day halt in deliveries has hit Europe hard, with some states, such as Slovakia and Bulgaria, declaring an energy emergency. The Czech EU presidency on Monday stressed the need for the EU to speed up work on a common energy policy.
Bulgaria has said it is deeply offended by its representation in the EU mosaic in Brussels made by the controversial Czech artist David Černý. The massive temporary art installation uses stereotypes to depict EU member states in a highly provocative way, with Bulgaria depicted as a Turkish toilet. Bulgaria’s spokesperson at the European Council Bettina Yotevova said the work was extremely insulting. The artwork, which was put up on Monday and is expected to be unveiled on Thursday, has sparked enormous controversy. Moreover it has come to light that the group of 26 international artists who were said to have cooperated on the project with the controversial young artist David Černý do not exist and the work is Černý’s alone. After issuing a denial, the artist allegedly admitted the fact to the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra. Mr. Vondra said he was deeply shocked by the revelation. The artist has apologized for misleading government officials. He tried to defend his action by explaining that mystification was part of modern art.