The Czech government will most likely name its new candidate to the European Commission by the end of the week, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach said on Sunday. The government is forced to find a new representative after Social Democrat MP Milos Kuzvart unexpectedly gave up the post on Friday, saying he did not have enough support from the government, especially the foreign ministry. While the European Commission has called the move "regrettable", Czech politicians were not so diplomatic. Czech President Vaclav Klaus described the situation as a "failure of the nomination process in the government, as well as the candidate himself," while Minister Skromach said in a TV discussion programme that Mr Kuzvart should resign as Member of Parliament. Prime candidates are Czech Ambassador to the Council of Europe Vlasta Stepova, Czech Ambassador to the EU Pavel Telicka, Social Democrat MP and former deputy finance minister Jan Mladek, and a former minister Kvetoslava Korinkova.
Marek Eben is the most popular person in television. Over 37,000 viewers gave him their votes for the annual TyTy television awards, which were held at Prague's Hilton Hotel on Saturday night. The country's leading actors and singers came together to honour achievements in Czech television at the ceremony. Half a million viewers put in their votes. Among the winners were Libuse Safrankova (Best Actress), Viktor Preiss (Best Actor), Pavel Zuna (Best Anchorman), and of course Karel Gott and Lucie Bila (Best Male and Best Female Singers).
The respected journalist, publicist and former dissident, Jiri Ruml, has died. Mr Ruml lost his long and hard battle against cancer on Friday night, at the age of 78 years. The father of former Interior Minister and Senator Jan Ruml is mainly known for his active engagement in the underground dissident movement in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a spokesperson for the Charter 77 human rights manifesto and co-founder of the samizdat paper Lidove Noviny. In the early 1990s, he headed a parliamentary commission to investigate the StB Soviet-era secret police forces and was honoured with a Medal of Merit by former president Vaclav Havel in 2001.
Some forty far-right activists gathered in front of the Justice Ministry on Saturday for a silent protest against the imprisonment of a 22-year-old skinhead. Vlastimil Pechanec was found guilty of stabbing a 30-year-old Romany man to death in a club in the town of Svitavy last year and was given a 13-year jail sentence.
The leaders of the ruling coalition parties shall meet on Monday to discuss who should represent the country in the European Commission, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has announced. The government suffered a diplomatic setback on Friday when its candidate, Social Democrat MP Milos Kuzvart, said he was no longer interested in the post. Mr Kuzvart withdrew his candidacy for a lack of sufficient support from the government, especially from the Foreign Ministry. According to Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, the Czech Ambassador to the Council of Europe Vlasta Stepova would be a suitable candidate for the post in the European Commission. Petr Mares, leader of the Freedom Union - a junior coalition partner, also agrees that Mrs Stepova meets the requirements.
The Czech Republic has done little to be able to use the European Union's structural funds after it joins the EU in May, the country's regional governors claim. They blame the central bodies of the government administration for failing to set the rules for drawing financial aid from EU funds. Frantisek Dohnal, governor for the Jihlava region, says he and his colleagues still lack the necessary documents and the money to co-finance individual projects. Experts have agreed that the Czech Republic will not be able to use the whole sum on offer.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus signed a new law on Friday reducing the road tax for environment-friendly trucks. The law will reduce costs for transport companies who have had to cope with higher excise tax on diesel and more expensive highway stickers since the beginning of this year. The law cuts road tax by 66 per cent for trucks complying with the Euro 3 standard and by 60 per cent for older trucks meeting the Euro 2 standard. Last autumn, transport firms threatened to stage protests over growing costs, but in the end, they agreed with the government on compensation in the form of a lower road tax.
The senior opposition Civic Democrats have called on the government to start a new round of debates on a Czech candidate to the European Commission. The Civic Democrats said they considered the situation harmful to the Czech Republic's international reputation. They also criticised the government for pushing Mr. Kuzvart as the country's candidate without a broader political support. The Civic Democrats had proposed former environment minister Bedrich Moldan as a candidate and said they were willing to start discussing a generally acceptable compromise.
The Czech Republic's candidate for EU commissioner, Social Democrat MP Milos Kuzvart officially announced on Friday he was no longer interested in the post. Mr. Kuzvart said he was giving up the candidacy because he did not feel sufficient support from the government. Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda criticised the ruling Social Democrats for having chosen Mr. Kuzvart despite disapproval of the other two coalition partners.
The Dutch Prime Minister Peter Balkenende is to visit Prague on Monday, just two days after his country severely restricted access to its labour market by citizens from new EU member states. He is to meet his Czech counterpart Vladimir Spidla, as well as president Vaclav Klaus and heads of both houses of the Czech Parliament. It is expected that the Czech representatives will bring up the issue of free movement of labour. Until recently, the Netherlands was one of the few EU countries that did not want to limit employment of workers from the ten accession countries. However, on Friday, the Hague government approved restrictions, including a ban on employing people from the new member states in areas with high unemployment. Elsewhere, they could be employed only if there is no suitable Dutch candidate.
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