Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Friday officially tasked right-wing Civic
Democrat leader Petr Necas with forming the country’s next government.
The president asked Mr. Necas to report back in two weeks on whether he is
able to form a cabinet.
The outcome of last weekend’s general elections, which left the winning Social Democratic Party isolated with little chance of forming a stable government, has led the president to break with tradition in asking the leader of the second strongest party to try and form a centre-right cabinet.
The Civic Democratic party is holding talks with the conservative TOP 09 and the centrist Public Affairs party; they have 118 seats in the 200-strong lower house of Parliament. The parties have vowed to form a centre-right coalition to stabilize public finances, reform the country’s health and pensions systems, and curb corruption.
Acting Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said following a meeting with the president on Friday that he was disappointed by Mr. Klaus’ decision which differs from the constitutional practice observed in the Czech Republic to date. Mr. Sobotka said that his party was open to further coalition talks and would be ready to get involved should the Civic Democrat leader fail to form a centre-right cabinet.
The three centre-right parties who are holding talks on establishing a coalition government have agreed to scrap the post of European affairs minister. A group of experts which is hammering out a common foreign policy line arrived at the conclusion that the portfolio could be handled by a deputy foreign minister. With the need to cut costs in the public sector, the parties are proposing various mergers to save money. For instance, Public Affairs has suggested merging the interior and defence ministries into a ministry for national security matters.
President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Jan Fischer have jointly
criticized the law on national unity recently approved by the Hungarian
Parliament. In a joint statement the Czech leaders say that the law
belittles the Trianon treaty, which is one of the fundamental agreements
establishing the present day European order, and argue that putting it to
question may fuel extremism and revive old rivalries in Europe.
The Trianon treaty determined borders in central Europe after WWI. Hungary, part of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire, lost a major part of its territory, including Slovakia, which united with the Czech lands to establish independent Czechoslovakia in 1918. Many Hungarians still consider the Trianon agreement a wrong inflicted on their country.
Late last month, the Hungarian Parliament passed the law on national unity, establishing June 4th, the day on which the Trianon treaty was signed, as a day of national unity. The country also recently passed a dual citizenship law, escalating fears that it wanted to push for some form of regional autonomy for its minorities in neighbouring states.
President Klaus has signed a government bill that will allow the state to issue flood bonds to the tune of 3 billion crowns as part of a financial rescue plan for victims of the spring floods that have caused widespread damage in the northeast of the country. The bonds should be bought by the European Investment Bank which gives the Czech government better terms than it would get if it offered them on the open market. As part of the deal the government also approved an increase in funding for flood-prevention by 1 billion to a total 11.5billion crowns.
A clean-up operation is underway in the north-eastern parts of the country where floods killed two people this week. Although some towns remain on flood alert water levels have been going down and meteorologists predict dry and sunny weather over the weekend. Some areas have been flooded twice within the space of a fortnight, leaving hundreds of families displaced. Fire crews have been working around the clock pumping water from cellars and aid workers have been distributing basic necessities. Psychologists are on hand to help people cope with the calamity.
The energy giant CEZ has reported flood-damage to the tune of 19 million crowns in the flood-stricken areas. A spokesman for the company said emergency repairs were underway to restore power to all its clients as soon as possible. In some towns CEZ has set up emergency power generators which are essential for the clean-up operation. Damage to power lines is reported to be extensive due to a combination of flooding, strong wind and landslides.
Senator and former European affairs minister Alexander Vondra has said he will run for one of the deputy posts in the Civic Democratic party at the party’s upcoming conference on June 19th. Lower house deputy chair Miroslava Nemcova and former justice minister Jiri Pospisil have also said they are seriously considering making a bid for one of the leadership posts. Acting party chairman Petr Necas, who took over after the resignation of Mirek Topolanek in March of this year, is expected to make a successful bid for the top party post.
The US restaurant chain Hooters will open its first location in Prague on Friday. The beach-style eatery will open in Vodičkova Street, off Wenceslas Square, as the first Hooters location in central and Eastern Europe. The franchise holder is planning to open another 11 Hooters restaurants in the Czech Republic. Prague’s Hooters location will also be the only one in the world to offer draught from a beer tank.
Sweden's Robin Soderling defeated Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-3 on Friday to reach the final of the French Open for the second year in a row. Soderling broke serve in the sixth game of the first set when Berdych double-faulted and went on to win the opener. The Czech, playing in his first grand slam semi-final recovered, winning the second and third sets. He had a chance to break the Soderling serve right at the start of the fourth but the Swede pummelled down an ace. Soderling then struck in the sixth game, breaking when 15th seed Berdych netted a backhand, to set up a deciding set.