Prague City Hall has banned a protest march coinciding with this weekend’s visit by US President Barack Obama. The city issued the ban on the grounds the demonstration could interfere with traffic and compromise security during Sunday’s EU-US Summit. Activists are planning to protest the possibility of a US radar base being stationed on Czech soil – part of missile defence plans pursued by Mr Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. The Obama administration has been more ambiguous about the system. The Czech Republic signed two treaties on the base with the US but the plans have not been ratified in the lower house. Activists in Prague say they will go ahead with their march regardless of Thursday’s decision; it is estimated some 2,000 people could take part.
In related news, Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said on Thursday he did not think the US would scrap missile defence shield plans for Europe, although Washington is reviewing the project. The deputy prime minister did admit there could be delays. Proponents see the missile defence system as necessary to counter threats by so-called rogue states, namely Iran. Some experts have contended that the country could develop nuclear capability within a few years.
Police officials have said that attendees at a Prague speech on Sunday by US President Barack Obama will be allowed to bring mobile phones and cameras. Earlier reports said that those items plus sets of keys would not be allowed. The US Embassy in Prague has issued a full list of items which are banned for security reasons, available on its website. Among them are any kind of weapons, thermal or glass containers, packages, backpacks and other objects. Attendees will have to pass through metal detectors to view Mr Obama’s address on Sunday morning on Prague’s Hradčany Square. The 44th US president is expected to focus on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in his speech.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will become the first Czech politician to speak at a G20 summit when on Thursday in London he addresses leaders of the world’s strongest economies. The prime minister is to speak on behalf of the Czech EU presidency, a week after he strongly criticised the US administration’s plans on tackling the continuing economic crisis. In his earlier speech in Strasbourg, Mr Topolánek made headlines by calling a stimulus package by US President Barack Obama’s administration “a way to hell”. The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg later downplayed the prime minister’s comments, saying they were not intended against the US but were part of the European debate on the crisis.
Opposition Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek has said the Czech Republic's main parties should agree on a new cabinet by Sunday - one that would complete the EU presidency and lead the country to early elections. Mr Paroubek said in an interview he saw a "cabinet of experts" as the only way out of a political gridlock after a no-confidence vote last week that toppled the country’s minority centre-right government. Some have argued that the government’s collapse has undermined its position as the holder of the EU presidency, while strengthening the role of euro sceptic President Václav Klaus. The plan for a technocratic government has raised protests from some in Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek's Civic Democratic Party, who say the outgoing prime minister had made too many concessions to the opposition.
The Austrian daily Die Presse has warned that the Czech EU presidency will become “a farce” if politicians agree on a caretaker government. Immediately following the defeat of Mirek Topolánek’s government in the recent no-confidence vote, it was thought that his cabinet might stay on long enough to see the EU presidency through. But the country’s president - as well as party leaders - have pushed for quicker changes and resolution. Die Presse criticised the idea of a new interim government; in the paper’s view it will leave the EU with a “politically powerless leadership”.
Frantíšek Oldřich Kinský – a descendant of the Kinský noble family – has died at the age of 72, after suffering from a long illness. In the Czech Republic Mr Kinský was best known for lawsuits demanding the return of family property confiscated after World War II; his parents were accused of alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Mr Kinský died in Argentina but could be buried in the Czech Republic, sources said on Thursday.
The Czech Republic’s footballers were beaten 2:1 by Slovakia in Prague on Wednesday in a qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. The Slovaks went ahead mid-way through the first half, but the Czechs later got onto the score sheet due to a Slovak own-goal. The Czech Republic’s luck ran out when David Jarolím hit the post in the second half and Slovakia scored a second goal in the 83rd minute. The result leaves the Czechs fourth in their group with only 8 points from six games.
Petr Rada’s future as the head of the national football team could be shaky, after the team’s poor results. So far the coach has refused to step down, awaiting the next meeting of football federation officials. Czech sports editorials on Thursday did not mince words, saying it was time for the coach – who replaced Karel Bruckner last year – to go.
Talks are underway on the composition of a caretaker government which would rule the country until early elections in the autumn. On the basis of a framework agreement reached on Tuesday between the ruling coalition and the opposition Social Democrats the caretaker government would be made up of 16 experts without partisan affiliation. Candidates for the posts would be career diplomats and economic experts handpicked by the coalition and opposition. Disputes have already broken out between the rival parties regarding the selection process. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said he would consult the Communists regarding suitable candidates, which Prime Minister Topolanek said was totally unacceptable. He said on Wednesday he would not be blackmailed into making any further concessions.