President Klaus has sent a letter of condolence to the widow of the late US president Gerald Ford. Mr. Klaus wrote that Gerald Ford was an exceptional politician with great foresight and that it had been an honor to meet with him in person. Mr. Klaus praised the late president's contribution to the fall of communism, saying that Gerald Ford started the work that Ronald Reagan later brought to a successful conclusion. His work had a fundamental impact on freedom in central and Eastern Europe and contributed to the fact that the Czech Republic and the United States are close allies today, President Klaus wrote.
The Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens have signed a
coalition agreement on a centre-right government. The agreement, which
follows weeks of tough negotiations, specifies the future government's
policy programme, its line up and guidelines for cooperation. The Civic
Democrats, who won the June general elections, will hold nine seats in
the 18 member cabinet, the Christian Democrats five and the Greens
four. One post - head of the legislative council - remains to be filled
after the Christian Democrat's candidate unexpectedly rejected the
offer at the last minute.
The government line up has caused controversy within the Civic Democratic Party where some party members are highly critical of the fact that the strongest party had not laid claim to influential ministerial posts. The posts of finance and foreign minister have gone to the Christian Democrats and the Greens respectively. The Prime Minister on Thursday dismissed suggestions that some of his own party deputies were considering boycotting the new government.
It is not yet clear if or when President Klaus will appoint the new government. Its set up is almost identical to the one he rejected earlier this month, expressing reservations both with regard to its line-up and the fact that the prime minister had not secured majority support for it in the lower house. The three-party alliance is one vote short of a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and would need the support of at least one rebel left-wing MP to pass a confidence vote. The Prime Minister has refused to enter into negotiations with the opposition Social Democrats and his party has indicated that it is hoping to win support from individual Social Democrat MPs.
The Romanian embassy has filed an official complaint against the treatment of a Romanian national by the Jihlava hospital authorities. The woman in question had an accident on Czech territory and underwent two life-saving operations in the Jihlava hospital. Since she had no health insurance card the hospital refused to discharge her until her family covered the cost of treatment. She was later discharged when the Romanian embassy guaranteed payment. The embassy's protest note says the woman was "taken hostage" and treated in a humiliating manner. The hospital management has yet to respond to the accusations.
A drunken passenger caused a Russian plane flying from Moscow to Geneva to make an emergency landing at Prague's Ruzyne Airport on Thursday morning. There were fears of a possible hijacking after the pilot reported a state of emergency on board. A spokesperson for Aeroflot has now confirmed that the panic on board was caused by a drunk who made threats and started a fight. The man is a thirty two year old Russian national who was traveling with eight other family members, among them three children. He allegedly threatened to blow up the plane and demanded that it change course for Cairo. He was quickly overpowered by some of the passengers and handed over to the police in Prague. The plane was carrying 168 passengers and everyone on board is reported to be safe and sound. The plane is expected to continue on its flight to Geneva later today.
Actors from the National Theatre ensemble are threatening to go on strike alert unless the culture minister sacks the theatres' current director Jan Mrzena and finds a suitable replacement. Mr. Mrzena was appointed to the post on a temporary basis after the culture minister sacked the former director Daniel Dvorak for poor fund-management. Thirty nine of the theatre's most prominent actors have signed a petition asking for a competent and qualified director to be found as soon as possible.
The Moravian Karst, which comprises over 1,000 limestone caves, is hoping to become a UNESCO geopark in 2007, its director told reporters. The famous Macocha Chasm and four other caves open to the public are visited by some 350,000 people a year. The Moravian Karst was declared a protected landscape 50 years ago, making it the second-oldest such site in the Czech Republic.
Over 100 otuzilci - hardy fellows and ladies - took part in an annual swim in the Vltava River in Prague on Stephen's Day. The water temperature was 6.3 degrees Celsius. Among the swimmers was Ladislav Nicek, who is 93 and was taking part for the 57th time. Yvetta Hlavacova, the women's English Channel record holder, was among 24 women who participated.
Hygiene officers have found more bacteria contaminated food in the Jesenik region. The bacteria in question is known as listeria and its heightened presence in foodstuffs is believed to have killed three adults and a baby last month. Seventeen people were taken ill with it. The health authorities have issued a public warning that older people and young children in particular should avoid cheeses and salads, but the bacteria has since appeared in meat-rolls as well. All food stores are now under close scrutiny.
The price of water in the Czech Republic is expected to go up by an average 6 percent in 2007 although there are considerable differences between regions and also between prices charged by different companies. Water consumption by Czech households has been falling steadily since 1989 when the price of water first started to climb.