Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Prague later on Wednesday ahead of the signing of a nuclear arms deal with his US counterpart, Barack Obama. Mr Medvedev is set to hold talks with Czech President Václav Klaus on Wednesday evening, ahead of a meeting with Mr Obama on Thursday morning. The two leaders will then sign the weapons pact at noon. President Obama will attend a dinner with 11 leaders from the central and eastern Europe region on Thursday evening, with talks with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer and President Klaus his last engagement before he flies back to Washington on Friday morning.
In Prague and other locations in the Czech Republic, police have started enforcing strict security measures in preparation for the visit of the US and Russian presidents. The Hilton and Four Seasons hotels, where Barrack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev will be staying, will be the most closely guarded locations in the capital. Police and security experts are also inspecting relatively busy parts of the city, along with potential high risk spots such as bridges and tunnels. In the capital, 1500 police officers were on duty on Wednesday, with roughly 5000 expected to be working until the presidents have left. Outside of Prague, the police are also intensively patrolling motorways that lead to the capital for suspicious vehicles.
Rut Bízková, the deputy environment minister, quit the Civic Democrats on Tuesday so that she can take the post of environment minister. On Tuesday the caretaker prime minister, Jan Fischer, said that the party could choose a qualified independent candidate to take the post of environment minister until the formation of the next government. When a Green Party nominee recently stood down as environment minister, the post was taken by the agriculture minister, Jakub Šebesta. That prompted the Greens to withdraw their support for the interim cabinet, and to withdraw their choice Michael Kocáb as human rights minister. Mr Fischer said he himself would handle that portfolio for the rest of the caretaker government’s term. The Civic Democrats have complained that the cabinet is overly influenced by their main rivals, the Social Democrats.
The Civic Democrats have announced plans to lower the state budget deficit to three percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2013. Lowering the deficit to this level is one of the conditions for the Czech Republic to adopt the euro. This year, the party aims to decrease the deficit to 5.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The country’s biggest right-of-centre party is also pushing for legislation that would punish ministers and deputies for actions that affect the state budget negatively. Reforms in the pension sector and budget cuts in several ministries are a part of this new plan that the party says would get rid of the state budget deficit entirely by 2017. The leader of the Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, said on Wednesday that the party would not increase taxes, since that would hinder economic growth.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has put forward a proposal aimed at cutting prices of high-speed internet connections in the Czech Republic. As part of an initiative to bring the internet to more households, the ministry is seeking to lower the value added tax rate on high speed connections from the current 20 percent to 15 percent over the next five years. The proposal, which was announced on Wednesday, would need to be approved by the Ministry of Finance. Opponents of the measure say it would increase the state budget deficit. Roughly half of all Czech households have web connections.
The daily Hospodářskě noviny reported on Wednesday that the Czech state-owned energy company ČEZ ordered a new boiler for about seven billion crowns as part of modernization measures for its controversial power plant in Prunéřov. A spokesman for ČEZ said on Wednesday that the company had not placed a final order on a boiler but was merely comparing options. Currently, an Environmental Impact Assessment of the modernization plans by the Ministry of the Environment is pending final approval. A decision is expected in a few days. In March, the environment minister stepped down after Prime Minister Jan Fischer instructed him to reach a final decision on the matter.
The head of the Civic Democrats’ senators group Tomáš Julínek said on
Tuesday that the Czech Senate will discuss the controversy surrounding the
new director of the Institute for Totalitarian Studies Jiří Pernes at its
next session in April. Mr. Julínek said he feared that the institute would
stray from its mission under Mr. Pernes. So far, over thousand people have
signed a petition for the institute to start a new selection procedure for
the director’s position. The Senate appoints all members of the
Earlier this year, information that Mr. Pernes took evening classes at a Marxist-Leninist institute of higher learning, evoked a storm of controversy surrounding his appointment to the post
The Ministry of Culture has launched a project that is seeking to revitalize Jewish culture in the Czech Republic. Over the next three years, 280 million crowns will be invested in the repair of 15 Jewish monuments across the country. The project, which was presented on Wednesday, also aims at opening new Jewish cultural centers. The ministry cited increasing coordination between different Jewish cultural institutions across the country and presenting the Czech Republic’s Jewish heritage as the main goal of the project.
The ice hockey player Robert Reichel announced on Wednesday that he was going to end his career as a player. Next season, the 38-year-old triple world champion will train the Litvínov hockey team together with the team’s current trainer. Mr. Reichel said that while the decision did not come easy for him, he was looking forward to this new chapter of his career. The forward helped the Czech national hockey team win gold at the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano in 1998.
The zoo in the north Bohemian town of Ustí nad Labem has seen the birth of an unusually tall baby giraffe. The newborn, which was presented to the public on Wednesday, measured 203 centimeters at birth, which is roughly 40 centimeters above the average height for babies of the species. The zoo has been breeding giraffes since 1983 and has not seen the birth of such a tall specimen before.