President Václav Klaus called for a fast solution to the ongoing political crisis on Monday. He said an outgoing government was only half a government and the country wanted a fully functioning one. Negotiations between the country’s two biggest political parties are set to continue on what sort of transitional government should replace the toppled centre-right coalition. Five days after the defeat of the centre-right coalition government in a confidence vote, leaders of the right-wing Civic Democrats and left-wing Social Democrats have only agreed that early elections should take place in the autumn. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has so far stuck to his demands that a government of experts takes over. Outgoing Prime Minister and Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek says a transitional government should have a clear political mandate.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has defended his now infamous “road to hell” comments about US measures to counter the economic crisis. In an article in Monday’s edition of the British daily, The Times, Mr Topolánek said he knew that his “hyperbolic” comments would be noticed but did not expect the stir they created. He said he was merely drawing attention to the dangers of protectionism and the adverse affects of state intervention suffered by the US in the 1930’s. Mr Topolánek likened his words to a warning to a friend crossing the street and defended the steps already agreed at EU level to boost the economy. The Czech Prime Minister’s comments have been taken as another signal that the world’s biggest economic powers will not agree a common economic stimulus package at the G20 meeting starting on Thursday.
Israeli President Shimon Peres began a two-day state visit to the Czech Republic on Monday. Mr. Peres said he expected significant progress in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year in comments following a meeting with Czech counterpart Václav Klaus. Mr Peres was due later to meet outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topálanek and former president Václav Havel. He will also visit the Terezín memorial to victims of the Jewish holocaust. The Terezín fortress was used as an assembly camp for Jews before they were sent by the Nazis to their deaths in concentration camps.
Separately, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has moved to dispel fears that the domestic political crisis will spill over into its EU presidency. In an interview on Monday with the German internet server Welt Online, he pointed out that institutions in Prague and Brussels were functioning normally. Mr Schwarzenberg also said he hoped the Czech Republic will ratify the EU’s reforming Lisbon Treaty in the coming weeks. The treaty is at the moment stalled in the Czech upper house, the Senate.
The Czech Ministry of Environment signed a major contract for the sale of carbon emission credits with Japan on Monday. The deal covers 40 million credits but the final selling price was not revealed. The Czech Republic stands to be a big seller of carbon credits under the Kyoto climate change protocol which allows countries that have cut pollution of the key greenhouse gas to cash in by selling their unused allocation. Minister for the Environment Martin Busík said the country stands to gain up to 25 billion crowns under the emissions trading system over the next four years. Cash received will be used for environmental project such as ecological heating of homes and blocks of flats.
Students who were forced to discontinue their studies for political reasons by the Communist regime after it came to power in 1948 and until 1956 can claim compensation under a proposal approved by the government on Monday. Compensation of up to 100,000 crowns can be awarded with individual applications being vetted by the ministries of education, defence and interior. The Ministry of Education said up to 900 people stood to gain from the measure when it was originally proposed but that total has now fallen to around 300.
A regional court has ruled that a group of Czech artists who hijacked a Czech Television programme by transmitting images of an atomic bomb explosion should not face further criminal proceedings. The regional court in the north-eastern city of Hradec Králové declared on Monday that the matter was an infraction for the local town hall to deal with and not a criminal matter. The artistic group, Ztohoven, gained notoriety for their stunt with clips of the atom bomb explosion being played worldwide over the Internet. A local court originally cleared them of scaremongering but that verdict was appealed.
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has said that the price for supporting a transitional government will be the absence of a series of ministers. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Mr Paroubek said four ministers from the outgoing government, including Green Party leader Martin Bursík, should not feature in a new administration. Outgoing Prime Minister and Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek said in a television interview Sunday that discussions over the composition of such a government are still a long way off. The leaders of the country’s two main parties met for around 90 minutes on Friday to discuss a way out of the current political crisis following the defeat of the centre-right coalition in a confidence vote. They agreed early elections should be held but disagreed when.
US President Barack Obama is due to make a set piece speech about the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons when he visits Prague, the Associated Press news agency has reported. As well as the Prague speech, the agency said President Obama is due to make another keynote declaration on transatlantic relations in France. President Obama begins his first European tour since taking office by attending the G20 meeting of the most economically developed countries in London next week. His two day visit to Prague starts on April 4.
Czech President Václav Klaus has expressed surprise at the announcement his country will back Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski as the new head of NATO. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg announced support for his Polish counterpart on Saturday. In a statement released by his office, President Klaus, who under the constitution is head of the Czech armed forces, said the issue had not been discussed at any relevant forum and that Mr Schwarzenberg must have been expressing a personal opinion. NATO leaders are due to meet next week to decide on a replacement for the current Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The favourite in the race so far is Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.