A parliamentary commission set up to advise the state on restituting church property confiscated under Communism has recommended that the government’s current proposals be rejected. The government suggests that around one third of the property confiscated in 1948 be returned to the Church, but on Thursday, the committee voted against this idea by six votes to five. Instead, the committee proposed another round of talks with church representatives to reach a new agreement. The government’s idea for restituting property was rejected by the commission when opposition MPs voted against it, alongside rebel Civic Democrat Vlastimil Tlustý. The commission was established last June by the Czech Lower House to come up with a settlement in this long-running argument.
Meanwhile, the White House has responded to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s comments that current US economic policy is paving ‘the way to hell’ by remarking upon Mr Topolánek’s own domestic political problems. Speaking in his capacity as head of the European Union on Wednesday, Mr Topolánek said he believed the White House was ‘not on the right path’ when it came to bolstering the global economy. Later that evening, a spokesperson for the White House insisted that the US president Barack Obama was ‘doing all he could’ to restore confidence in the economy and that Mr Topolánek’s words should be taken in the context of his own domestic problems. The aide added that despite the current political uncertainty in the Czech Republic, US president Barack Obama would be visiting Prague as planned on April 4-5.
Czech President Václav Klaus accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s cabinet on Thursday saying that what was now important was for a new government to be formed as soon as possible. The president said that he would entrust the running of the country to whoever was able to garner more than 101 votes in the Lower House of the Czech Parliament. Mr Klaus said that he was against the idea of snap elections or a caretaker government in light of the current financial crisis and the Czech Republic’s EU presidency. He stressed that he would meet the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, and Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek on Friday. Mr Topolánek agreed that time was of the essence in forming a new government. President Klaus said that no new government should be founded on the votes of rebel MPs. It was four rebel MPs who voted with the opposition on Tuesday to topple the government coalition.
Nearly one in every two Czechs would like elections to take place as soon as possible following Tuesday’s vote of no-confidence in the government, a poll conducted for the daily Mladá fronta Dnes by the Median agency has found. Some 45.1 percent of respondents called for early elections while 13.3 percent said they would prefer a caretaker government until the end of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency in July. The opposition Social Democrats, who instigated the confidence vote, have said that they are not against the idea of such a caretaker government.
The Czech National Bank left interest rates unchanged at 1.75 percent as predicted on Thursday. The Czech crown fell to around 27.43CZK to the euro and 20.21CZK to the dollar in light of investors’ uncertainty following the vote of no-confidence in the government. According to analysts the crown remained ‘volatile’ in the current financial climate and with Mirek Topolánek’s government handing in its resignation. The Prague Bourse however ended the day up 0.5 percent with the main PX Index climbing to 810.7 points.
Leader of the Green Party Martin Bursík also said that he believed President Václav Klaus was instrumental in the fall of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s government. The Green Party was the smallest party in the government coalition which formally handed in its resignation on Thursday. Environment Minister Martin Bursík commended Mirek Topolánek for speaking out against the Czech president, saying that only now were members of the Civic Democrats starting to realize that Mr Klaus, the party’s founder, had betrayed them. Mr Bursík reacted angrily to suggestions that he would be looking to negotiate the formation of a new government with the Czech president.
Czech 16-year-olds have more experience of drugs than their peers anywhere else in Europe, a study has found. The ESPAD 2007 study suggested that 46 percent of Czech 16-year-olds had tried illegal drugs before, with marihuana being the most common substance used. Just under ten percent of Czech teenagers had tried harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin, the study said. The research was conducted in 26 countries over the last 12 years. It found that while the situation was improving in most parts of Europe, in terms of teenage drug-abuse, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were getting worse. More than one third of the Czech students questioned for the survey said that they had smoked marihuana in the past 30 days.
In related news, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said that it is crucial that the Czech government fulfils its role as chief representative of the European Union at the upcoming G20 Summit in London. Mr Miliband said it was important that, despite the current political upheaval in the Czech Republic, Mr Topolánek’s government fulfilled its mandate at next month’s G20 Summit. The summit of leaders from the world’s largest and fastest developing economies is seen as an occasion for leaders to devise a common strategy to overcome the current global financial crisis.
In an interview on Czech Television late Wednesday, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek accused President Václav Klaus of being responsible for the government’s downfall. He said Mr Klaus wanted to block ratification of the EU’s reforming Lisbon Treaty and prevent a successful Czech EU presidency. The president had been working to undermine the government with Prague mayor Pável Bem and Civic Democrat rebel Vlastimil Tlustý, he added.
The annual Music on Film - Film on Music (MOFFOM) festival will not take place in 2009, it was announced on Thursday. The festival, held in Prague every October, will cease to run due to a lack of funding, organizers said. The event was founded in 2003 to promote ‘good quality filmmaking focusing on music’, said those behind the festival. Last year it awarded American legend Pete Seeger and Czech singer Marta Kubišová for their lifetime’s achievement.
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