The Finance Ministry has proposed a state budget deficit of 88 billion
crowns, the equivalent of around 4 billion US dollars, for next year.
The Finance Ministry - counting on revenues of almost 880 billion
crowns - has said it expects 5 percent economic growth and inflation at
2.8 percent in 2007. Unemployment is expected at about 7.4 percent. In
order to meet the proposed figures the ministry has said that a number
of projects will need to be put on hold, among them an amendment to the
law on health insurance. Raising sales tax on tobacco products to meet
EU norms will also be a necessity.
In the next year, the deficit should be no greater than 3.8 percent of the GDP to keep the country within the parameters set in the euro convergence programme. The Czech Republic is aiming to adopt the European Union's currency in 2010.
Social Democrat MP Miloslav Vlcek has been elected speaker of the lower house by a majority of MPs present. On Monday, he received 174 out of a possible 197 votes. Earlier, Mr Vlcek pledged publicly that his holding of the post will only be temporary, part of an agreement designed to break more than two months of deadlock on the Czech political scene. The centre-right parties agreed to support his candidacy on the condition that he would resign rather than take advantage of any opportunity to select the country's next prime minister. Mr Vlcek's election should now open the door for the outgoing cabinet to resign. That will allow the president to name a new prime minister, in all likelihood Civic Democrat Mirek Topolanek, who has been negotiating support for a minority Civic Democrat government. Mr Topolanek expressed hope on Monday that he might be named on two days' time, after the outgoing government tenders its resignation.
The Czech national football side is preparing for its friendly match against Serbia, the teams' only preparation game before the qualification rounds for the European Championship begin in September. Players have met in Prague ahead of the game, which takes place on Wednesday. The team will be without a number of injured players and it will be its first game without midfielder Karel Poborsky, who retired following the World Cup. One of the players expected to take to the pitch is star midfielder Pavel Nedved, but there are rumours the game may be his final international cap. Nedved, who plays for Juventus Turin, has scheduled a press conference on Tuesday to announce whether he will stay on with the national side after this week or make Wednesday his final appearance.
Five deputies have been elected to the post of deputy chairpersons in
the first round and second rounds of a secret ballot. Those elected in
the first ballot were: Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek, Lucie
Talmanova of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Christian Democrat
Jan Kasal, and the Communist Party's Vojtech Filip.
Only one, nominee Miroslava Nemcova, failed to gain enough votes in the first ballot, but was elected in the second.
A new political party founded by European Parliament MP Jana Bobosikova has announced the names of twelve candidates running in the Czech Senate elections in the autumn, among them notable figures such as Pavla Topolankova - the wife of Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek. Others listed include pop singer Martin Maxa, and former news anchorwoman Mirka Cejkova. Party founder Jana Bobosikova has called her party "Politika 21" in order to "represent politics for the 21st century". In the fall, one third (that is, twenty-seven) of the seats in the Senate will be the focus of the elections.
In related news, negotiations on a minority Civic Democrat government may face complications: on Monday outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek suggested to reporters that if negotiations continued in the vein they have until now, Social Democrat support for such a government was "unlikely". Mr Paroubek would not comment on reasons behind the latest statement, but it is known from earlier negotiations that the Social Democrats want a say in the government line-up, including putting forward the names of unaffiliated experts. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek, meanwhile, commented Mr Paroubek's statement saying it could be connected to the president's recent promise that Mr Paroubek could also - in a certain phase [of post-election developments] - be entrusted with trying to form a government.
Czech political parties are presenting their views on the possibility of having a US missile base on Czech territory, even though Washington has not yet made known its preference on where it would like to station it. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are still in the running. The Social Democratic Party has said it wants a broad public debate on the issue and is pushing for a national referendum should the Czech Republic receive an offer from the United States. The Green Party said in a statement Sunday that a US military base should not be stationed on Czech territory on the basis of a bilateral agreement alone, but should involve NATO and the EU. The Civic Democratic Party alone appears to support the idea without reservations, but has not ruled out a referendum on the issue. The only opinion survey available on the subject suggests that 82 percent of Czechs do not want a US missile base in the Czech Republic.
Social Democrat deputy Miloslav Vlcek will make a public pledge to the lower house on Monday regarding his candidacy to the post of speaker. Mr. Vlcek's nomination to the post is part of an agreement aimed at breaking the deadlock on the Czech political scene. The centre right parties have agreed to support his candidacy on condition that he does not avail himself of the opportunity to select the country's next prime minister. Mr. Vlcek has promised to respect this deal and will pledge to resign his post under precisely defined conditions. His election to the post would open the door to the demise of the old cabinet and the appointment of a prime minister designate.
The deputy head of the Intelligence Service UZSI Jan Beroun has said it is time to revise the country's security structures. Speaking on a televised panel debate Mr. Beroun said that the threat of terrorism was creeping ever closer to the country's borders and that in the wake of the London events he felt it would be wise to revise the workings of the Czech security system - as regards legislation, organization and material assets - in order to asses its operability in the event of a terrorist attack.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro has an honorary doctor's degree from Prague's prestigious Charles University, and although the current university leadership would like to strip him of the title it is unable to do so, according to the daily Lidove Noviny. Fidel Castro received the honorary doctor's degree in 1972 during an official visit to then communist Czechoslovakia and Czech law does not present a means of stripping him of the title. According to the paper Charles University has stopped granting honorary doctorates to living politicians in order to avoid similar problems in the future. The Cuban leader was also honoured with the highest Czech state distinction - the Order of the White Lion.