The new Prime Minister Stanislav Gross is holding talks with candidates for individual ministerial posts in his Cabinet. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skormach will retain his post and he will also become the deputy prime minister in charge of the Council for Economic and Social Agreement. The head of the Czechinvest government agency Martin Jahn is to become deputy prime minister for the economy, while the former unsuccessful presidential candidate Jaroslav Bures is to be appointed minister without portfolio in charge of legislation.
The Czech Republic's European Commissioner Pavel Telicka has rejected the Prime Minister's offer of a seat in the new Cabinet. He did not specify what position had been offered. Mr. Telicka will be replaced in Brussels by the former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, whom the new government approved for the post this week. Pavel Telicka told newsmen in Prague on Friday that while he was not ruling out a future job in state services under the present circumstances he was not prepared to accept Mr. Gross' offer. "I have devoted 15 years of my life to the Czech Republic's entry to the EU and I shall now try to do the maximum possible in the remaining three months in the post" Mr. Telicka said.
Some 100 Czech soldiers specialised in anti-biological and chemical warfare have joined a special-forces battalion that has begun deployment in Greece for the forthcoming Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The weapons-of-mass-destruction-defence operation, known as "Distinguished Games", is the first major mission of NATO's new Multinational Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Task Force. The battalion expects to have a task force of troops, vehicles and equipment from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain at its base in the northern Greek beach resort of Halkida by August 1.
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate has approved the nomination of Ivana Janu to the post of a Constitutional Court Judge. After Ms Janu is appointed by President Vaclav Klaus, she will become the 13th judge of the 15-member Constitutional Court. Ivana Janu is a former member of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and is a widely respected expert on international public law.
The new Prime Minister and acting head of the Social Democrat party, Stanislav Gross, has announced that the "new-old" ruling coalition have agreed on the distribution of portfolios in the new government. The junior coalition Freedom Union has given up the Ministry for Local Development. Instead the party will be allotted the Defence and Justice Ministries, along with the Information Technology Ministry. The Christian Democrats will retain the same portfolios as in the government of former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, that is the Foreign, Transport and Environment Ministries.
The Czech Veterinary Office has confirmed the thirteenth case of BSE in the Czech Republic in a five-year old cow from a farm near Jicin in East Bohemia. As a result, 143 animals from the same farm will have to be put down. Overall, 606,000 cows have been tested for BSE so far in the Czech Republic, and some 2000 have had to be put down as a preventative measure. The first case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the Czech Republic was reported in June of 2001. It resulted in tightened regulations regarding animal breeding, cattle-feed, and the sale and import of meat and meat products.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has taken up the issue of the state of Czech psychiatric hospitals in his reply to British author J.K. Rowling. The author of the popular Harry Potter children's books had sent a letter to Mr Klaus and other Czech politicians in mid-July urging them to stop the use of caged beds in Czech psychiatric wards and institutions to restrain people with mental disabilities. Upon receipt of the letter, President Klaus summoned experts in the field to Prague Castle to discuss the state of the mental health care system. "The problem that you mentioned is, of course, very serious, and is the subject of permanent professional study within our country... I cannot but disagree with the impression that in Czech health-care institutions there occurs regular abuse of the aforementioned beds, or even the abuse of mentally disabled children," Mr Klaus wrote.
The outgoing Cabinet has confirmed the dismissal of the Czech's European Commissioner, Pavel Telicka. Mr Telicka is to be replaced in Brussels by Vladimir Spidla, who resigned as prime minister last month. Wednesday's action overturns a Cabinet decision made five months ago, which guaranteed Mr Telicka a mandate until 2006. With newly appointed Prime Minister Stanislav Gross expecting to have a new government formed early next week, this week's session was most probably the last for the old Cabinet. Vladimir Spidla and his cabinet resigned shortly after the ruling coalition parties' poor showing in the elections to the European Parliament held in June. However, Mr Spidla says his Cabinet has met a significant part of its policy aims and has nothing to be ashamed of. In Brussels, Mr Spidla is mainly interested in the justice, enlargement or transport portfolios. The next executive European Commission, which takes office in November, will be put together by new Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal.
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