Czech forwarding firms and customs agents ended their one day strike on Friday night, slamming the government's unwillingness to negotiate their demands and saying that a future blockade of the border could come without warning. The strike affected eight of the country's busiest border crossings with Germany and Slovakia, resulting in confusion and long pile ups. However due to early warnings of the strike many truck drivers opted to pass through other check points. The association of forwarding firms and customs agents wants the government to compensate forwarding companies that will have to sack up to 1,500 employees after Czech accession to the EU. The government has refused to do so, saying that it is only prepared to finance re-qualification courses for laid off employees.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has written a letter to his Austrian counterpart, Tomas Klestil, protesting at statements made by an Austrian Sudeten German organisation. The Austrian Sudeten German Landsmannschaft said it was "surprised" by the recent passing of a Czech law honouring President Edvard Benes, under whom Czechoslovakia's German minority were expelled after World War II. The Sudeten Germans said Mr Benes had brought servitude and 40 years of communism to the Czech nation. In his letter to Mr Klestil, President Klaus said he could not believe the Sudetens' comments.
A 48-hour strike of the Czech Republic's train drivers due to begin on March 1 has been called off, after unions reached an agreement with Czech Rail on Friday. The national rail carrier gave in to union demands to change the pay conditions of some drivers from the beginning of next month, a union spokesman told reporters, adding that many other issues remained to be discussed with Czech Rail's management.
The Czech government has confirmed Pavel Telicka as the country's candidate for European commissioner. Mr Telicka, the current Czech ambassador to the EU, was chosen after the original nominee, Milos Kuzvart, withdrew his bid last week, citing a lack of support in particular from the country's Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda. On Wednesday Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla informed European Commission President Romano Prodi of Mr Telicka's nomination.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved sending over 100 troops from Czech special forces to take part in the U.S.-led operation "Enduring Freedom", aimed at countering remnant Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorist forces in Afghanistan. The decision, approved by the Senate last month, marks the first time Czech troops will take part in combat operations since the end of the Second World War. In total 127 out of 186 deputies on Wednesday voted in favour, while 46 voted against. On Tuesday the head of the Czech military general staff, Pavel Stefka, said the first group of soldiers could leave for Afghanistan as early as seven days after deployment approval. Around 108 reconnaissance specialists are set to join Operation Enduring Freedom, while another 30 soldiers will participate in NATO's ISAF operation in Kabul.
The government is to meet in a special session on Wednesday morning to approve the nomination of Pavel Telicka as the country's first EU commissioner. European Commission President Romano Prodi has given the Czech Republic until Wednesday morning to confirm the nomination. The meeting follows an embarrassing few days for the government in Prague, after the man originally nominated for the post - former Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart - told the cabinet he had changed his mind. The Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla collapsed after Mr Kuzvart's announcement and had to be taken to hospital.
Intensive negotiations are taking place within the ruling coalition in order to find a suitable candidate for the post of European Commissioner following Social Democrat MP Milos Kuzvarts' unexpected rejection of the post on Friday. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has been meeting with advisers and his party's leadership before discussing the matter with coalition partners in government. Milos Kuzvart's unexpected decision shocked the entire political scene and has placed the Prime Minister in an embarrassing position since it was he who primarily backed Kuzvart, in the face of heated opposition from his coalition partners.
European Commission President Romano Prodi has urged the Czech government to find a suitable replacement by Wednesday. The Czech government needs to find a strong and capable candidate prepared to meet the challenges ahead, Mr. Prodi said. Only so can it help to diminish the political damage that has been done by this unfortunate incident, he added. During talks with the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on Monday the EU Commissioner for Expansion Gunter Verheugen said the incident was perceived as "a bad signal" and could damage the Czech Republic's position in the EU. We strongly advise you to recommend only strong and highly qualified candidates for EU posts in the future, Mr. Verheugen said.
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 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.