Both houses of the Czech parliament will begin the process of electing a successor to President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday. The former playwright's second and final term will end on February 2. There are four official candidates for the post, but it is likely none of them will get enough votes in the parliament. To win in the first round the candidate needs 142 votes out of 281. Czech Television is going to broadcast Wednesday's session of Czech parliament live from Prague Castle, where all senators and MPs will meet to choose a new head of state.
Regional wings of the Social Democratic Party have begun putting forward the names of candidates who will to try to retain or gain posts in the party's leadership, at the Social Democrat's national convention in March. Current chairman Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he aims to retain his chairmanship at the convention, despite rumours at a recent meeting of the Social Democrat's central executive committee, indicating some members of the Social Democrats would rather see Interior Minister Stanislav Gross or Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach as party chair. However, neither politician has expressed a desire to challenge Mr Spidla for the post. Among the regions that put forward their nominations for the chairmanship and deputy chairs on Saturday: Moravia-Silesia, South Bohemia, and Zlin. In Moravia-Silesia, delegates have already nominated Vladimir Spidla by a vote of 105 delegates to 11. South Bohemia also followed suit, putting forward the Prime Minister's name.
The chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valery Giscard dEstaing, has said the convention is a unique chance for new European Union countries, such as the Czech Republic, to decide as equal partners on the future shape of Europe. Mr Giscard made the statement after talks with Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla in Prague on Friday. Mr Giscard praised the Czech representatives at the convention, and Mr Spidla said he was pleased they were active and visible. The Convention on the Future of Europe is to prepare a new constitution for the EU by the middle of this year. The Czech Republic and nine other countries are due to join the union in May 2004.
Social Democrat presidential candidate Jaroslav Bures admitted to Czech newspapers on Friday that he had knocked down and killed an 85-year-old pedestrian in 1983. Police at the time found Mr Bures innocent of any wrongdoing. The revelation comes only days after he was accused of lying when he claimed that as a judge and communist party member in the 1980s he had ruled in favour of a political dissident. Mr Bures is one of four candidates standing in next Wednesday's vote by both houses of parliament to find a successor to President Vaclav Havel, who steps down on February 2 after 13 years in office.
The Staromestska and Malostranska stations on Prague's A, or green, metro line are to reopen next Thursday for the first time since the August floods which caused millions of euros worth of damage to large parts of the city's underground system. Repair work is still being carried out on the B, or yellow, line. The B train will being running from one end of the line to the other in the middle of February, though some stations will remain closed.
After a weekend that saw the Elbe river burst its banks and the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem go on a state of alert, water levels are slowly returning to normal, having dropped a full metre since Monday. Experts say that Thursday should see the current level drop to 610 centimetres, which is still relatively high: the normal water level is some two metres. Meanwhile some streets have been reopened and local officials are saying public transport should return to normal soon. Usti was badly affected by the summer's flood catastrophe, when the worst flooding in five hundred years devastated large areas of the Czech Republic.
British officials are again screening all passengers flying to the United Kingdom from Prague's Ruzyne airport. Britain first launched the controls in June 2001, in an effort to prevent members of the country's Roma minority from applying for asylum in the UK. Around 300 people were turned away at the airport between August and December last year.
Meanwhile life in nearby Usti nad Labem is slowly returning to normal after the River Elbe burst its banks at the weekend. The city is still on a state of alert, but river levels are falling and some streets have been reopened. Local officials said public transport should begin to return to normal on Wednesday. Usti was badly affected by the summer's flood catastrophe, when the worst flooding in five hundred years devastated large areas of the Czech Republic.
Water levels on lakes and rivers around the country are gradually receding. Whilst levels on the River Elbe, which burst its banks on Sunday, have been stagnant, eight family houses still remain isolated. Heavy rain and melting snow throughout last week resulted in minor flooding across the country, mainly affecting weekend cottages and household cellars. Much of the Spolana chemical factory, which leaked poisonous gas during the devastating floods in August, was shut down last week as a precaution, and it should resume production by the middle of the week.
Monday saw the end of a five-day hunger strike held by a dozen anti-nuclear activists who were protesting against the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. The strike, which could be monitored on the internet via webcam, took place in a wooden container on the main square of the Upper Austrian town of Freistadt. According to its organisers, some two hundred activists have already volunteered to continue with the hunger strike in various parts of Austria. Members of the organisation Stop Temelin, who have in the past organised protest demonstrations and border blockades in opposition to the power plant, now hope to have activated a chain-reaction of hunger strikes.