In his Wednesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Czech Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra has criticized Burma, Belarus and Cuba for human rights abuses, drawing attention to the imprisonment of political dissidents in these states. Mr. Vondra also expressed concern about international terrorism, poverty, and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. In addition, the Czech foreign minister has voiced support for the current Lithuanian president to succeed Kofi Annan as General Secretary of the U.N.; his term expires at the end of 2005. Minister Vondra also confirmed that the Czech Republic is seeking to become a rotating member of the Security Council during 2008-2009.
The Czech Republic's most popular commercial TV station, NOVA, has decided to reprimand its chief reporter, Jan Tuna. For the time being, Mr. Tuna will not appear in broadcasts because TV NOVA's management is upset by the fact that he wrote an open letter to Jiri Paroubek, the Social Democratic leader, after the June elections. Mr. Tuna was one of the journalists named by Mr. Paroubek in his controversial speech on the evening of June 3; the Social Democratic leader accused several Czech journalists of being "in the pay of the Civic Democrats." Jan Tuna reacted by writing an open letter to Mr. Paroubek, calling for his resignation because the Social Democratic leader did not provide any proof to support the accusations.
Tougher security measures remain in place around key sites in Prague as the country's intelligence services investigate the heightened treat of a terrorist attack. The government introduced the measures on Saturday night on the grounds of what it said was "the most serious threat of a terrorist attack the country had ever faced". Prague's mayor Pavel Bem has said that the extraordinary measures would last for at least one week. There is speculation that the terrorist threat is linked to the arrest of four men in Norway who are suspected of planning terrorist attacks on the US and Israeli embassies in Oslo.
Petr Necas, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs has dismissed his deputy in charge of European Union and international relations, Cestmir Sajda. Mr. Necas told reporters that his decision was made on the basis of planned restructuring at the ministry, as well as dissatisfaction with the amount of money that the Czech Republic has drawn from European Union structural funds. Earlier this month, Mr. Necas dismissed three of his seven deputies, which now leaves him with a total of three deputy ministers. Mr. Sajda served as a deputy at the Ministry of Labour since the beginning of 2004.
The Civic Democratic cabinet led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has
emerged from its Wednesday session with an approved policy statement
ahead of the vote of confidence which takes place October 3. Cabinet
members say that the governing program proposal is based on the former
concept discussed during the immediate post-election coalition talks.
Mr. Topolanek says that he'll seek the support of all parties in the
lower house, with the exception of the Communists. He intends to pitch
the cabinet's policy program to the parliamentary clubs of the Social
Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens before the October
3rd vote. Thus far, none of the parties have openly declared support
for the Civic Democratic minority cabinet. Mr. Topolanek's policy
statement commits the Civic Democrats to governing only until June
2007, at which time early elections would be held. The cabinet needs
101 votes to win support, and the Civic Democrats hold 81 seats in the
Meanwhile, at its Wednesday session the Civic Democratic cabinet also agreed to propose that the lower house delay two bills due to become law in January 2007. The new laws, previously approved by the former Social Democratic government this past spring, concern labour and health issues and have been a source of dispute between the two largest parties.
There are also big changes at TV Prima, the Czech Republic's other commercial station. Martin Dvorak has been dismissed as the station's director. His replacement is 31 year-old Aleksandars Cesnavicius, a native of Latvia. Mr. Cesnavicius has been with TV Prima since April 2006, when he took on the newly-created position of Operational Director. The Swedish company MTG, for which Mr. Cesnavicius has worked since 2000, acquired 50 percent ownership of TV Prima in autumn 2004.
Two weeks after the resignation of National Security Office (NBU) chief Petr Hostek, the government has named Dusan Navratil to the post. Mr. Navratil is the former deputy head of the National Security Office. Mr. Hostek, who resigned shortly after the minority Civic Democratic government was named, says he left the directorship because he always understood his time there as a temporary arrangement.
Jan Kohout, the Czech Republic's ambasador to the EU, accused the European Commission on Tuesday of deceiving the bloc's 10 new member states over the timing of their entry into the EU's Schengen border free zone. The Commission said earlier this month that the 10 new states' entry into the Schengen area, originally scheduled for October 2007, would be delayed by at least a year. Mr. Kohout rejected the Commission's argument that the delay was due to technical difficulties in setting up a new police data base, saying opening borders was a political issue and the delay reflected "the political views in some member states." The Czech diplomat said the EU must keep the October 2007 date or risk losing public confidence among people in the new EU states.
The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes suggests in its Tuesday edition that one of the four men arrested in Norway - a Pakistani with Norwegian citizenship - had close links with a Kosovo Albanian drug dealer Princ Dobrosi who was arrested in Prague and extradited to Norway in 1999. He was released from jail early for good behaviour and often visits the Czech capital where his wife and children have permanent residence. Dobrosi allegedly met with one of the four terrorist suspects in Prague over the summer. The authorities have refused to comment on a possible connection.
Czech and Austrian border guards have started joint patrols of the two country's common border. This form of cooperation enables them to move freely over a ten-kilometre zone on both sides of the border and should improve their chances of detaining criminals and foreign migrants. The border guards have had to pass tests in the other country's language and laws.
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