President Václav Klaus appointed a new centre-right coalition government on Tuesday morning following the signing of a three-way agreement between leaders of the Civic Democrat, TOP 09 and Public Affairs parties on Monday. Mr Klaus congratulated the new government, wishing them stability and urging reform without revolutionary measures. The official naming of the government starts the clock running for the coalition to win a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament within 30 days. Head of the opposition Social Democratic Party Bohuslav Sobotka said Tuesday that his party would not support the government as it does not agree with its programme, choice of members or absence of women. However, the three parties have a comfortable 18-seat majority in the 200-seat lower house.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said after taking office that he wants the
government’s policy statement to be ready by August 4. Parliament would
then hold a vote of confidence in the new cabinet on August 10. Mr Nečas
said that the new government would begin work on the policy statement next
Meanwhile, the new prime minister has begun accompanying his cabinet members to their respective ministries, starting with the Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mr Schwarzenberg, who is also a member of parliament, said that he hoped the coalition would enable stand-in MPs so that voting would not take time from his diplomatic duties. The last five ministers will take their seats on Wednesday.
As the cabinet met for its first meeting, the prime minister praised the work of his predecessor Jan Fischer, whose government he said had done its work honourably in a difficult situation. Mr Fischer’s interim government of technocrats was appointed after the premature collapse of the previous, elected government, and was originally intended to serve for roughly six months, but stayed in office until regular elections were held in May. For his part, Mr Fischer said his government had been successful in meeting its primary tasks of leading the country into elections and supervising finances. He also said that his cabinet had successfully maintained the image abroad of the Czech Republic as a reliable partner despite the previous government having collapsed during the Czech presidency of the European Union.
The head of the European Commission José Barroso congratulated Prime Minister Nečas and the new Czech ministers on Tuesday. In a message addressed to the PM, Mr Barroso said he was sure that that under the new leadership the Czech Republic would be successful in overcoming the economic crisis and its consequences. The European Commission he said would do everything possible to support the necessary reforms that Mr Nečas’ team is preparing and he wished them luck in the tasks ahead.
The former governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma, will likely top the Prague ballot in local elections for the centre-right TOP 09 party. According to the Czech Press Agency, numerous credible sources including the party spokesman, have confirmed the likelihood of the nomination. Should the party prove capable of repeating its local success in parliamentary elections, local elections would see Mr Tůma in the office of the mayor of Prague. Zdeněk Tůma headed the Czech National Bank for more than ten years before resigning in June. Before that he served as an advisor to the minister of industry and commerce and as the executive director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The City of Prague has approved a schedule of tasks to be undertaken as a result of the collapse of a part of the Blanka Tunnel last week, Mayor Pavel Bém said Tuesday. In addition to demanding an independent analysis of the work done until now, the city wants an analysis of the possibility of terminating its contract with the constructor, Metrostav, and the possibility of penalising the company financially, which would entail more money than the 5 million crown fine that the Czech Mining Office could impose. Metrostav on Tuesday issued an apology for the complications and announced that last week’s collapse could have been caused by human error, project inaccuracies, leakage of water into the rock cover, or a combination of those factors. The mining office has said that geological causes were unlikely. The collapse – the third to plague the 6km tunnel - left a worker buried, though uninjured, for six hours, and a large crater in the garden of a building of the Ministry of Culture near Prague Castle.
A military training aircraft crashed into a forest in eastern Bohemia on Monday evening; the two pilots ejected safely and no one was injured. Speaking to reporters at the scene, Army Chief of Staff Vlastimil Picek said that an engine malfunction in the Czech-made L-39 Albatros had caused a fire that then spread to the cockpit, affecting the controls. The two pilots – one a trainee and the other an instructor – then guided the plane to an uninhabited area and parachuted to safety. Six fire-fighting units were working Monday evening to extinguish two forest fires caused by the crash and complicated by the hot and dry weather. Albatros training aircraft have now been grounded pending an investigation by the Ministry of Defence. Another L-39 Albatros crashed in the summer of 2001 killing the pilot.
The daily Lidové noviny writes that the new Minister of Transportation and second man in the Public Affairs party Vít Bárta drives with an illegal licence plate on his personal automobile. According to the paper, Mr Bárta’s Maserati sports car has a sticker with the registration number on its trunk rather than an officially issued licence place. The issue was addressed by the transport ministry spokesman on Tuesday, who said that his new boss was clearly in violation of the law. The minister himself has not commented on the matter. For driving without a valid licence plate he could be fined 10,000 crowns and have his driver’s licence revoked for up to a year.
Customs officers at the international airport in Prague have detained a Romanian passenger smuggling 600,000 crowns worth of heroin in his stomach. Suspicious behaviour on the part of the passenger, who had arrived from Istanbul, led the officers to perform tests. X-rays showed that the man had 35 capsules of heroin inside him, each containing roughly ten grams of heroin. The vast majority of such cases of drug smuggling involve cocaine rather than heroin, customs said.
The Czech Republic needs another 130,000 blood donors in order to meet EU recommendations, the Czech Press Agency reports. The number of active donors has apparently taken a downturn due to more donors giving blood to commercial centres that pay for plasma; the donor database has declined by more than 100.000 donors in the last five years.