Seven EU newcomers have urged the European Commission not to postpone their entry to the Schengen border-free zone. The Visegrad Four - of which the Czech Republic is a member - and the three Baltic states called on the European Commission to honor the original agreement and extend the Schengen area by October 2007. The European Commission said recently that a postponement by up to a year seemed inevitable because of technical problems involving the setting up of a new police database. The seven newcomers said they were ready to assume all obligations which stem from being a part of the Schengen area and have urged the European Commission to consider a compromise proposal submitted by Portugal which would enable enlargement to take place as planned.
President Klaus is to meet with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek on Wednesday to discuss an emerging agreement on a new government. There was a breakthrough in talks on Monday when the leaders of the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene each made concessions in order to facilitate an agreement. Mirek Topolanek, leader of the centre right Civic Democrats, dropped his demand for early elections in 2007, while Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek no longer insists on a two party agreement and is willing to discuss a government of four parties in which he himself would have no part.
Four candidates have been nominated for the post of Ombudsman to replace Otakar Motejl whose term in office expires in December. Mr. Motejl is up for re-appointment for another six year term. The other nominees are the former rector of the Czech Technical University in Prague Jiri Witzany, human rights activist John Bok and senator Jitka Seitlova. The Ombudsman is elected by the lower house from candidates put forward by the president and the Senate.
Czech airline CSA said Tuesday its after-tax loss narrowed to 324 million crowns (14.81 million dollars) in the first nine months of the year from 773 million in the same period of 2005. The airline, around 91 percent owned by the state, said it expected to post a full-year loss of around 500 million crowns, the same as 2005. CSA's president, Radomir Lasak, said the airline was battling higher wage costs and payments for new aircraft.The airline is hoping to return to profit in 2008 following a sweeping restructuring decided by its current management, which has been in place since the start of the year.
The Civic Democrat Party leadership has said serious talks on a new government will have to wait until after the party's national conference this weekend. Although Mirek Topolanek has strong backing within the party, and is likely to be re-elected leader, there are conflicting opinions on the length of the future government's mandate and the timing of the next general elections. Party leader Topolanek said on Tuesday that he was not ruling out elections in 2009, but only on condition that the government would have a reform program.
Indonesian rescue workers are looking for a 26 year-old Czech male missing in the waters near Bali since last Wednesday. Strong tides separated two men from their diving companions, and rescue workers found one 36 year-old Czech diver on Sunday, several tens of kilometers away from the spot where the men went missing. The Czech Ambassador in Indonesia has confirmed that the rescued man is recovering in hospital without serious injuries, and an intense search continues for the second Czech tourist.
Outgoing Health Minister Tomas Julinek has warned that hospital debts
and debts of other medical facilities could grow in 2007 as a result of
the new labour code, set to come into effect in January. According to
the minister, the new code will entail spending not considered in the
Health Ministry's budget, a difference of 2 billion crowns. Previously,
the outgoing Civic Democrat recommended postponing the validity of the
new labour code, sparking protest from trade unions expected to hold a
rally in support of the legislation later this month.
On Monday, outgoing Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas the code was likely to come into effect on January 1st; given the balance of mandates in the lower house it is unlikely that the Civic Democrats will be able to postpone its coming into effect.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek - the leader of the right-of-centre Civic
Democrats - has announced that his party is no longer favouring early
elections as a way out of the continuing political stalemate that followed
inconclusive elections in June. Mr Topolanek made the announcement at a
joint press conference with the Social Democrats' Jiri Paroubek on Monday.
The Civic Democrats leaders' decision is a marked change in course: until
now Mr Topolanek has pushed strongly for early elections in 2007 as the
only viable way out of the deadlock. In his statement on Monday Mr
Topolanek said he would be seeking a stable solution, a government that
could rule until after the Czech Republic holds the rotating EU presidency
As for the make-up of the new government, Mr Topolanek has proposed a rainbow coalition excluding only the communists.
Croatian President Stjepan Mesic - meeting with President Vaclav Klaus
on Monday in Prague - has invited Czech investors to consider
investment in Croatia, not least in the tourism business. Mr Mesic
stressed that Croatia wanted to open its doors to Czech investment,
saying the tourism market was not saturated.
Croatia has long been a favoured destination of Czech tourists: in 2006 alone more than 800,000 of them vacationed on the Croatian coast.
In related news, the Green Party is not likely to back anything other than an interim government with a mandate at latest until 2008. The head of the Greens Martin Bursik, meeting with Prime Minister Topolanek also on Monday, said that his party would continue to back early elections as a first priority. The Greens would also like the government to be made up primarily of experts.
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