Visa relations between the Czech Republic and Australia are about to become much simpler. Starting this summer, Czech citizens will be able to apply for an Australian visa on-line, reducing the administrative time to mere minutes and eliminating lines at embassies. Czechs will also no longer be required to provide confirmation of insurance, or bank account statements. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda considers the change a great diplomatic success for the Czech Republic. Although Czechs still require a visa to Australia, Australian citizens may travel to the Czech Republic without a visa. Officials in Canberra have not revealed when visa requirements could be dropped altogether.
Leaders of the two major political parties in the Czech Republic—the
Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats—have met again, but they have
not yet reached an agreement on support for the developing centre-right
coalition. Mirek Topolanek, the Civic Democratic leader, is looking for
additional support from the Social Democrats that would give his
100-seat coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Greens a chance
of survival. However, meetings between Mr. Topolanek and Jiri Paroubek,
the Social Democratic leader and outgoing prime minister, have produced
little in the way of a satisfactory compromise. Their next meeting is
scheduled for Friday.
Mr. Topolanek told the daily Hospodarske Noviny that he is estimating a 50:50 chance that his coalition will survive a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies. According to Mr. Topolanek, the Social Democrats are trying to eliminate the smaller parties, especially the Christian Democrats, from a coalition agreement. Relations between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats have been very strained since spring 2005, when the Social Democratic Prime Minister Stanislav Gross was forced to step-down after accusations of financial misdealing; he did not receive support from Christian Democrats who were then members of the government coalition.
The continuing heat wave in the Czech Republic is causing an increase in the need for emergency medical services. In Prague there were over 100 emergency cases attended to on Wednesday alone, including incidents of heart failure, spontaneous collapsing, and epileptic seizures. Patients are also showing frequent signs of high blood pressure and sun burns. Doctors are warning the elderly and people with respiratory problems to avoid the outdoors. People are also reminded that they should take care to stay away from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, and to stay properly hydrated, drinking at least 2.5 liters of water per day.
Outgoing Social Democratic Health Minister, David Rath, has filed a
criminal complaint against Civic Democratic Senator Tomas Julinek, who
also serves as the shadow health minister. Mr. Rath told reporters on
Thursday that he filed the complaint because he suspects that Mr.
Julinek's Alliance for Healthcare Reform is financed by foreign
pharmaceutical manufacturers. Mr. Julinek denies the accusation. Mr.
Rath has called on Senator Julinek to publicize the names of the
companies which have donated money to his organization, along with the
This news comes two days after it was made public that Mr. Rath is being investigated by the police for his potential role in the disappearance of 13.7 million crowns (over $604 000 USD). The money disappeared from the budget of the Czech Chamber of Doctors while Mr. Rath was the director.
The Czech Republic have been knocked out of the World Cup after losing 2:0 to Italy. The Czechs were down to ten men after Jan Polak was sent off for a foul on Francesco Totti. This World Cup was the first appearance of Czechs at the tournament in 16 years and will likely mark the final international appearance for players like Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky.
The legendary Czech car-maker Praga is moving its production line to Poland. The British company International Truck Alliance has purchased the rights to manufacture vehicles under the Praga brand, and it intends to move these operations to a factory in Lublin, Poland. The company plans to produce its new Pragovek model prototypes during the later half of this year, and these models will be available for trial testing on the Czech and Polish market in 2007. Full-scale production is scheduled to begin in 2008. Praga, which was originally based in the central Bohemian city of Caslav, filed for bankruptcy in 2004. The company is known for manufacturing vehicles used primarily by the governmental sector.
According to the latest opinion poll by the STEM agency, Czechs remain
divided on who should govern the country. 51% of the 627 people polled
would prefer Civic Democratic chairman, Mirek Topolanek, as the next
prime minister, while 49% of those questioned disagree.
Furthermore, in a Czech TV survey 50% of respondents said they approve of a coalition government composed of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens. The majority of Czechs are firmly opposed to a grand coalition between the two largest political parties, the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats.
Some 300 people gathered on Prague's Wenceslas Square on Tuesday afternoon to demand that outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek leave politics. The organisers said Mr Paroubek's speech after the June 2-3 general election, in which he challenged the ballots results and compared the victory of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats to the communist takeover in February 1948, was unacceptable. Mr Paroubek later apologised for his speech, but the organisers consider it scare-mongering. They say that nothing has changed since then and Mr Paroubek remains a threat to democracy in the Czech Republic. Similar demonstrations have been held on Prague's Wenceslas Square for the past two weeks.
The leaders of the European Union and the United States of America met in Vienna on Wednesday, to discuss trans-national cooperation, issues of security, the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, Iran's nuclear policy, and US visa requirements for EU member states, including the Czech Republic. In a Vienna summit declaration the leaders recognised the need for tangible progress to be made towards the establishment of reciprocal visa-free travel for all EU citizens to the United States but no concrete promises of visa-free travel were made.
The oldest cave painting in the Czech Republic was made in 3,200 BC and is located in Moravia. According to Ivan Balak from the authority that looks after the "Moravsky Kras" protected landscape area, the Neolithic 30x40 cm painting was drawn with coal, bears a geometrical shape that resembles a grill, and could be depicting a ritual.