President Václav Klaus received the Vatican ambassador to the Czech Republic Diego Causero on Friday at Prague Castle, reportedly to discuss the Vatican’s naming of a successor to replace the outgoing Prague archbishop, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk. It is accepted protocol for heads-of-state to be informed of the Vatican’s decision prior to the official announcement. Unofficial sources have claimed that Cardinal Vlk could be succeeded by Hradec Králové’s Bishop Dominik Duka; the Vatican could make an official announcement on Saturday. The bishop’s office, meanwhile, has not commented. In the past, the 66-year-old Bishop Duka was reserved when it came to speculation he might be named, saying it would be suitable for a younger candidate – one less impacted by the former totalitarian regime – to be chosen.
The right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party has said it wants the
country’s interim prime minister, Jan Fischer, and parties to agree on
holding no further parliamentary sessions except on issues with a broad
political consensus until the national election in May. The party’s
deputy chairman Petr Nečas made the statement on Friday, stressing that
the Chamber of Deputies should only debate bills necessary for the running
of the state and the economy. He also charged that the rival Social
Democrats were conducting what he called an “irresponsible” election
campaign by trying to push through programmes that would balloon the state
budget deficit. Recent sessions have seen the Civic Democrats repeatedly
use delay tactics to block the political Left from passing measures that
would increase salaries (through 13th month pay) and maternity leave
In related news, the Social Democrats agreed on Friday afternoon after the latest session was dissolved that they would also be willing to negotiate with other parties and the prime minister on the easing of current obstruction in Parliament, and find common ground on major issues until the election. At the same time, they suggested, they would continue pushing their own priorities.
Recovery from the global economic crisis has proven weaker than expected, official data has shown: the Czech economy contracted at an adjusted quarterly pace of 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2009. The unexpected development, reported by the Czech Statistical Office, followed two quarterly increases which pulled the country out of recession. But the latest result, analysts say, showed that full recovery will be slow as well as vulnerable. At an annual rate, the Czech GDP contracted by 4.3 percent in 2009 - faster than predicted by the finance ministry or the central bank. The finance ministry currently expects the economy to rebound with 1.3-percent annual growth this year and a 2.6-percent pick-up in 2011.
Czechs voting from abroad in the upcoming election will be able to choose from among candidates in the region of South Bohemia, the Interior Ministry has announced. South Bohemia was chosen in a draw held by the State Electoral Commission, out of a possible 14 regions. Expatriates and Czechs abroad for the short-term have so far been able to vote in two previous national elections, in 2002 and in 2006. The first time voters were allotted South Moravia, the second, South Bohemia. Roughly 3,800 out of some 70,000 potential voters abroad took part in the vote in 2002.
The Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has reported that the former Czech government considered buying up to 20 million doses of the swine flu vaccine for the country of some ten million, before the contract was halted at the last moment by interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer. The Czech Republic eventually decided on a million vaccines at a cost of around 220 million crowns (the equivalent of around 11.5 million US dollars). By halting the deal Mladá fronta writes that the Czech government narrowly avoided a situation similar to that of France or Belgium, which ordered numbers larger than their populations and have now been unable to make use of all the vaccines (originally, it was thought two doses per person would be required). Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer reportedly opposed the deal as it would have been agreed without a tender. Meanwhile the firm that was considered, Baxter, reportedly would not have been responsible for any vaccine side-effects.
A new poll published by the CVVM agency has suggested that President Václav Klaus’s standing in the public eye has fallen over the last year, with more people growing critical of him in office. While the majority of those queried rated his fulfilment of his constitutional role positively (75 percent), fewer (47 percent) rated highly his impact on domestic politics. In the poll, the president fared most poorly when it came to understanding ordinary citizens’ problems – just 37 percent said he did. On the other hand, 63 percent of those polled said that Mr Klaus represented his country well abroad.
Three children and six adults suffered light injuries in a Czech bus travelling from Zlín to Slovakia on Friday when the vehicle collided in Slovakia with a lorry, near the towns of Sereď and Galant. A police spokesman said that the driver of the bus prevented a head-on collision through quick reflexes, quickly yanking the steering wheel but impact was nevertheless not avoided. The bus, which was carrying 40 people, mostly children, ended up in a ditch. The driver of the lorry was the only injured party to remain in hospital. The Czech bus had been travelling through Slovakia to a spa town in Hungary; later on Friday a replacement vehicle returned the travellers to the Czech Republic.
Officials at a Czech zoo in Dvůr Králové nad Labem have revealed they had no choice but to put down a valuable Siberian tiger this week due to rapidly worsening health. The tiger, named Semjon, was born in a zoo in Munich, Germany in 1992 and transferred to the Czech Republic in 1995. He had suffered a long-term kidney disease which was no longer treatable. The zoo retains one more specimen of the big cat, an 11-year-old female. Zoo officials have said they would be searching for a mate for the animal, to try and breed new specimens in captivity.
92 Czech sportsmen and sportswomen are gearing up for the 21st Winter Olympic Games which will kick off later on Friday with the official opening ceremony in Vancouver, Canada. During the opening ceremony the Czech flag will be carried by star hockey player Jaromír Jágr. Over 17 days of competition, the Czechs will be hoping to do as well or to best the last winter games in Turin, Italy, where they clinched four medals, including gold in cross-country skiing. Competitors for whom expectations are high include figure skater Tomáš Verner, cross-country skier Lukáš Bauer, downhill skier Šárka Záhrobská and others. Fans will also be paying close attention to the Czech hockey team, which won gold in the Olympics 12 years ago at Nagano ‘98.
Czech footballer Tomáš Ujfaluší and his team Atletico Madrid have booked their place in the final of the Spanish cup. In Thursday night’s return leg match Atletico lost 2:3 away against Santander but went through on the basis of their first leg 4:0 home win. They will face Seville in the final. The appearance in the final is also likely to guarantee a place in the Europa League competition even if they lose.