A no-fly zone with a radius of 50 kilometres will be imposed in the skies over Prague during American president Barack Obama’s visit, it was announced on Friday. Only air-traffic with special dispensation will be allowed to fly over the Czech capital between Saturday lunchtime and midnight on Sunday, a spokesperson from the Czech army told journalists. Army planes and helicopters will be used as part of the security measures implemented especially for the American president’s visit. Mr Obama is arriving in Prague on Saturday evening where he is expected to dine with his wife Michelle. On Sunday he will meet with EU leaders at an informal summit and deliver a much-anticipated speech in the vicinity of Prague Castle. Thousands of Czech police have been drafted in to protect the president, and American security services will also be on duty.
Czech trade unions have called upon their members to stage a mass protest against the impacts of the financial crisis upon the Czech labour market on May 16. On Friday, a spokesperson for the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions said that organizers were expecting tens of thousands of Czechs to attend the planned demonstration. According to the trade unions’ confederation, the steps the government has taken to battle the financial crisis in the Czech Republic have not helped solve employees’ problems. Union representatives said that thousands of lay-offs had been caused by the economic downturn, and the government was using the opportunity to amend the Labour Code in employers’ favour.
In related news, outgoing prime minister Mirek Topolánek has said that he believes a deal can be reached between the government coalition and the opposition Social Democrats by Sunday. Mr Topolánek told journalists on Friday that the basic parameters of an agreement had already been worked out. He said that on Sunday parties from across the Czech political spectrum would discuss who the next prime minister should be. Mr Topolánek added that he felt a solution would be reached soon which would ‘introduce peace and stability to the Czech Republic’. One week ago, the biggest parties in the Czech Parliament agreed that early elections would be held around October 16-17.
Meanwhile, a two-day meeting of finance ministers from around the European Union gets underway in Prague on Friday, with increasing regulation of the financial sector across the bloc highest on the agenda. The meeting will be chaired by Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek and will also provide ministers with a platform to expand upon the decisions made at the G20 summit held in London on Thursday. The meeting is also being attended by the head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet and former head of the IMF Jacques de Larosiere.
Around one third of Czechs believe that plans for a US radar base to be built on Czech soil will be scrapped under the new Obama administration. Some 44 percent of Czechs, however, believe that an anti-missile defence shield will still be built in the coming years. The poll, conducted by the Factum Invenio agency and released on Friday, suggested that 70 percent of Czechs were opposed to plans for a US radar base in central Bohemia, while 25 percent were for the idea. Just under half of those polled said that they believed US-Russian relations would improve under the new administration; Russia has been one of the most outspoken critics of the proposed missile-defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland. The poll was released on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Prague, he is set to meet European Union leaders and deliver a major speech in the Czech capital on Sunday.
Rebel Civic Democrat MP Jan Schwippel has left the centre-right party one day after announcing his candidature for Libertas.cz in June’s European elections. Mr Schwippel was one of two Civic Democrat MPs to vote against their party and topple the government last Tuesday. Fellow rebel Civic Democrat Vlastimil Tlustý has also subsequently announced that he will be standing for Libertas.cz in the upcoming European elections, but has dismissed calls for him to leave the Civic Democratic Party. On Friday, Jan Schwippel said that he didn’t believe that he had broken any party rules, nor did he believe that his views were at odds with the Civic Democrats’ original ideology, instead he said the party leadership had been moving away from the party’s original mandate and principles, and this he could no longer accept. Mr Schwippel did not rule out rejoining the Civic Democrats should a change in leadership take place.
Political leaders entered into a further round of negotiations to solve the ongoing government crisis on Friday, with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek meeting for talks. Neither party would say what had been discussed after the meeting, though Mr Paroubek said later at a press conference that he wanted a solution to the government crisis before the week was out. Mr Paroubek also spoke with the head of the Communists Vojtěch Filip on Friday morning. The Civic Democrats and Social Democrats have tentatively agreed to form a caretaker cabinet, comprising ministers from both parties and potentially also the Communists, to tide the Parliament over until early elections.
Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has greeted the outcome of the G20 summit as an historic success. Mr. Kalousek however rebutted French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s comments suggesting the London summit meant the end of “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism. The Czech finance minister said such words were too strong and premature. He stressed in Prague on Friday that the solution to the ongoing global economic crisis must be based on free trade and the market economy. One of the main outcomes of the summit was agreement that an extra trillion dollars be earmarked for countries in financial trouble.
The governing Civic Democratic Party’s biggest donor last year was hockey star Jaromír Jágr, the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reports. Mr Jágr, who currently plays for Avangard Omsk in Russia, donated over 4 million crowns (over 202,000 USD) to the centre-right party in 2008. The hockey star told the paper that this was his way of voicing his view as a Czech citizen. The opposition Social Democrats’ biggest sponsor last year was a former teammate of Jaromír Jágr, Jiří Šlegr. Mr Šlegr gave half a million crowns (25,300 USD) to the Social Democrats in 2008.
Interior Minister Ivan Langer has said that, despite Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s rhetoric, he doesn’t believe that Mr Klaus wants to find a political agreement to end the current governmental crisis. Mr Langer told Hospodářské noviny on Friday that he thought the president was using the current turmoil to jeopardize the future of the Lisbon treaty, an EU reform document which Mr Klaus has spoken out vehemently against. Following last week’s no-confidence vote, the governing Civic Democrats and opposition Social Democrats have agreed on early elections to be held in mid-October, with an interim cabinet ruling until then. Talks on its composition are underway.
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