President Václav Klaus has appealed to members of the Civic Democratic Party – the party which he founded and led as prime minister and opposition leader in the 1990s – to bring the party back to its original roots and previous standing on the political map. Mr Klaus gave up honorary chairmanship of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats last December, unhappy with the party’s direction under his successor Mirek Topolánek. He also missed a recent ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the party’s founding. The president’s latest statements were presented in an open letter to rank-and-file Civic Democrats, charging the party had made a fundamental shift to the left.
Pope Benedict XVI will receive Czech President Vaclav Klaus in the Vatican on May 30, the Czech daily Právo has written, news also confirmed by spokesman Radim Ochvat. It will be the first meeting between Benedict XVI and the Czech head of state. The two are expected to discuss the Pope’s visit to the Czech Republic planned for the final week of September.
The police have reported that an unidentified vandal has damaged part of Prague’s world-famous Orloj or Astronomical Clock, which dates back to the 15th century. The damage took place sometime between April 27 and 29, the police said. Someone broke the arm off one of the statues, known as the Astronomer, decorating the clock tower. The missing piece was not found. The statue has been removed for restoration work which should take several weeks. It is not an original but a replica dating back to the mid-20th century.
Two weeks ago Chelsea netminder Petr Čech was criticised for allowing seven goals in two matches. But on Tuesday the goalkeeper silenced critics when he kept a clean sheet against Barcelona at Nou Camp. The game, the first leg in the semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona in the Champions League ended scoreless. Čech became the first visiting goalie this year to not allow a goal on Barcelona’s pitch. After the game, he praised his defenders. The second leg will take place at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.
Russia has expressed concern over the EU’s Eastern Partnership scheme that should strengthen links between the European Union and several post-Soviet states. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Luxembourg on Tuesday that the EU should not seek accession of these countries to the bloc. The Eastern Partnership project, to be officially launched at a summit in Prague in May, is designed to foster closer cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Monday that Russian officials were talking ‘nonsense’ when they accused the EU of creating a sphere of influence in the former Soviet republics.
In related news, Albania submitted an official application to join the EU in Prague on Tuesday. The Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, handed the application to the Czech leader, Mirek Topolánek, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the bloc. Provided the European Commission and the Council of the EU approve the application, the accession process will start with bilateral talks on the rights and duties that each aspiring member has to comply with.
The Czech health authorities have ruled out the presence of the swine flu virus in all suspected cases. All three patients had symptoms typical for regular flu and would not have been admitted to hospital had they not recently returned from Mexico. Some 20 beds at Bulovka hospital have been readied in case of a swine flu outbreak in the Czech Republic, and the health authorities say they have anti-viral drugs for two million people.
In related news, Czech health authorities have raised the pandemic threat level as recommended by the WHO, the Czech health minister Daniela Filipiová told reporters. The current threat level is four, with six representing the highest possible alert. Czech authorities believe the risk of a swine flue pandemic is higher than bird flu which began spreading in Asia three years ago. The Czech EU presidency has also convened an extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers for Thursday to address possible threats posed by swine flu.
Ministers in charge of migration from 50 countries of the EU, South-East Europe and central Asia adopted the “Prague Declaration on Migration” in the Czech capital on Tuesday. At a two day conference held as part of the Czech EU presidency, the officials agreed on the need to fight illegal migration, to support the integration of legal migrants and to promote voluntary returns and re-admissions. The Prague conference on migration-related issues has been one of the largest events of the Czech presidency of the EU.
A Czech Romany NGO, Roma Realia, has asked Pope Benedict XVI to open a debate on the status of Romanies in Europe. In a letter to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the activists said what they called a growing aversion between Czechs and Romanies might get out of control, while Czech politicians don’t know how to deal with such issues. The activists also criticized the interim PM, Jan Fischer, for his decision to abolish the position of minister for minorities and human rights in the new government.