President Václav Klaus is set to travel to the Republic of Azerbaijan next Monday for an official four-day visit to the country, which is Eurasia’s largest. The Czech president will meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, as well as the country’s prime minister, Artur Rasizad, and other senior politicians. On occasion of Mr. Klaus’s visit, a number of bilateral agreements between the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan will be signed, including an agreement on the mutual protection of investments. Azerbaijan is rich in oil and gas; energy is one of the fields in which the Czech Republic strives to expand its collaboration with the country. Despite closing many of its embassies world-wide, the Czech Republic in March opened a new embassy in Azerbaijan.
Radek John, the leader of the junior government coalition partner Public Affairs, said on Monday that the government should include the bill on public tenders in the reform package to which it will link its future when it asks Parliament for a vote of confidence in June. Mr. John said that unless the Cabinet undergoes further personnel changes and approves the new law on public tenders, his party would not be willing to vote in favor of the government’s reform proposals. The proposed change in legislation aims to make public tenders more transparent and thus help fight corruption.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas presented a proposal for a new civil code to the press on Monday. The proposal seeks to establish a new, comprehensive legal framework for the core areas of private law. Its approval is one of the government’s top priorities and the proposal should be voted on by the lower house of Parliament before the summer. The new civil code, which took some ten years to compile, is composed of five parts and deals with questions of private and family law, property questions, and contract law as well as inheritance issues. The current civil code came into effect in 1964 and, despite being updated since, does not take into account all areas of modern life.
According to a fresh survey by the STEM agency, the satisfaction of Czechs with their country’s membership in the EU has reached an all-time low. Exactly half of the respondents polled said that they were pleased that their country was a member of the union, the lowest figure yet since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004. Sixty-nine percent of the 1286 respondents answered that they believed the union’s decisions lacked direction, while only 48 percent said they would vote to join the EU again if a referendum was held today. In 2004’s referendum, over 77 percent of Czechs voted in favor of joining.
Police have charged Jan Třeštík, the former director of the Central Bohemian Art Gallery, in connection with an illegal attempt to remove a painting by Pablo Picasso from the territory of the Czech Republic. According to a Czech Police spokeswoman, Mr. Třeštík signed a form authorizing the removal of the painting from the country. Since it was declared a cultural landmark, it cannot be exhibited abroad without an official permit by the Culture Ministry; Mr. Třeštík was not authorized to sign the permit. He might face a prison sentence of up to two years.
Former foreign minister Cyril Svoboda said on Monday that his plan to open a private academy of diplomacy should also attract students from abroad to the Czech Republic. He added that his academy would not be in competition with the foreign ministry’s academy of diplomacy, where the country’s future diplomats are educated. Mr. Svoboda said that Stefan Füle, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, as well as Mr. Füle’s predecessor Vladimír Špidla, had already pledged their support for the new academy.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has decreased significantly. While in March, 9.2 percent of the population was unemployed, the number dropped to 8.6 percent in April, amounting to a total of 33, 920 fewer Czechs seeking work. Analysts say that the drop in unemployment came as a surprise, and that several factors played a role, among them the recovering economy, but also the fact that seasonal labor, in areas such as agriculture and construction, has started back up again after the winter.
The clarinetist and singer Ivo Pěšák died in Prague on Monday morning, at the age of 66, from complications following a bypass surgery. Ivan Mládek, the leader of the Banjo Band which Mr. Pěšák played with, said that the death of his band mate came as a great loss. A funeral ceremony for the musician is to take place next Monday.
A breeding attempt at Brno zoo on Monday ended fatally for a female leopard, which was meant to be mated with a male leopard. The male, who had shown no prior signs of aggression, attacked the female and strangled her. A spokesperson for the zoo said on Monday that breeders were unable to intervene and separate the two. She added that within the species, such attacks are relatively frequent.
The Czech ice hockey team defeated Russia 3:2 Sunday evening, their fifth straight win in this year’s World Championships in Slovakia. The victory solidifies the reigning champions’ first place position in the qualification round and they are the only team to have not yet lost a point. The 15th to 17th minutes saw two goals for the Czechs by Jakub Voráček and Jaromír Jágr. Much of the second period was dominated by fierce attacks by Evgeny Artyukhin that left star forward Milan Michálek and Karel Rachůnek injured. The Czechs will now face Germany on Monday in the final match of the second round.