A summit of the Visegrad Group presidents in the West Bohemian town of Karlovy Vary ended on Saturday. The four presidents pledged to jointly support issues promoted by the Hungarian and Polish EU presidencies next year. Primary among those issues will be energy security, namely the integration of transit systems and decreasing dependence on a single source of energy. Czech President Václav Klaus said the summit met expectations and that the participants agreed on the continuing importance of the V4 group, which consists of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The summit was the first opportunity for Mr Klaus and Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič to meet with the newly elected presidents of Hungary and Poland, Pal Schmitt and Bronislaw Komorowski.
Speaking at the summit, Slovak President Gašparovič said that Roma issues were particularly thorny for his country and the Czech Republic, which are frequent targets of criticism over their Roma communities. Mr Gašparovič said that the individual countries were unable to resolve the problems on their own in the short term, and that they should be discussed further at the level of the European Union. Mr Klaus remarked that he understood why Mr Gašparovič would want to bring Roma issues to the European level, saying that the mass exodus of Roma to France would not have happened had it not been for the Schengen Agreement on open borders.
Deputy chairman of the Public Affairs party and Education Minister Josef Dobeš has reiterated his support for party chairman Radek John, after telling the press on Friday that he did not believe the party’s chairman should also be a minister. The comments caused many in the media to speculate that Mr John may be close to stepping down from the chairmanship, particularly as his only response was to say that the party could expect “radical changes” from its December conference. Mr Dobeš emphasised on Saturday that he had no intention of seeking the chair himself.
Health Minister Leoš Heger says he wants to improve conditions for specialised education for young doctors to help prevent a brain drain, because there is no money to put into the system. Speaking to an association of young doctors, Mr Heger said that up to 2,000 doctors may leave the country in the new year, and that that situation would likely lead to the closure of certain hospital departments. The ministry, he said, therefore plans to expand certain parts of education and cancel a law forcing newly certified doctors to work for five years in a hospital for special education.
The government will likely reject an amendment proposed by the opposition Social Democrats to the law on conflicts of interest that would forbid municipal and regional representatives from receiving payment from their membership in the statutory bodies of municipal and regional companies. Remuneration for such positions can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of crowns. The government is concerned that the proposal would affect representatives who worked in such positions before being elected and says it violates the Charter of Fundamental Rights by prohibiting all such remuneration regardless of how or why a representative was nominated to the business position.
The executive committee of the Social Democratic Party has decided against direct election of the party’s chairman. The election will be made by delegates at the party conference in Brno in March as opposed to all party members being allowed to vote. The Social Democrats have pondered direct election of the chairman for several years now, and it is favoured by both primary candidates, current chairman Bohuslav Sobotka and the Governor of South Moravia Michal Hašek. Opponents of the idea warn it would cost three million crowns and could not be effectively organised in time.
The news website iDnes.cz reports that the Czech Republic may have to return nearly half a billion crowns received from the EU for modernising the road between Brno and Vienna. The European Union co-financed the planned R52 motorway as one of fifteen important trans-European thoroughfares intended to run outside of cities and thus requiring new construction. However, work thus far has involved repairing a nine-kilometre slip road where the R52 is meant to run. The European Commission is now investigating whether the work has entailed new construction or repair.
Former prime minister and euro-commissioner Vladimír Špidla says the Social Democratic Party must redefine what it wants from the future amid the current, changed conditions of the Czech political scene. Mr Špidla, who chaired the party from 2001 to 2004, said the party had no concept of the future, of progress, or of what it wants in the long-term. European social democracy, he said, had problems formulating its goals, being able to agreed for instance on market regulation and joint European foreign policy, but unable to reach agreement on its direction in social areas.
Two members of a polish racing team were involved in a serious accident in the Střela Rally in Zdeslav near Rakovnik on Saturday. The 23-year-old driver is in serious condition after losing control of his race car and running into an electrical pylon in a turn. A 26-year-old woman also in the car is being treated for light injuries.
Two legendary figures of tennis history, Swedish Björn Borg and Czech Ivan Lendl met in the latter’s home town of Ostrava on Friday evening for an exhibition match which Lendl won 6:4 7:6. It was the first time the players have faced off since 1981, when Lendl lost to Borg in five sets in the final of the French Open. Ivan Lendl is now 50 years old and Björn Borg 54. Later, in a doubles match, Lendl switched sides to play alongside his onetime rival.