Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has held talks with Jan Kohout, the
Czech ambassador to the European Union. The latter said after Friday's
meeting that the two men had discussed the possibility of Mr Kohout, a
career diplomat, replacing Mr Gross as prime minister.
On Thursday the prime minister said he would step aside to allow a new government of his Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union to form under a different leader.
Mr Gross has been under pressure for some months over a scandal involving his family's finances, and his government is hanging by a thread, with several ministers having resigned and more threatening to follow.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic stood at 9.4 percent in March,
according to figures just released by the Labour Ministry. The new
figures represent a slight drop on February, when unemployment was at
9.6 percent. Some 540,000 Czechs are now out of work. The number of
applicants per job is now 10.1, the lowest number in three years.
Meanwhile, year-on-year inflation in March fell to 1.5 percent, the lowest rate since December 2003.
The Vatican announced on Thursday that the election of a new pope will begin on April 18 with a mass served by Czech cardinal Tomas Spidlik. Cardinal Spidlik has spent most of his life in Rome, and was close to Pope John Paul II. The only Czech among the 117 cardinals who will elect a new pope is Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk.
Flags have been flown at half-mast and a minute's silence held around the Czech Republic on an official day of mourning for Pope John Paul II, who was buried on Friday. The pontiff's funeral was attended by the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and lower house chairman Lubomir Zaoralek. It is believed that a few thousand Czech Roman Catholics also travelled to the Vatican for the funeral.
The Health Ministry has become involved in a dispute with Ceska Posta (Czech Post), which recently started selling cigarettes at some post offices, TV Nova reported on Thursday. Czech Post is wholly owned by the state, which campaigns against smoking. However, the Ministry concedes that selling cigarettes at post offices does not contravene the law.
The Communist Party says it will consider backing the current government only if it links its confidence vote with a vote on a bill on property statements. The party's chairman Miroslav Grebenicek said that his Communists would only support a bill with retroactive validity. Mr Grebenicek asserted though that the coalition government has never enjoyed the Communist Party's trust. The cabinet of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross last Friday survived a no-confidence vote initiated by the opposition Civic Democrats only thanks to the abstention of Communist deputies. Urged by President Vaclav Klaus, Mr Gross last weekend pledged to ask the lower house to express confidence in his cabinet.
Named the world's smallest dog in 1999, a Chihuahua just 15 cm tall, died of natural causes and not medical malpractice as its owner claimed, a Czech court ruled on Thursday. The court in the eastern city of Olomouc dismissed a one million crown (43,100 dollar) damages claim by the dog's owner against a veterinarian who, she said, gave her pet an injection that left it paralysed. The Chihuahua, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's smallest dog in 1999, had to be put down in 2000. The owner claimed the damages as a loss of earnings for the deals that had been set up for the dog, called Ondra. The judge, citing expert testimony, ruled that death was the result of a birth defect, hydrocephalus, or water in the head.
Around 80,000 Polish Catholics heading for Italy to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II have crossed the Czech Republic's border and the traffic is now calming down. Thousands of cars and hundreds of buses crossed the Polish-Moravian borders on Thursday but there were no queues, a police spokeswoman said. According to estimates only around 3000-4000 Czech Catholics have travelled to the Vatican while around a million people from neighbouring Poland are estimated to have left for Rome.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has for the first time admitted he might step down to allow the formation of a new government with a different leader. Mr Gross's government currently hangs by a thread, ravaged by the loss of its majority and the resignation of five ministers and more threatening to follow after a row in the ruling coalition over the prime minister's private finances boiled over. Mr Gross offered his resignation after a meeting of his leftist Social Democrats but said he would resign only if such an agreement on a new administration could be reached with the rightist Freedom Union and centrist Christian Democrats.
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