Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she remained optimistic that discussions could start on reviving the European constitution despite hearing deep criticisms of the treaty during a meeting with Czech officials on Friday. President Klaus, an outspoken opponent of closer EU integration, said that the document was not salvageable and should be scrapped. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek argued that the EU Constitution should be "more readable, more understandable and more transparent" for EU citizens. The Czech Republic is one of seven EU countries which have delayed indefinitely or suspended ratification of the EU treaty.
Czech ski-jumper Jan Mazoch, who suffered a life-threatening injury at a World Cup event in Poland last weekend, continues to make progress. A spokeswoman for the Krakow University Hospital where he is receiving treatment said doctors saw "a clear improvement" in his state of health. Mazoch is said to be reacting to speech and touch and is in verbal contact with his doctors. Doctors brought Mazoch out of an artificial coma on Thursday on the advice of specialists after the swelling in his brain had reduced. They say that if his health continues to improve at the same pace he could be transferred to the Czech Republic next week.
The Green Party has said it is prepared to vote against a Czech-American agreement on the deployment of a US radar base on Czech territory. Ondrej Liska, head of the party's deputies' group in the lower house told Saturday's edition of Pravo that his party could not support a bilateral defense agreement between the US and the Czech Republic. If the radar base were part of a multi-lateral defense strategy it should still be approved by national referendum, Liska said. The Communist Party has also strongly rejected the idea of hosting a US radar base on Czech territory. The main opposition party of Social Democrats has not yet voiced an official stand. If it were to oppose the agreement, then the opponents of the US radar base in the lower house would outnumber its supporters.
The new Czech culture minister Vaclav Jedlicka has said he would begin his first week in office considering personnel changes and would order an audit into the ministry's finances. Vaclav Jedlicka, a national heritage expert, was appointed to office last week following the resignation of documentary film director Helena Trestikova. Mrs. Trestikova resigned after just 16 days in office because of pressure exerted on her to accept Frantisek Formanek as her deputy. Although the new minister has said he would chose his own deputies, he has not ruled out giving Mr. Formanek an important position at the ministry.
The Social Democratic Party is taking steps to expel rebel deputy Milos Melcak from party ranks. Mr. Melcak is one of the two deputies who helped the centre-right government win a confidence vote in the lower house a week ago. The other deputy, Michal Pohanka has already left the ranks of the Social Democratic Party. Mr. Melcak refuses to do so, insisting that he is a Social Democrat at heart and only supported the centre-right government in order to end the country's drawn out political crisis. Mr. Melcak has strongly rejected suggestions that he accepted a bribe in return for supporting the new cabinet.
Heavy snowfall continues to complicate traffic in the mountain regions and drivers who are setting out for the country's ski-resorts have been warned not to leave without winter tires, chains and a bagful of sand. Food and drink is also advisable since many vehicles have got stuck in snowdrifts and pileups in the past two or three days. Ten passengers were forced to spend the night in bus which got stuck in a drift in the Jeseniky Mountains late Friday.
Regional Development Minister Jiri Cunek says he will file charges of slander against his former secretary Marcela Urbanova. Mrs. Urbanova has accused her former boss of sexual harassment and recently told the police that she had seen him taking a half a million crown bribe when he was in regional politics two years ago. The minister says his former secretary is settling personal scores from the past and has asked to be stripped of his immunity so that he can clear his name.
Russia said on Friday a U.S. plan to deploy an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic was a "mistake" which would have negative consequences for international security. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov rejected Washington's reassurances that the anti-missile system was meant to offset a potential rocket attack from Iran or North Korea, saying Iranian missiles could not reach Europe. President Klaus said last week he would discuss the matter with President Putin during a planned visit to Moscow in April.
The Finance Ministry has dropped a 2.4 billion-crown fine against the company Mittal Steel Ostrava, the website iDnes reported. The steelmaker received the fine in December for overcharging for coke. The ministry refused to give an explanation for the decision. Mittal Steel Ostrava, formerly Nova hut, is part of multinational giant Mittal Steel.
The Czech Roman Catholic Church has called on the media not to pass judgement on priests who collaborated with the secret police under the communist regime. The Bishops Conference said clergy were sometimes forced into collaboration. An estimated 150 Czech priests collaborated with the StB secret police.