Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda says the Czech Republic will not take part in an international military presence in Lebanon. He also said it is certain that the Czech Republic will be asked to take part in a US anti-missile defence programme, either by hosting an entire anti-missile base or with the approval of the presence of radars on Czech territory.
The post-election deadlock has been complicated further with no new prime minister named, says Green Party leader Martin Bursik. In a televised debate on Sunday, Mr Bursik said party representatives might as well go off to their cottages as President Klaus has not entrusted anyone with the forming of a new government. Mr Bursik believes the President would like to see some kind of an alliance between the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats in government to get him re-elected for a second term in 2008. A statement issued by the Presidential Office says Mr Klaus considers the allegations offensive.
The make-up of the outgoing cabinet could change if the seventh attempt at electing a new lower house speaker fails, the acting chairman of the lower house of Parliament, Lubomir Zaoralek, said on Sunday. Two months after the parliamentary elections, the country has neither a new government nor a new lower house chairman. The outgoing cabinet contains ministers of the Freedom Union, which did not make it into parliament this June. With important decision-making ahead, such as next year's state budget, these ministers could be replaced Mr Zaoralek said.
The leader of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek has met with President
Vaclav Klaus to discuss possible solutions to the political stalemate that
has gripped the country since the national election in June ended with an
equally divided parliament. On Friday Mr Topolanek - whose party won the
election - asked Mr Klaus to officially allow him to form the next
government. He has in mind a Civic Democratic minority government that
would seek support from all parliamentary parties except the Communists
but including closest election rivals the Social Democrats.
Mr Topolanek stressed that if politicians weren't able to agree on such a solution, another option would be early elections.
So far, the president has decided not to broaden Mr Topolanek's mandate, opting to wait for further negotiations between the two largest parties.
Friday's developments, in any case, appear to be a final departure from Mr Topolanek's earlier plan to form a government with two other parties - the Christian Democrats and the Greens, which lacked a governing majority. It was categorically rejected by political rivals.
The lower house of parliament has set a new date for its next attempt to try and elect a new speaker: August 14th, in other words, in ten days. All candidates for the post will be nominated by August 11th. So far, the lower chamber has made five attempts to elect a chairman since a new parliament was elected, but without success. Following two months of deadlock, Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek launched new talks with outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek this week to try to negotiate a solution. Negotiations between the two are set to take place over the next two weeks.
Thirty people have been charged with illegally importing municipal waste from neighbouring Germany, allegedly making illegal profits in the tens of millions of crowns. According to district state attorney Zdenka Bendova, four of the thirty were key figures, leasing a farm in Libceves, north Bohemia, where several thousand tonnes of municipal waste were secretly stored between September 2005 and March 2006, when it was discovered that the site housed hazardous material. Other illegal dumps were also uncovered. The accused claim to have only imported material for recycling. Two have been remanded in custody, and it is possible that still more individuals will be charged.
In related news, the Christian Democrats have made clear that while
they preferred continued coalition cooperation with the Civic Democrats
and the Greens to find a way out of the post-election stalemate, the
Civic Democrats under Mirek Topolanek should be allowed to explore a
number of ways out of the political crisis. The Christian Democrats'
Miroslav Kalousek told reporters that his party "wanted to contribute
to the quickest possible and most effective solution".
By comparison, following Mr Topolanek's meeting with the president, the Green Party's Martin Bursik at a press conference called on the other parties to now meet to officially dissolve their coalition. Mr Bursik said that following developments the project "no longer made sense", stressing that it was now important to negotiate terms for early elections.
The central bank has warned that the Czech Republic faces growing
uncertainty over its public finances amid a two-month deadlock over who
will form its next government. Bank members highlighted "major
uncertainty" over fiscal policy, in particular over public spending, in
the minutes of a recent board meeting. The board said it was impossible
to determine the direction of fiscal policy in the current
circumstances. Elections on June 2-3 for the lower house of parliament
resulted in an even split between centre-right and left-wing blocs,
with each getting 100 votes in the 200-seat assembly.
The outgoing Social Democrat government, meanwhile, has proposed a budget that shows a deficit of 88 billion crowns (the equivalent of almost 4 billion US dollars) for 2007. The Civic Democrats' Vlastimil Tlusty said Friday in an interview fro the newspaper Pravo on Friday that the deficit was more likely to be around twice that level at 173 billion crowns. That, Mr Tlusty warned, would scuttle Czech plans to adopt the single European currency in 2010.
The numbers of sheep and goats have increased in the Czech Republic after a marked drop in the 1990s. According to the Czech sheep and goat farmers association, the numbers have increased by 80 percent in the last six years, mainly thanks to subsidies. The association's chairman Vit Mares says, however, that the flocks are small, 50 head on average, whereas in other European countries some farms keep from 1000 to 5000 animals. Also, consumption of lamb and mutton is extremely low in the Czech Republic. Mr Mares says it is caused by the low and irregular supply throughout the year.
Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad
Czech President Zeman addresses Council of Europe
Czech Republic faces court action over freedom of movement
Czech pre-election battle plugs into war of words over lithium mining deal
Prague prepares for launch of annual light show