The Czech Republic is finding ways to cover some of the damage caused
by a wildfire in the Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia,
Chile. The fire, which burned down some 14,000 hectares of land, was
ignited by a Czech tourist, who accidentally overturned his camping
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has sent a letter of apology to the Chilean Foreign Ministry. The Czech government has offered to pay for some of the restoration work and some Czech charity organisations have been asked to collect donations. The Czech tourist responsible for the fire left the country after paying a fine of 200 US dollars.
Neither the Social Democrat presidium nor the ruling coalition partners will hold formal meetings this weekend to discuss the future of the government. The governing coalition has been threatening to break up following calls from the junior Christian Democrats for the prime minister to resign from office. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross and his wife have been under heavy criticism for failing to clear up open questions regarding their personal finances. On Friday, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus said it would be wise to hold early elections, should the coalition partners, who have a slim majority of one seat in Parliament, fail to come to an agreement soon.
A twenty-year old Czech snowboarder died in an avalanche in the High Tatra Mountains in Slovakia on Saturday. Another Czech snowboarder survived the avalanche, the Tatra Rescue Service reported. Although it snowed heavily in previous days, the area the two Czechs went snowboarding in is usually safe from life-threatening avalanches.
The leader of the centre-right opposition Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has said his party would only support a solution to the political crisis that leads to early elections. The party called onto cabinet to ask for a vote of confidence in parliament, if the crisis ends in anything other than early elections. Should it fail to do so, then the Civic Democrats would initiate a vote of no-confidence. Public opinion polls suggest the opposition Civic Democrats would win if parliamentary elections were held today.
After holding a series of high-level talks with political leaders on
Thursday, President Vaclav Klaus urged a speedy resolution of the Czech
government crisis. On Friday President Klaus said the natural
alternative would be early elections.
The crisis in the governing coalition broke out recently over the Prime Minister's private finances and the business activities of his wife. A reconciliation attempt between the two feuding parties in government broke down on Wednesday, with both sides reiterating their earlier positions. The Prime Minister Stanislav Gross said that if the Christian Democrats could not accept him as head of cabinet, their three ministers should resign from office. The Christian Democrats say the Prime Minister himself should resign.
The Czech Republic has been marking the 57th anniversary of the communist takeover in 1948. A small crowd gathered in the Prague district of Mala Strana on Friday to commemorate a university student march to Prague Castle in which the students expressed support to then president Edvard Benes on February 25, 1948. The participants of the 1948 march were persecuted under the communist regime, which lasted in the country for forty years following the coup in February 1948.
The atmosphere in the governing coalition has been described as relatively calm but tense, following several hectic days during which the rift between the ruling Social Democrats and their smaller coalition partner the Christian Democrats was deepening. Informal consultations are being held and the number of options for the future political arrangement is rising. It is not yet clear whether the Social Democrat presidium will hold a meeting on Saturday and whether the party's acting chairman and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross will call a coalition meeting prior to the fundamental decision on the future of his cabinet.
Two Czechs have been expelled from Slovakia after being arrested in the capital Bratislava on Thursday for burning an American flag during a speech by the US President George Bush. Three Slovaks were also taken into custody for shouting obscenities at the US President. None of the arrested persons has been accused of crime and their behaviour was qualified as a misdemeanour. Mr Bush received a mainly enthusiastic welcome from Bratislava inhabitants. Over 4,000 people assembled on the town's main square to hear him speak.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek said the Civic Democrats would only support a solution leading to early elections. The party says that whatever the outcome of the government crisis, barring early elections, the cabinet should ask for a vote of confidence in parliament. Otherwise the Civic Democrats will initiate a vote of no-confidence.
The Italian internet provider Tiscali has been allowed to join a consortium bidding for a 51.1 percent state-held stake in dominant Czech land-line operator Cesky Telecom, a ministerial privatisation commission announced on Friday. Tiscali will join the Czech-Slovak PPF/J and T/InWay consortium, one of five bidders for the state's stake. The government launched a tender for Cesky Telecom last December and said financial investors would not be allowed to bid directly but would have to team up with telecoms companies.
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