The new coalition government of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has
passed its first crucial test, receiving a vote of confidence late
Tuesday, some 7 hours after deliberations began in the Chamber of
Deputies. Throughout the day Parliament heard extensive speeches from
MPs either for or against the government. The prime minister spoke at
length about the goals of his cabinet, saying it would make social
issues a priority. However, the opposition Civic Democrats, expressed
their dissatisfaction with the government's programme, warning it would
lead the country to stagnation and debt.
No MPs from either opposition party - the Civic Democrats or the Communists - voted in the cabinet's favour.
Finally, because the ruling coalition enjoys just the slimmest of majorities - 101 votes in a 200 member parliament - two ill MPs were required to leave their hospital beds on Tuesday to make an appearance in the Lower House. Their presence ensured the new government was able to clinch the minimum number of votes.
The Czech cabinet has approved the appointment of former dissident Ales Sulc as the new head of the government's office. Mr Sulc, the current head of the interior ministry's security department, replaces Pavel Pribyl, who resigned on Friday following growing public pressure over his past in the communist era police - he headed a riot police unit that violently dispersed anti-communist demonstrators in January 1989. His successor, Ales Sulc, is a human rights activist and signatory of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto.
Austrian President Heinz Fischer, on his first state visit to the Czech Republic as Austria's head of state, met with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Wednesday. Besides the European Union, the main topics discussed were the Benes decrees and the Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia - a thorn in the side of nuclear-free Austria. Although both presidents agreed to foster good relations, Mr Fischer noted he would welcome a reconciliatory gesture from the Czechs regarding the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans from post-war Czechoslovakia and have been criticised by Austrians and Germans, who want the decrees to be revoked.
Thousands of Czechs gathered at a cemetery in the northern town of Litvinov on Wednesday, to honour Czech ice hockey coach Ivan Hlinka. Hlinka, died tragically in a car accident last week at the age of 54. The funeral was also attended by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, top model Eva Herzigova who comes from Litvinov, and Czech national ice hockey team members Robert Reichel, Martin Rucinsky and Jiri Slegr who chose to miss the preparatory match before the World Cup in Germany, to pay their respects to the man who led their team to victory at the 1998 Olympics at Nagano.
Police said on Wednesday the head of a monastery sold dozens of rare books that had been placed in his care by the National Museum in Prague. The old Cistercian monastery at Plasy, now state property, was used to store about 50 books from the museum collection, a police spokesman said. After removing the museum reference numbers, the monastery director allegedly sold them to two second-hand book dealers. The most valuable of the books was an 18th century atlas, valued at 31,500 euros, which was sold to an anonymous buyer and was not recovered.
Thousands of Czechs - including the current line-up for the Czech
national hockey team - paid final respects to the late Ivan Hlinka on
Tuesday at Prague's Zofin Palace. The charismatic Hlinka, the coach who
led the Czech Olympic ice hockey team to victory in Nagano, Japan, in
1998, was killed in a car accident last Monday.
This Tuesday he remembered by his wife, mother, son, and former team mates as well as current players.
Ivan Hlinka was just 54 when he died.
The Chamber of Deputies, in session on Tuesday, heard a number of speeches
from MPs ahead of a confidence vote on the new coalition government led by
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. Earlier in the session on Tuesday the
prime minister spoke at length about the goals of his government, saying
it would make social issues a priority.
However, the opposition Civic Democrats, expressed their dissatisfaction with the new government, warning it would lead the country to stagnation and debt. None among the official opposition, neither the Civic Democrats, nor the Communists, are expected to vote in the cabinet's favour.
Finally, because the government enjoys just the slimmest of majorities - 101 votes in a 200 member parliament - two ill MPs were required to leave hospitals on Tuesday to make an appearance in the chamber, in order to ensure the new government was in postion to gain enough support.
The confidence vote is expected later on Tuesday night.
Ahead of the Czech National Bank's meeting later this week, Finance
Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday the National Bank should not
rush an interest rate hike. It has been widely expected the bank will
raise rates by a quarter point to 2.50 percent. But, the finance
minister said he had a more optimistic prognosis for inflation in 2004
and 2005, expecting the inflation rate would stay below 3.00 percent.
The Czech National Bank is an independent institution on which the government wields only limited influence. Nevertheless, on Tuesday Minister Sobotka suggested the bank should "act responsibly" in lieu of the cabinet's plan to kick-off high growth.
Czech football star Pavel Nedved, who plays in the Italian league for Juventus, is expected to return to play for the first time since he suffered a knee injury at Euro 2004 in July. Nedved's team currently faces the Swedish side Djurgarden in the prestigious Champions League. Two weeks ago Juventus was only able to eke-out a 2:2 tie against the Swedish team, so it is expected his return could provide his team with a necessary boost.
Members of the country's largest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, have decided to take legal action against government MP Zdenek Koristka for slander. The party made the announcement on Tuesday following the MP's actions last week, when he claimed an unnamed member of the Civic Democratic Party had offered him a bribe of 10 million crowns - or 300, 000 euros - to help sink the country's new government in Tuesday's confidence vote. The case is now the matter of a police investigation - additional details have not been released.
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