Coalition party representatives meeting in four hours of talks on
Monday have agreed on a proposed state budget deficit of some 90
billion crowns for 2005. That number does not include a loss of 19
billion crowns covered by the CKA, the state bail-out agency. Compared
to this year's projected deficit, the 2005 budget gap, in real terms,
amounts to about 6 billion crowns less.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that the coalition had decided on the outline for next year's state budget, following reform guidelines put forward by Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
In related news it is unclear whether Mr Spidla will call for a confidence vote on the government in an attempt to steer it out of the current crisis stemming from the government's poor showing in the recent European Parliament elections. The prime minister has been weighing the confidence vote as an option to reconfirm the government's mandate, though this is an option not entirely supported by the coalition's junior parties. They say, however, they will respect Mr Spidla's decision. It is not certain at this time whether Mr Spidla can count on all 101 coalition MPs' votes in the 200 member Chamber of Deputies.
Czech-born tennis legend Martina Navratilova has won her opening
singles match in the first stage of this year's Wimbledon tournament.
Earlier in the day the 47-year old Navratilova, a naturalised American,
eliminated Catalina Castanova of Columbia 6:0, 6:1.
The win was an impressive one for Navratilova: although she is the holder of nine Wimbledon singles titles, she last appeared in the singles tournament ten years ago.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he will resign from his post
if he fails to gain a vote of confidence from the Social Democrats at
their party executive committee meeting next weekend. Following coalition
party negotiations on Monday Mr Spidla told journalists he felt he'd be
unable to lead the government if he didn't get an affirmation of support
from his own party, and he added that the future of the current coalition
would definitely be decided by the end of the week. According to
constitutional procedure, the prime minister's resignation would signal
the end of the current coalition, which counts the senior Social
Democrats, and two junior right-of-centre parties, the Christian
Democratic party and the Freedom Union.
The government enjoys only the slimmest of majorities in Parliament.
The weekend meeting of the Social Democrat's executive committee was to weigh replacing Mr Spidla as chairman but leave Mr Spidla at the head of the government. As Mr Spidla has now made clear, he finds that option unacceptable.
Prague is hot on the heels of Paris as the top weekend-break destination for Britons. Eleven percent of Britons are set to head for Paris over the coming months, according to a new survey by Morgan Stanley Credit Card, the British press association reports that the French capital narrowly clung onto its position as Britons' preferred city break destination. It is closely followed by Prague, where 10 percent of the 2,000 people interviewed said they intended to go in the next three months. Architecture, palaces and cheap beer were cited as some of the top attractions that entice visitors to the Czech Republic's capital city. Prague was the only Eastern European city to make the survey's Top Ten.
The Czech national football team on Saturday night staged a second-half comeback to beat the Dutch side 3:2. It was the Czech sides' second win in a row and the Czech Republic have become the first to qualify for the quarter-final round of Euro 2004, the European football championship games now underway in Portugal. The Czech squad conceded two goals to the Netherlands in the first half of the match, but rallied with goals from strikers Jan Koller and Milan Baros to equalise. Then, in the 88th minute, Vladimir Shmicer scored again and the Dutch were unable to respond before the clock ran out. At the time of the third goal, the Dutch side was playing with just 10 men after a player was sent off for a red card foul. The Czech team will face Germany on Wednesday in their last match in the group stage of the Euro 2004 championship. After a dismal 0-0 draw with Latvia on Saturday, Germany need to beat the Czech Republic to guarantee themselves a place in the knock-out stages.
In related news, the Czech Republic football coach Karel Bruckner has been offered free beer for the rest of his life if his team wins Euro 2004. The Bernard brewery is offering him 60 litres of beer per year - the equivalent amount an average Czech drinks annually -- as an incentive to bring the football trophy home. Each player on the Czech squaw will receive 160 litres of beer for one year if they win the final.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla will remain chairman of the Social Democrats at least until the party's next central committee meeting, to be held on this coming Saturday, when he and other party leaders face a no-confidence motion. Although the junior parties in the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats, have said they will remain in the government, Mr Spidla has come under fire from regional party leaders to step down as chairman. The Social Democrats were routed in the European Parliament elections held the last weekend, placing fifth overall, and popular support for the coalition government has plummeted in recent months. Before Social Democrat party leaders decide on his fate, Mr Spidla may face a vote of confidence in the parliament.
The Czechs were to face the Dutch on Saturday evening in both teams' second match of the Group D round of Euro 2004, the football championship now underway in Portugal. The Czech squad is thought to have the psychological advantage going in, having beaten the Netherlands 3-1 in Prague and drawn 1-1 in Amsterdam en route to topping the group and forcing the Dutch into a playoff against Scotland.