Laboratory tests have confirmed that a recently uncovered storage site of chemical substances near Pardubice in Eastern Bohemia contained the poisonous gas phosgene. The storage site of hazardous chemicals, including cyanide and salts of heavy metals was uncovered in a former industrial area by environmental inspectors in mid-June. The surrounding premises were evacuated as teams of fire-fighters, police and soldiers combed the grounds. Soil monitoring is to be carried out in the area for some time.
President Klaus has said he will not accept Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's resignation until the new lower house of parliament is fully functional. The prime minister announced this week that he would tender his resignation on Monday, triggering the fall of his government and opening the way for a new administration. However the balance of forces in the lower house -where the centre-left and centre right now have 100 seats each - has made it impossible to elect a new leadership and will make it difficult for the centre-right coalition headed by the Civic Democrats to be voted into office. President Klaus said that it would be utterly irresponsible to accept the prime minister's resignation under such circumstances.
The Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute issued a severe flood alert for areas near the southern border with Austria and Slovakia on Friday after heavy rains raised rivers to dangerous levels. The weather service said more rain was on the way during the weekend, and would put further pressure on swollen rivers that have already burst their banks in several areas, some of which were just starting to return to normal after floods in 1997. It gave the most serious flood warning for the Dyje river in the southeast. A number of villages have been already been flooded, others are on high alert and people have been erecting sand barriers to try and protect their property.
The 41st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival opens in the west Bohemian spa town on Friday evening. A total of 230 films and documentaries will be presented at the festival, including the world premiere of Korean director Kim Ki-Duk's latest work, "Time." The Czech film industry, which boycotted the Cannes film festival to protest a lack of state subsidies, says it will nonetheless attend the country's premier film event, an industry official said. Czech producers and directors are due to meet with Civic Democratic Party leader Mirek Topolanek, who is widely expected to be the country's next prime minister, on Saturday to discuss public funding schemes for the industry.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the newly-formed centre right coalition have called for talks with the Social Democrats which would help to find a way out of the political stalemate. The head of the Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek said the talks should take place early next week and focus on breaking the deadlock in the lower house and formulating the conditions under which the Social Democrats would be prepared to tolerate a centre-right government. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek has countered that the centre right coalition is dead and has suggested holding talks only between the Civic and Social Democrats.
The Czech Republic is among the countries where children start consuming alcohol at a dangerously young age, experts agreed at a Prague conference on Thursday. Every tenth 11-year old and over forty percent of 14-year olds have been drunk at least once, statistics say. The amounts consumed by boys versus girls are also gradually evening out, says alcohol dependency expert Michal Miovsky.
The only candidate for the post of speaker of the lower house of
parliament, Miroslava Nemcova, has not been elected in the second round of
secret balloting. Just like in the first round, she was three votes short
of gaining a majority of votes. Mrs Nemcova was proposed for the post by
the Civic Democratic Party. It appears that at least one MP from one of
the party's two coalition partners, the Christian Democrats or the Greens,
voted against Mrs Nemcova's election.
Deputies, who have a maximum of ten days to hold a third round of voting, will reportedly not cast their votes before next week Friday.
Outgoing Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek supports the decision of Slovakia's Robert Fico to enter into a coalition government with two fringe parties. Mr Fico, whose left Smer party won a June 17 election, invited the centre-left party of former authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and the far-right Slovak National Party of Jan Slota for talks on creating a government on Wednesday. Mr Paroubek said that although he understood Mr Fico he himself would have acted differently. The chairman of the Czech Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, on the other hand has said he will not comment until the new government takes office.
The Czech Republic is among a group of countries that, the European Commission says, make it difficult to import used cars from other EU states. This is despite the fact that new regulations come into effect on Saturday that are to liberalise the import of older cars. The EC accuses the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Austria and Luxembourg of violating the free movement of goods by introducing tougher conditions for used cars from abroad than for local cars that are just as old.
The election of a new lower house speaker, which was scheduled to take
place shortly before noon on Thursday, was delayed as deputies waged a
war of words for almost two hours. The debate was triggered by outgoing
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek who criticised terms of a new coalition
agreement between the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, and the
Greens. Mr Paroubek opposed the coalition's plans to introduce flat tax
and also rejected their health reform and foreign policy plans.
The Civic Democrats' candidate for the post of lower house speaker, Miroslava Nemcova, was also under attack. To Mr Paroubek, Mrs Nemcova is a fanatic. Social Democrat Health Minister David Rath pointed out that Mrs Nemcova has in the past permitted her family the unauthorised use of her official car: "Whoever leads the lower house needs to be on top of things and broad-minded and not someone who steals rolls in a grocery store," he said.