The Czech Roman Catholic church has called for churches around the country to fly the Vatican flag between Wednesday and Sunday in honour of the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI. However, due to a shortage of yellow and white Vatican flags, Czech church leaders have asked their colleagues in Slovakia to send some as soon as possible.
The politician chosen to replace Stanislav Gross as Czech prime minister,
Jiri Paroubek, says the composition of his cabinet should be clear by
Thursday at the latest. Mr Paroubek, a deputy chairman of the Social
Democrats and currently minister for regional development, says he does
not expect many ministerial changes. Representatives of his party, the
Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union met on Wednesday to discuss
their continued co-operation in government.
The coalition formed by the three parties after elections in 2002 broke down recently, after Mr Gross and his wife became embroiled in a scandal concerning their personal finances. The prime minister is expected to resign formally after a meeting of senior Social Democrats on Saturday
President Vaclav Klaus said on Wednesday he would not react to the latest developments until Mr Gross showed him a signed coalition agreement and tendered his resignation.
Meanwhile, Mr Klaus's party the Civic Democrats have denied reports that their opposition to the European Constitution has led to a drop in support for the party. Tuesday's edition of Lidove noviny reported that a study commissioned by the Civic Democrats found that three to five percent of potential supporters had been put off by their policy on the constitution. Senior party figures said, however, that no such study existed.
The Czech publisher of the Harry Potter children's books says 10,000 fake copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire have been sold in the Czech Republic, the daily Pravo reported on Wednesday. Official publishers Albatros accuse the company Ottovo of being behind the fakes; a police source said the latter had invoiced bookshops for a non-existent book called Goblet of Fire. Over 800,000 Harry Potter books have been sold in the Czech Republic.
The vice-president of the European Parliament, Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca, has strongly criticised President Klaus's opposition to the European Constitution. The Spanish politician said Mr Klaus's arguments were prejudiced, misleading and untrue. He said Mr Klaus was the only head of state in Europe against the constitution, and it would be a pity if his euro-skepticism led the Czech Republic to isolation.
The Czech political crisis has hit an impasse, with the three former coalition parties, the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, holding no new talks on forming a government after a previous deal failed on Thursday. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross now leads a minority government from which seven ministers have resigned but President Vaclav Klaus has yet to accept their resignations. Mr Klaus said on Friday he would not accept a minority cabinet from Mr Gross and instead would push for early elections. He also asked the three parties involved to inform him whether they were willing to form a new government based on the previous coalition. The Prime Minister and Social Democrat chairman Stanislav Gross said he would give his answer to President Klaus on Tuesday at the earliest.
The Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said during his visit to Prague on Monday that the victory of pro-reunification Ali Talat in Turkish Cypriot presidential elections is a positive signal which could create a new atmosphere. During a joint press conference with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus Mr Papadopoulos said that such a new atmosphere was a necessary condition for starting further negotiations between both communities of the divided island.
The World Bank has officially labelled the Czech Republic an advanced economy, which means that the country will no longer be entitled to draw loans from the World Bank. Slovenia has so far been the only country of the former Eastern bloc to pass the so-called graduation. A Czech representative at the World Bank said that Hungary is expected to graduate this year and Slovakia and the Baltic States should graduate in the years to come. According to Deputy Finance Minister Tomas Prouza The World Bank has also come up with criticism towards the Czech Republic, concerning above all the reforms of the pension and health care systems and the issue of fiscal deficits.
115 Roman Catholic cardinals locked themselves inside the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican on Monday to start a conclave that will elect a successor to Pope John Paul II. The cardinals heard a private sermon from 85-year-old Czech Cardinal Tomas Spidlik "on the need for careful discernment" in choosing the new pope. Cardinal Spidlik then withdrew, opening the way for the elaborate voting rites. At 85, Cardinal Spidlik is too old to vote, and the only Czech taking part in the election is 72-year old Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the archbishop of Prague.
The first six supersonic Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets leased from Sweden by the Czech Republic arrived in the country on Monday, the Defence Ministry has said. Eight more are to join the Czech air force by the end of August. The Gripens will be leased for 10 years at a cost of almost 20 billion crowns (850 million dollars), after which the country has an option to buy them or return them to Sweden. The planes will gradually replace the obsolete soviet MiG-21s. The deal, signed in June 2004, commits Sweden to investing 130 percent of the contract's value in so called "off-sets" in the Czech Republic, 20 percent of which will be direct investments in the Czech economy. The lease of the Gripens was approved by former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's government last June.
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