The news websites aktuálně and idnes have reported that Pavel Bém is in favour of a minority Civic Democratic government, backed by the opposition Social Democrats, if he is elected the head of the Civic Democratic Party. In an article to be published on Saturday, Mr Bém reportedly makes clear he no longer has confidence that the current government is capable of achieving set goals - given the coalition lacks a majority in the lower house. The government led by Mirek Topolánek is made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens. Mr Bém will challenge Mr Topolánek for the post of party leader in roughly one week’s time.
The Czech furniture manufacturer TON, in Bystřice pod Hoštýnem, is set to lay-off 170 workers due to a drop in demand on foreign markets (most markedly in the US and western Europe) linked to the international financial crisis. TON specialises in traditional wooden furniture and is one of the biggest employers in Kroměříž region, employing around 1,200 people.
The Communist Party has come forward with a claim that additional rebel MPs could help push through an agreement on a planned US radar base in the lower house. The party contended on Friday that such a development would be the result of behind-the-scenes dealings between the ruling Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats. The Communist Party on Friday also reacted with criticism to Thursday’s Senate vote backing the radar deal. 48 out of 81 senators voted in favour. The Czech government and US officials have signed two treaties on the stationing of the US base on Czech soil, part of a broader anti-missile system planned by the US in central and eastern Europe. The vote in the lower house will take place next year.
In related news, highly-placed Civic Democrat Přemysl Sobotka, the Senate
chairman, said on Friday that support by the president for another party
would be a “betrayal”. He also suggested that such a move by Mr Klaus
would be a repudiation of his past efforts as a politician. By contrast,
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Friday that he would respect the
president’s decision if Mr Klaus decided to leave the Civic Democratic
Party. He also said he understood Mr Klaus's words that he might leave for
another party as "confirmation" the president would not be
attending the Civic Democrats' congress.
Also in the news, the Czech media reported on Friday that the president’s son, Václav Klaus, jr, has already left Civic Democrat ranks, apparently disillusioned with a Prague chapter's backing of current party leader Mirek Topolánek.
A new poll conducted by Augur Consulting has suggested that 70 percent of Czechs are in favour of the Czech Republic’s membership in NATO. 53 percent of those polled thought the country’s soldiers should serve only in Europe (as opposed to difficult areas further abroad). Currently the Czech Republic has soldiers, for example, serving in reconstruction and military missions in Afghanistan. The survey, which relied on 980 respondents, also suggests that a higher number of Czechs favour their military being involved in peacekeeping rather than combat missions. The poll was commissioned by the Defence Ministry.
The Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has apologised for a Czech magazine article published Thursday quoting a private meeting last month between Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In a written statement, the minister said that he felt personally responsible, and said that someone at the foreign ministry had made a mistake. The Czech ambassador to France, who was at the meeting, has also suggested the article was misleading - saying he didn’t recognise its contents. The transcript from the meeting, revealing political horse-trading between the French president and the Czech prime minister, was published by the Czech weekly Reflex. The weekly says it received a recording of the talks from a reliable source and says it is standing by its story.
The Czech news website idnes has reported that President Václav Klaus may leave the Civic Democratic Party, which he founded and led in government in the 1990s. Sources say Mr Klaus, who is the party’s honorary chairman, may consider the move in support of a new right-wing euro-sceptical party which is reportedly being considered by a number of Klaus protégés. The president has discounted suggestions of leaving so far, saying he would remain in the party in the coming days. The Czech president has long been at odds with current Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek and is said to support Prague Mayor Pavel Bém, who will challenge Mr Topolánek for the top job when the Civic Democrats hold their party congress in December.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner met with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Friday to discuss the upcoming EU presidency, saying the Czech Republic faced numerous tasks in international relations over its six-month tenure. The commissioner outlined the country’s importance in partnership with countries including Ukraine, Georgia, Moldavia and others. She also said it would be up to the Czech presidency to establish contact with the new US President Barack Obama after he took office. Czech officials had indicated earlier they would aim for a meeting between Mr Obama and EU leaders in the Czech capital next spring, but no official word has been given yet.
The Czech Republic has announced that it will help Vietnam clean up poisonous dioxins in the country left over from the era of the Vietnam War. According to the Czech Development Agency, Czech specialists will begin by taking and analyzing samples in areas thought to be affected, and will later participate in a cleanup operation. The scientists are set to work in a region called Phu Cat, the site of a former US base where the notorious chemical Agent Orange – a leaf defoliating substance us by the US that caused serious side-effects in humans – was stored. Around 17,000 people in the area are thought to suffer health problems as a result of Agent Orange. Czech specialists have already been working in the country for three years on similar projects, and the latest announcement marks an affirmation of the positive relations that have been developed as a result of this work. The work will in part be carried out by private contractors – a tender has just been issued by the Czech Development Agency.