Minister of Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has said he will resign on Monday. The Green Party, which nominated Mr Kocáb to the post, asked him to leave the cabinet earlier in the week to protest the appointment of agriculture minister Jakub Šebesta to the head of the environmental ministry. The party says that neither they nor the Civic Democrats were consulted on the appointment and decided to withdraw their support for the government and Mr Kocab, as their last nominee to the cabinet. Mr Kocáb first said he would stay on to try to rebuild support for the interim government, but the Green Party has insisted on his resignation. He says that Prime Minister Fischer has assured him that the government would continue in his agenda.
The Civic Democratic Party, under the provisory leadership of Petr Nečas, has said they too will withdraw their ministers from the government if they are not given the cabinet seats freed up by the Green Party. Mr Nečas told the daily Lidové Noviny on Saturday that there was no reason for his party to hold up a government in which the rival Social Democrats have a factual majority. The Civic Democrats and Greens accuse the government of having excluded them while making a non-transparent arrangement with the Social Democratic Party for the appointment of Mr Šebesta to head the environmental ministry. That position opened last week when Green nominee Jan Dusík resigned, saying he was being pressured by the PM to permit the state energy company ČEZ to go ahead with a plan for the modernisation of a controversial power plant.
President Václav Klaus met with the Prime Minister Saturday morning to
discuss the government crisis. Speaking after the opening of the Prague
half marathon, Mr Klaus said it would be irresponsible to change the
government with only weeks to go before Parliamentary elections. The
president denied that any “dramatic” situation was underway. He said
that if necessary Mr Fischer himself could take over the running of the
environmental ministry as well as the duties of outgoing human rights
minister Michael Kocáb.
Prime Minister Fischer heads a caretaker government of appointed experts put together by the major parties after the previous elected government of Mirek Topolánek lost a vote of no confidence in early 2009.
Mr Klaus also addressed the upcoming meeting of US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev in Prague, where they are to sign a new disarmament treaty. Mr Klaus said that as a member of NATO the Czech Republic was honoured to host an event of such historic and symbolic significance a year after Mr Obama’s last visit to the country, when he outlined his vision for a nuclear free world in a keynote speech at Prague Castle. The Czech president said that his office was in daily contact with Washington and Moscow and was working on the details of the visit. The complete details of the US-Russian treaty however have not yet been finalised. Mr Obama told a press conference on Friday that he would discuss the final wording of the treaty with Mr Medvedev by telephone.
The Prague police have begun extensive security preparations for the meeting. The head of the municipal police department told the Czech Press Agency said that roughly 1,000 officers would be deployed, and that security arrangements would be similar to those in place during other events held within the scope of the Czech Republic’s presidency of the EU last year. The police presidium has said the details of the preparations would depend on the length of the visit and the individual events, which have not yet been publicised. Authorities are working on a vastly abbreviated schedule as opposed to the American president’s last visit in April of 2009 or that of Pope Benedict XVI, which were announced several months ahead of time. The trip will be President Medvedev’s first to the Czech Republic.
The tourist season kicked off for Czech castles and chateaux on Saturday with the ceremonial opening of Křivoklat Castle in the west of Central Bohemia. Speaking at the event, Minister of Culture Václav Riedlbauch announced that season would see a continuation of last year’s Memorials Reborn project (Oživlé památky). In May, visitors will be able to take tours of Czech castles guided by the wardens and access parts of the monuments that are not generally open to the public. In June then that system will apply to castle gardens. The summer months are to highlight the household life of noblemen, and September will offer special programmes providing an inside look at the process of memorial restoration.
Lights will go out for an hour on Saturday evening in towns across the Czech Republic when the country marks Earth Hour for the first time. Brno, Ústí nad Labem and Česká Lípa are some of the cities that be turning off non-essential lighting on monuments, advertisements and elsewhere at 8.30 p.m., in a symbolic event to draw attention to energy waste. Some 125 countries around the world will be participating, dozens more than last year. Brno’s Špilberk castle and the UNESCO town of Telč will thus join the Eiffel Tower in Paris, China’s Forbidden City and the Egyptian Pyramids in going dark for one hour.
Melting snow and storms during the week swelled rivers around the country, and a state of flood readiness has been announced for the Orlice river, in the north, and Dyje river in the southeast. Low-level warnings issued throughout the week still apply to 27 other rivers around the country. Nonetheless the number of warnings has slowly declined from 34 last Tuesday. Dams have been opened in several places to lower the levels of the reservoirs. Flooding is the most common natural disaster that the Czech Republic faces. Parts of Northern Moravia are still recovering from the last serious inundation, which struck in June of 2009.
Czech rescue services have found the bodies of two Polish men, aged 25 and 26, who drowned in the Olše river on Friday evening while trying to save a woman from the same fate. The people involved were grilling by the river, which marks the Czech-Polish border, when the woman jumped into the water, apparently to retrieve a mobile phone. Three men followed her into the river when they saw she was in danger; one was able to rescue her and reach the bank. The others were found later in the evening and on Saturday morning in a joint search involving Czech and Polish firemen.
The award for the most popular teacher of the year went to an Ostrava educator, Martina Čiková from the Ostrčilová elementary school in Ostrava. The seven finalists for the 2010 “Golden Ámos” were judged by a jury that assessed four fields testing their originality and wit. 44 teachers were nominated by their students for this year’s 17th awards, and had to win several rounds to reach the final contest in Prague. As opposed to previous years, all of the finalists were women. The contestants were welcomed to Prague by First Lady Livia Klaus and will attend a celebratory ball on Saturday evening.