On Tuesday the Canadian Embassy in Prague hinted at the fact that Ottawa will cancel visa requirements for one of the newest EU-member states, but it appears that country will not be the Czech Republic. Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Richard Krpac says that Canada is not currently engaged in visa-waiver talks with the Czech Republic, and some speculate that the country in question may be Poland. While Canadians do not need a visa to travel to the Czech Republic, Czechs are required to obtain a Canadian visa. The Czech Foreign Ministry has been working to undo this requirement for several years, and earlier this year Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda even suggested re-imposing visas on Canadians.
The Czech Senate, or upper house, has approved amendments to a law which would make it possible to dissolve the lower house faster, and call early elections. Seventy of the 77 senators present voted in favor of the amendment proposal; the opposing senators were all Social Democrats or Communists. The amendment will come into effect if approved by the president, as well as a minimum of 120 MPs. There are 200 members in the lower house, which is currently trying to find a way out of a deadlock that has the house split down the middle.
After heavy rainfalls earlier in the week, experts at the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute warn that flooding is expected to affect the central Bohemian region in the coming days. High-alert warnings have been issued for the River Jizera, which is expected to see the worst flooding in over five to ten years, and the River Elbe is also affected. The flood-watch warnings will be in effect until at least Thursday's morning hours, until which time experts expect water levels to continue rising. Continued rains are also expected in parts of Moravia and Silesia, and these should taper-off by mid-week.
The Czech crown reached an all-time high on Wednesday morning, hitting 28.10 crowns per Euro. Another record was also set against the U.S. dollar, with the crown trading at 21.78 Kc per one USD. The Czech crown set its previous record highs in May of this year. Analysts say that August's record highs are due to confidence resulting from Czech economic growth, the popularity of Czech products on the EU market, and a number of speculative investments. The powerful Czech crown means cheaper vacations abroad, as well as lower prices for gas on the domestic market.
Civic Democratic Party leader, Mirek Topolanek, says that during the
Wednesday morning talks President Vaclav Klaus proposed that MPs elect
as a temporary chair of the lower house a member of the Social
Democratic Party. Mr. Topolanek says that he supports the candidacy of
a Social Democrat for the post, so long as it is a temporary solution
and the mandate would be for a limited time period, as the president
suggested. The Christian Democratic leader, Miroslav Kalousek, also
agrees with this proposition. The Social Democratic Party will decide
on its candidate for the post of chairperson of the lower house by
Friday. It is expected that there will only be one nominee for the
post, in accordance with what leading politicians have discussed with
Meanwhile, speaking after Wednesday morning's meeting at Prague Castle, Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek told reporters that President Klaus has not ruled out the possibility of asking him to try and form the next government. However, Mr. Paroubek also said that he is prepared to support a minority Civic Democratic government which would include a number of non-partisan experts.
Czech Airlines, the country's national carrier, will raise its prices starting on August 15, and this thanks to rising fuel costs. The new security and fuel surcharges will differ for travel within Europe which will see a fee of 550 crowns ($25 USD), and long-distance flights where the new fees will total 1475 crowns ($67 USD). Air France and KLM—both members of the Sky Team alliance to which CSA also belongs—also announced price hikes this week.
For the second time this week a poll has found that the Civic Democratic Party is gaining in popularity. Released Wednesday, the Median agency findings show that if elections were held in July, the Civic Democrats would have won 41.8% of the vote, while they earned 35% in the June elections. Monday's polling results released by Factum Invenio gave the Civic Democrats a 41% popularity rating. Some analysts have dismissed the polls as unreliable, saying they are skewed because of summer vacations and lower-than-typical numbers of respondents.
President Vaclav Klaus has met with leaders of all five major political parties—the Civic Democrats, the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, the Communists and the Greens—in an attempt to find a solution to the current political deadlock. Mr. Klaus says that his main agenda during Wednesday morning's talks at Prague Castle was to convince the leaders of the importance of electing a chairperson of the lower house on Monday. There have already been six failed attempts since the elections in early June. Mr. Klaus says that it is important for the leaders to consider the post-election negotiations in two steps: the first being unblocking the lower house, and the second being negotiations over a new government. The five leaders are scheduled to meet with President Klaus again on Friday.
Czech Airlines, or CSA, the country's national carrier, has begun down-sizing its staff. A plan to restructure the company during the years 2006 - 2008 is responsible for the policy, which aims to get Czech Airlines out of debt. According to CSA, the down-sizing plan will see the departure of approximately 20% of the company's employees, thus about 1100 people of the 5500 that CSA currently employs. In addition, CSA plans to sell two of its Boeing 737 fleet.