Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek has sharply rejected President Václav Klaus’s accusations of unprecedented lobbying during his government’s tenure. Hitting back in an interview for the daily Mladá fronta Dnes, Mr Topolánek enumerated a list of lobbyists closely linked to Mr Klaus’s government in the 1990’s, adding that the president would most likely deny knowing the lobbyists in question and that under normal circumstances he would not have brought the matter up on the grounds of common courtesy. Mr. Klaus in recent years has been unsparingly critical of the Civic Democrats, the party he himself founded in 1991, for what he sees as a divergence from core conservative principals under Mr Topolanek’s leadership. The current dispute was sparked by Mr Klaus’s claim that no government in the course of the past 20 years had allowed lobbying to reach the level it did during Mr Topolánek’s tenure."
Social Democratic Party head Jiří Paroubek has conceded the possibility of selling off Prague International Airport in the future, though only in better economic times. The proposed sale has been a point of heated contention between the major parties, with the previous government approving the airport’s privatisation for what the Social Democrats claim is nearly a third of its value. Prime Minister Jan Fischer also said on Monday that his caretaker government would not be making decisions in the privatisation process, but preparations for the sale of Prague Airport would continue. The Social Democrats have threatened to withhold their support for the new government in the upcoming vote of confidence unless the airport privatisation is taken off the table.
Mr Paroubek on Tuesday also objected to remarks made by former president Václav Havel regarding the automobile manufacturer Škoda Auto. Speaking of the dangers of overproduction on Monday, Mr Havel said he thought it “monstrous” to expect the auto industry to make more cars for the sake of unemployment, and compared the idea to requiring concentration camps solely for the employment of guards and jailers. The Social Democrats on Tuesday asked that Mr Havel apologize to the workers of the Škoda factory, to which the ex-president’s office replied only that there would be no comment for the time being.
The Czech branch of Amnesty International has announced it will be holding a “parallel summit” on human rights violations in China on Wednesday to coincide with an EU-China summit hosted by the Czech Republic. The new Czech government has come under pressure from human rights organizations to raise the issues of human rights and the environment in talks with Chinese leaders. On Monday the Green Party presented Prime Minister Jan Fischer with a petition to that end, and members of the Friends of Tibet parliamentary group were rebuffed in their attempt to give the petition to President Václav Klaus, who is chairing the summit. The summit agenda is to cover the global economic crisis, the environment and economic relations between the EU and China, which is the EU’s primary trade partner after the US.
Miroslav Kalousek, the former leader of the Christian Democratic Party, has told Czech Radio he intends to have no further involvement in the party regardless of the outcome of the party’s upcoming convention. Citing what he saw as an indomitable leftward shift in the party, the former finance minister stated that in the future he would either participate in a yet-unnamed conservative centre-right party or would leave politics altogether. Miroslav Kalousek led the Christian Democratic Party from 2003 until 2006, and was the head of the Ministry of Finance under the previous government.
The Prague City Council announced on Tuesday that it would be freeing up 10.7 billion crowns, or 535 million dollars, for the extension of the city’s A-line metro over the course of the next six years. According to the Prague Transport Authority, construction could begin in December of this year on expanding the line from its current terminal station at Dejvice to the western Prague district of Motol and eventually Prague Airport. The 12 kilometre track is estimated to cost approximately 18.7 billion crowns in total, of which the city intends to rely on 8 billion from EU funds.
A survey conducted by the CVVM agency shows that the former opposition party, the Social Democrats, would win early parliamentary elections with 32.4% of the vote. The Civic Democrats, formerly the majority party, would receive 24% of the votes according to the poll, while minority representation in parliament would likely be ensured for the Greens, Communists and Christian Democratic Party. The projected result for the Social Democrats is nonetheless a drop of 3 points in the last month and six since a similar poll conducted in December.
The national advertising market has significantly decreased its turnover in consequence of the global economic crisis. The Association of Czech Advertising Agencies and Marketing Communication, which brings together agencies with a combined turnover of some 1.5 billion Czech crowns, estimated on Tuesday that the market had plummeted by roughly one fifth, with the greatest dives seen in television advertising and marketing exhibitions. Internet advertising conversely continues to grow, though at a slower pace than in previous years. According to the association’s president, Pavel Brabec, the current decline is not so much due to a lack of money on the market, but rather the illogical decisions of companies to postpone and decrease advertising investments.
The Czech Statistical Institute has released a projection of population growth in the Czech Republic leading up to the year 2065. While expecting the population of the Czech Republic to remain roughly the same at roughly 10.5 million inhabitants, 32% of the Czech population is expected to consist of over-65-year-olds by that date. The projection foresees a rise in the average age from the current 40.5 years to 49 as well as a drop in the working age population and a slight decrease in the number of children under 14. Longevity however is expected to increase to 86.5 years for men and 91 years for women. The forecast depends however on a stable flow of migration, without which the population would decline to less than 9 million in the next half century.
The Czech EU presidency said on Monday the EU would consider increasing
its sanctions against the Burmese regime after the junta put opposition
icon Aung San Suu Kyi on trial. Speaking ahead of a meeting of foreign
ministers in Brussels, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said the EU would
first call on the Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi and go
forward with sanctions if the appeal went unanswered. In view of the
restricted impact of such sanctions the EU wants to try to persuade other
states, particularly China, to also apply pressure. The matter is expected
to be brought up at an EU-Chinese summit in Prague this Wednesday.
On Friday the former Czech president Václav Havel urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to use his authority to secure the release of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. In an open letter published by the čtk news agency, Mr. Havel called on the UN chief to personally intervene in the matter in order to prevent a show trial. The 72-year-old playwright, dissident and hero of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, said many people in Burma were in need of help since the junta had imprisoned more than 2,100 political detainees.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, is facing five years in jail on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her off-limits lakeside house in the capital Yangon.