The 37th International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary is due to end with a gala show and award ceremony on Saturday night. Over the past ten days the famous West Bohemian spa town hosted over 140 thousand film fans who saw close to 300 domestic and foreign movies. Visitors also got the chance to mingle with some of their film idols among them Sean Connery, Michael York, Stephen Fry, Ben Chaplin, Claire Duval, Keira Knightley and Orla Brayd . The Festival's main prize is the Crystal Globe award, a 20,000 dollar prize given to the festival's best premiere feature production.
British immigration officials have ended another round of immigration controls at Ruzyne airport. 82 people bound for Great Britain were turned away between now and June 23rd . The British immigration checks at Prague's main airport are the result of an agreement between the Czech and British governments. The Czech side agreed to the move in the wake of a mass exodus of Romanies to Great Britain. An alternative solution, which both countries want to avoid, is the re-introduction of a visa regime. The British authorities who want to protect their country from economic asylum seekers, say that the number of Czech nationals asking for asylum has dropped significantly in the wake of the immigration checks. However the procedure has come under fire from human rights activists who say that the questions Czechs travelling to Great Britain are asked are too personal. Romanies who have been turned back say that the check ups are racist.
Commenting on the election of a new chairman of the lower house on Thursday, Mr Havel said that if the vote was a test, the new government had passed it. Lubomir Zaoralek of the Social Democrats became chairman after a second vote, seeing off a challenge from current chair Civic Democrat Vaclav Klaus, who stood against Mr Zaoralek to test the cohesion of the new government, which has a majority of one.
President Vaclav Havel has appointed Vladimir Spidla prime minister of the Czech Republic. On Friday Mr Spidla became the country's fifth prime minister since the fall of communism in 1989. Mr Spidla's Social Democratic Party came first in elections to the lower house in mid-June, and he has formed a coalition with the centrist Christian Democrats and the right-wing Freedom Union.
The Scottish film star Sean Connery has had to pull out of the closing ceremony of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival due to illness. Festival organisers said that the 71-year-old actor, who is filming in the Czech Republic, was suffering from a viral infection. Mr Connery , famous for his performances in the early James Bond films, was due to receive an award for his long-term contribution to world cinema at Karlovy Vary, and organisers are now trying to find a way to get the award to him. The film festival comes to a close on Saturday night.
Social Democrat candidate Lubomir Zaoralek has been elected as chairman of the Czech lower house in a second round of parliament voting: the Elections Committee confirmed the result shortly after a secret ballot Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, in a first round of voting, Mr Zaoralek failed to clinch the position by receiving just 99 out of the minimum 101 ballots required; his opponent Vaclav Klaus of the Civic Democrats received 76. In the second round Mr Klaus lost two votes to Mr Zaoralek, which were enough for the Social Democrat to secure the chairmanship. Mr Zaoralek's election to the head of parliament was the first test of solidarity for members of the proposed coalition government between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Freedom-Union-DEU. The new Czech cabinet is to be officially appointed on Monday.
And in related news the new parliament also passed a proposal Thursday allowing for six new parliament deputy chairmen. Six names were put forward by the parties Thursday afternoon: two representatives for the Social Democrats, two for the Civic Democrats and one each for the Freedom Union-DEU and the Communist Party. However, only two of the candidates prevailed: in secret ballots Christian Democrat Jan Kasal got 115 votes while Social Democrat candidate Jitka Kupcova got 142. The other candidates did not get the mandatory 101 votes with Freedom Union's Hana Marvanova coming up short with 95, while the Communist's Vojtech Filip got the least support, with just 48 votes. Proceedings have been postponed till later Thursday evening, when the lower house should vote again to try and fill the four remaining positions in a second round. There is speculation, however, that the proceedings could be postponed as late as next Tuesday, which would postpone the entire process of appointing the new government.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus is going to seek re-election as chairman of the Lower House of Parliament. Mr Klaus will compete with Social Democrat candidate Lubomir Zaoralek who is expected to win in the Thursday election as the ruling coalition has a 101-vote majority in the 200-seat chamber.
Members of the Austrian parliament discussed on Wednesday what they termed "two obstacles" to Czech membership in the European Union, meaning the controversial Temelin nuclear power station and the post-war Benes Decrees which sanctioned the dispossession and expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1945. The Austrian parliament also issued a statement calling for further talks on the possible closing of the Temelin power station situated close to the Czech-Austrian border. Earlier this year more than 900 thousand Austrians signed a petition in favour of blocking the Czech Republic's accession to the EU unless Temelin is shut down.
The outgoing Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, is likely to become the Social Democrats' candidate for the office of Czech President, the party's deputy leader Zdenek Skromach told journalists on Wednesday. So far the Czech ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, has been mentioned as the party's most likely presidential candidate. By the end of the year, the Social Democrats are to agree on one candidate. Presidential elections are expected to take place early next year when Vaclav Havel's second and final term in office ends.
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