President Václav Klaus says he has no intention of leaving politics after his term of office ends in 2013. Speaking at a signing of his new book covering the eighth year of his presidency, Mr Klaus said that he would stay in the public sphere as long has his strength allowed and does not want to retire. However, he added that it was needlessly early to say what public role he may fill. Formerly the chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, Mr Klaus took office as president in March of 2003 and was re-elected by Parliament in 2008. The parliamentary parties are currently working on an agreement to establish direct election of the president.
Former President Václav Havel says that Western-led military intervention may be needed if civil war continues in Libya. In an interview for the daily Hospodářské noviny Mr Havel compared the situation to that of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, where he said the West waited for four years in the face of growing horrors before getting involved militarily. Muammar Gaddafi, he said, has proven to not be the eccentric fool the world had taken him for, but an insane criminal. Mr Havel said that such intervention could be handled in various ways, from aiding insurgents to a targeted attack on Gaddafi. President Klaus was quick to differ with his predecessor, saying that he no more agreed with such a view than he had with Mr Havel’s support for bombing Belgrade in 1999.
Mr Havel has cancelled his programme for the coming days due to a respiratory illness, but still plans to attend the premiere of his film “Leaving” on March 24. Respiratory illness is a high-risk problem for the 74-year-old former president; he underwent a lung operation in 1996 to remove a malignant tumour and has since been hospitalised on numerous occasions. “Leaving”, which is based on his play of the same name, is his directorial debut.
Czechs with disabilities are set to protest government-proposed social reform outside the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on March 22, the National Disability Council announced on Monday. The council says the proposal is ill-conceived and fears that disabled people could lose various subsidies and benefits. One of the reform measures calls for a change in how disabilities are assessed; according to the council, even people who require constant care could not be in the highest disability category if they are still capable of communicating. The draft reform also does away with reserved parking places for people with disabilities, public transport assistance, subsidies for purchasing automobiles and health aids.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reports that the Czech army pays hundreds of millions of crowns per year on overpriced pilot training. According to the paper, the army pays more than a quarter of a billion crowns annually to a state-owned company while private companies offer the same services for six times less. While the defence ministry has agreed that the price is exorbitant, the company in question, LOM, says that one of the reasons for the expense is that the army is unable to say how many pilots are to be trained in coming years and reserve capacities are therefore maintained. The paper writes that the army is unable to substantiate the costs.
The Czech Statistical Office and the Post Office begin distributing forms for the 2011 population census on Monday afternoon. Thousands of census workers will be visiting homes over the next two weeks to assist people in filling out forms for each of the members of their households. Students and hospital workers have also been charged with having the forms completed in dormitories and medical facilities. Foreigners residing in the Czech Republic as well as those who are here for more than three months are also expected to register. The census has been five years in preparation and is preceded by a nationwide media campaign.
More than 64,000 people have signed a petition asking the government to exempt books from a planned hike in Value Added Tax. The “Call for the Defence of Books” campaign consists of an open letter to Prime Minister Petr Nečas sent on Monday by the association of booksellers and publishers. It states that the protection of the book market is all the more necessary in times of change and economic crisis, when books are among the first things to be considered dispensable. The government wants to raise VAT to 20% as soon as possible in order to cover pension reform. Only certain foodstuffs are currently to receive exemptions.
A survey carried out by the SANEP polling agency suggests that the Social Democratic Party would win if elections were held today, and would be able to form a majority of 104 seats with the Communist Party. According to SANEP, the Social Democrats would win 34% of the vote, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 roughly 17%, the Communists 13% and Public Affairs 8%. The poll notes a growing inclination of voters towards left-wing parties due to fears that planned government reforms will have wide-ranging social effects.
The Czech men’s tennis team lost 2:3 to Kazachstan in the first round of the Davis Cup after both Tomáš Berdych and Jan Hájek lost their singles in Ostrava on Sunday. Berdych, world number seven, failed to score the decisive third point for the Czechs when he surprisingly lost to Andrei Golubev 5:7, 7:5, 4:6 and 2:6, and brought the rubber to a 2:2. In the final single, Czech Republic’s Jan Hájek lost in three and a half hours to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 4:6, 7:6, 6:7 and 0:6. The loss is a major disappointment for the Czechs who will now play to stay in the Davis Cup World Group.
The government’s economic council, NERV, says that high taxes on labour are overburdening the Czech economy. The council’s report on the labour, goods and services markets says that the country’s competitiveness would be aided by decreasing the accessory costs of labour and unifying value added tax.