The Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, is to discuss the situation in Iraq and European Union issues with his French counterpart in Paris on Thursday. Unlike France, the Czech Republic has said it will support a possible United States-led war against Iraq if the United Nations passes a resolution allowing for such an intervention. Czech anti-chemical units in the Persian Gulf have been reinforced for that purpose.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he believes a third attempt to elect a new Czech president will be successful. Mr Spidla said on Tuesday he expected those members of his own Social Democrats who have promised to support former education minister Jan Sokol in the February 28 vote to keep their word. On Monday the prime minister and the heads of the two other parties in the governing coalition discussed the issue of support for Mr Sokol's candidature. The Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union have said they would vote for Mr Sokol, if it is clear the Social Democrats are united behind him, something some observers say is unlikely. The Czech Republic has been without a president since Vaclav Havel stepped down on February 2, after two attempts by parliament to elect a successor in January proved inconclusive.
Unions at the Dukovany and Temelin nuclear power stations are to call a strike alert on at noon Wednesday in protest against planned lay-offs. Unions at Temelin came out in support of their colleagues at Dukovany after they announced their planned protest action on Tuesday. While specific plans for redundancies have been made at Dukovany, unions at Temelin have yet to obtain any concrete dates and figures.
The leaders of the three parties in government are to meet for late-night consultations on Monday in an effort to reach agreement on a joint candidate for the third round of presidential elections, due to take place on February 28th. After a series of futile attempts to find a widely acceptable candidate, the Social Democrats have now suggested the nomination of former education minister and university professor Jan Sokol. The two smaller parties of the governing coalition -the Christian Democrats and Freedom Union - have indicated that Mr. Sokol would be acceptable for them, but a great deal depends on the Social Democrats themselves, who are divided over Jan Sokol's nomination. If the third round of presidential elections fails to produce a successor to the former president Vaclav Havel, Parliament will work on a Constitutional amendment which would enable direct presidential elections.
The Czech regional development minister, Pavel Nemec, assured European Commissioner Michel Barnier that the Czech Republic would try to spend money allocated for the country in EU's ISPA funds for regional development and environmental protection. There are 50 million euros remaining in the ISPA fund that the Czech Republic is required to spend by the end of this year or forfeit completely. The Czech Republic has had problems presenting feasible environmental projects, especially given the fact that financial support from EU funds is conditional on part of the budget being covered by the recipient country.
The ruling Social Democratic Party is divided over the possible nomination of former Education Minister and university Professor Jan Sokol as the party's candidate for the presidential office. Party leader and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla asked Mr. Sokol to stand as his party's candidate on Friday. Some other political parties admitted they might support Mr. Sokol. However, the Social Democrat MPs are divided over his nomination. In the previous two unsuccessful election attempts, they were unable to agree on any of the candidates officially nominated by the party leadership. February 28th has been set as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, whose term in office ended last Sunday.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Vldimir Spidla has asked former education minister and university Professor Jan Sokol to become his party's candidate for the presidential office. Sokol has not rejected the offer and is waiting for the reaction of other political parties. According to the Czech public service television, a junior member in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats have expressed support to Mr. Sokol and the opposition Communist party did not rule out their support either. The right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats have already nominated their former leader Vaclav Klaus as their official candidate. On Friday, the speaker of the Lower House set February 28th as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, whose term in office ended last Sunday.
The German federal government said it would maintain controls on its eastern borders even after the Czech Republic and Poland join the EU in May next year. Germany believes it may be necessary to keep passport controls on the border for up to ten years after the enlargement. Their abolition is conditional on the ability of the new member states to meet the criteria stipulated by the Schengen Treaty on the security of the European Union's external borders.
The speaker of the Lower House, Lubomir Zaoralek, has set February 28th as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, who stepped down last Sunday. Midnight, on Tuesday, February 25th, will the final deadline for deputies and senators to submit the names of presidential contenders. At the moment the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, two parties in the country's governing coalition, are attempting to come up with a joint candidate, while the opposition Civic Democrats are backing former party chairman Vaclav Klaus. Many observers still say, however, that the chances of quickly finding a successor to former president Vaclav Havel remain low. If parliament fails to elect a president on February 28th, the Czech Republic will remain without a figurehead for several months, before changes in the constitution would lead to a direct presidential vote.
On Friday, just a few hours after the speaker of the Lower House Lubomir Zaoralek announced the date for new presidential elections, all 26 Civic Democrat senators in the Upper House voted unanimously to nominate Vaclav Klaus. In the first two sets of elections in January Mr Klaus was nominated first by Civic Democrat MPs.
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