Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra says that it is possible to achieve visa-waiver status between the Czech Republic and the United States within two years, but that central European countries must work together and present a united front in lobbying with the American Congress. Mr. Vondra spoke about the visa issue on Sunday's TV program, Otazky Vaclava Moravce. Mr. Vondra says that last week's sweep of both the American House of Representatives and the Senate by the Democrats could open the doors to negotiating a visa waiver for the newest member states of the EU. Currently, citizens of the Czech Republic require a tourist visa to enter the United States, while Americans can travel to the Czech Republic and other European Union countries without a visa.
Appearing on TV Prima's Sunday talk show Nedelni partie, President Vaclav Klaus said that he can think of no reason not to run for president again in 2008, but that this is not the time to confirm his intention to run for a second term in office. Mr. Klaus stressed that his current priority is finding a solution to the political stalemate that has left the Czech Republic without a real government for the past five-and-a-half months. Mr. Klaus also added that he thinks his choice to appoint Civic Democratic chairman Mirek Topolanek prime minister a second time was only logical, given the Civic Democrats' success in the recent local and Senate elections. The President stressed that no where is it written that the second attempt at forming a government must be automatically granted to the second-place party - hence the Social Democrats, in this case. Some commentators have suggested that President Klaus' desire to be re-elected president for a second term is influencing his approach to negotiations over a new government in the Czech Republic.
Seventy-nine percent of Czechs are bothered by the prolonged negotiations over establishing a new government, this according to a new survey released by the Median agency on Sunday. The same survey shows that nearly 40 percent of people see early elections as a way out of the political deadlock that has gripped the Czech Republic since the June elections. The latest survey conducted by Median took place during the past two weeks, and is based on 700 respondents.
The Czech Intelligence Agency (BIS) has revealed that last year, North Korea attempted to purchase restricted machines from Czech sources for its nuclear weapons program. BIS spokesman Jan Subrt says that during 2005 the Czech Intelligence Agency intercepted three cases in which shipments of specialized cutting tools and spare parts were headed to North Korea, via a third country. The technology in question would allow North Korea to develop a smaller nuclear weapon, with a compatible carrier system that would enable the weapon to travel farther - something expert observers believe that the North Koreans lack. While the technology in question is used in the Czech Republic, its export has been strictly forbidden since 2003 for security reasons. In 2005 North Korea officially admitted that it possesses nuclear arms, and the country conducted a nuclear test on September 9, 2006.
A violent attack in a Mlada Boleslav dormitory in the early hours of Sunday has resulted in one man dead, and another in hospital with serious injuries. The 34 year-old man who died was attacked and stabbed directly in the heart following an argument with a fellow resident; a 25 year-old man also attacked and stabbed in the stomach is recovering in hospital. Police have arrested a suspect and are investigating.
Deputy leaders of the Czech Republic's two largest political parties -- Petr Necas of the Civic Democrats and Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats - agree that a new government is unlikely to be formed within the next week. The two men agreed on this position during a discussion on the Sunday TV debate program, Otazky Vaclava Moravce. Mr. Necas admitted that it is highly unlikely that any coalition agreement will be sealed before the upcoming Civic Democratic Party congress. On behalf of the Social Democrats, Mr. Sobotka said that it is also unlikely they will accept the first formal offer for cooperation from the Civic Democrats, which is expected to come on Monday when representatives from these parties meet to negotiate.
As government coalition negotiations led by Prime Minister and Civic
Democratic chairman Mirek Topolanek are underway, Saturday's edition of
the daily Lidove Noviny reports that a possible three-party arrangement
between the Civic Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Christian
Democrats could be viable. Such a government could reportedly stay in
place until early elections in June 2008, or later. According to the
paper, Mr. Topolanek discussed such an option with the Christian
Democrats on Friday, although no one present at the meeting has
Mr. Topolanek is scheduled to meet with both the Social Democrats and the Green Party's representatives on Monday.
About 100 skinheads gathered in Hlucin, north Moravia, late Saturday afternoon to mark the 31st anniversary of the death of Spain's long-time Fascist leader, Francisco Franco. According to CTK, most of the demonstration's participants were in their mid-teens, some even younger. The demonstrators lit candles on the steps of the community center, and made a few short speeches. Police report that there were no violent clashes.
On Saturday morning leading Social Democratic Party members met to
discuss their preferred position regarding possible government
coalitions. After the meeting, Social Democratic chairman Jiri Paroubek
told reporters that his party still prefers a temporary minority Civic
Democratic government, or a grand coalition between the right-of-centre
Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats. Less attractive for the
Social Democrats is the possibility of a cabinet including the
Christian Democrats, though Mr. Paroubek said that if the Civic
Democrats justify such an offer adequately, he is willing to negotiate.
On Monday representatives of the Social Democrats' negotiating team will meet with members of the Civic Democratic Party, which has been asked to try and form a government again in the second round of government formation talks. Mr. Paroubek says that he anticipates Monday's meeting to include several different offers from the Civic Democrats.
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