Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that sharp words by outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in Strasbourg this week - criticising steps taken by the Obama administration to tackle the economic crisis - were not intended against the US. Mr Schwarzenberg made the statement on Friday at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers, stressing the prime minister’s speech was part of a debate within the European Union. This week the Czech prime minister made world headlines a day after his government was ousted, when he characterised the current course of action by the US as “the way to hell”. In Strasbourg, he fiercely criticised huge cash injections as a repeat of mistakes made in the 1930s. He later stood by his statement but joked that his choice of words may have been influenced by the famous rock group AC/DC. The band recently performed in the Czech Republic.
In related news, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party Jiří Čunek said before meeting with President Klaus on Friday that the ousted government should be allowed to stay in power until the end of the Czech EU presidency. The country is to hand over the role to Sweden at the end of June. Mr Čunek cited the need for the government to deal with the continuing economic crisis as a primary reason. But the Czech president made clear earlier he was not in favour of such a solution. Instead, he is pushing for the formation of a new cabinet as soon as possible.
The Senate has rejected an amendment requiring medicines containing pseudoefedrin to be sold by prescription - an attempt to curb abuse of the substance in the production of the illegal street drug pervetine. The Senate returned the legislation to the lower house with modifications. The original amendment, put forward by the health minister, required customers to provide ID for such medicines, but an opposition MP pushed through the change that such drugs would only be available though prescription. The proposal was welcomed by Czech pharmacists, who say it would effectively block mass purchases for illegal production. But it was opposed by the health minister who contended that prescriptions would overly complicate matters for patients.
The European Commission has revealed it has not yet decided whether or not to invite Belarussian President Alexandr Lukashenko to an “Eastern Partnership” summit set for May. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, taking part in a two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers in southern Bohemia, said on Friday that it was too early to take a decision on the leader. Some have dubbed Mr Lukashenko the “last dictator in Europe”. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner said the informal meeting, hosted by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, was a good opportunity to debate the issue. Some have already expressed opposition to the idea: Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen suggested that an invitation to the Prague summit would trivialise Mr Lukashenko’s dismal record on human rights.
The leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party Jiří Paroubek has said he wants to meet with the heads of all the parties in parliament to agree on a way out of the current political crisis. He made the statement on Friday after meeting with Czech President Václav Klaus – one day after the country’s centre-right government tendered its resignation. Mr Paroubek said he would try to negotiate with others on an interim government, with the aim of leading the country to early elections. Those are also favoured by outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. In addition, Mr Paroubek said his party would be prepared to put forward a bill on dissolving parliament – a move that would help pave the way for elections. Those could be held this autumn.
The lower house has passed a bill on compensation for Czechs from Subcarpathian Rus, part of Ukraine, for property they lost during World War II. The bill still has to be passed by the Senate and signed by the president before coming into effect. Subcarpathian Rus was part of Czechoslovakia between 1918-1938. Czechs there lost property in 1938-1939, when Hungary annexed the territory, and in 1945 when it was annexed by the Soviet Union.
The Civic Democrats, the strongest party in the lower house, want Czech President Václav Klaus to task outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek with forming a new government. The party leadership reacted to Mr Klaus’s decision on Thursday to entrust whoever was able to secure 101 votes in Parliament with forming the new cabinet. The Civic Democratic Party executive council agreed on Thursday that Mirek Topolánek was the only party member with a mandate to form a new government. It also recommended that MPs Vlastimil Tlustý and Jan Schwippel be expelled from the party; the two voted with the opposition in the no-confidence vote on Tuesday.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, meeting with EU counterparts at Hluboka nad Vltavou in the Czech Republic on Friday, expressed support for the Czech EU presidency, despite the fall of Mirek Topolánek’s government this week. He told reporters that it needed full backing until the end of its term in June, stressing that a weak presidency would be disastrous. Mr Frattini made clear the Czech EU presidency needed to lead in a number of areas, including the holding of the upcoming EU-US summit, which will see US President Barack Obama in Prague.
Czech forwards Radek Bonk and Martin Erat shined on Thursday in their team’s match against the second-place San Jose Sharks. Their team, Nashville, was down 2-0 at the start of the 2nd period, but Erat and Bonk combined for two of three flash goals, which turned the game around in less than three minutes. Nashville went on to win the game by a score of 3-2. Nashville has now moved up to eighth place in the western division – with eight games remaining.
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.