Czech foreign trade shrank in February due to low demand caused by the global crisis, which sent imports and exports down by more than 20 percent year-on-year for the second month running, official data showed Monday. Exports slumped by 22.2 percent and imports by 21.5 percent, the Czech Statistical Office said, adding that the volume of trade had been shrinking since October last year.
A Czech student has died in an Italian earthquake which has killed at least 91 people, and injured 1,500, the Italian news agency ANSA reported on Monday. The report has yet to be confirmed by the Czech Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had suggested that at least one Czech was amongst the dead. The earthquake happened early on Monday morning in and around the mountain village of L’Aquila, in central Italy. It measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.
Czech politicians have welcomed the re-election of incumbent Slovak
President Ivan Gašparovič to a second term in office over the weekend.
Gašparovič won 55.5 percent of the vote in Saturday's election while
opposition candidate Iveta Radičova took 44.5 percent, according to
official results published by the national election committee. Czech
President Vaclav Klaus sent his Slovak counterpart greetings saying he
greatly appreciated the two countries’ above-standard relations and was
looking forward to future cooperation. The two nations spent 73 years in a
common state before splitting up in 1993.
On Monday afternoon, Czech president Václav Klaus invited Mr Gašparovič on an official visit to Prague. According to the Czech Presidential Office, Mr Gašparovič will formally visit Prague in June.
Speaking in an interview with Czech Radio on Monday, Czech President Václav Klaus said that he was ‘surprised’ but ‘happy in principle’ with the choice of Jan Fischer as prime minister. Mr Klaus still has to formally approve of Mr Fischer’s nomination for the latter to be appointed caretaker head of the country’s government. In an interview with Radio Česko, Mr Klaus praised the various parties in the Czech Parliament who, he said, had overcome their ideological differences to agree upon a new prime minister. He added that he had known Mr Fischer for more than 30 years and welcomed the latter’s appointment.
Czech political leaders have agreed on a prime minister designate who would lead the country until early elections. The candidate who received unanimous support from both the outgoing coalition and the opposition Social Democrats is Jan Fischer, head of the Czech Statistical Office. The 58-year-old economist should put together a caretaker government that would take over on May 9 and lead the country until early elections expected in October. Pending ratification, Fischer would be expected to replace the outgoing prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, whose cabinet was toppled last month midway through the Czech Republic's six-month European Union presidency. Jan Fischer, who became the head of the statistical office in 2003, is non-partisan but was a member of the Communist Party in 1980-1989.
Former choirmaster Bohumil Kulínský who was found guilty of sexually abusing girls in his choir started serving his jail sentence on Monday. Mr Kulínský was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison for abusing 19 underage girls, eight of whom were under the age of 15. His sentenced has been shortened, however, by 219 days which he has already spent in custody. Mr Kulínský, who formerly led the world-renowned Bambini di Praga choir, will spend the duration of his sentence in Prague’s Pankrác Jail. He is also banned from working with young people for ten years upon his release.
The Czech Republic is not considering taking in former detainees from Guantanamo prison, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer told journalists in Luxembourg on Monday ahead of a meeting of interior ministers of the 27 EU member states. Mr. Langer made the comment in response to a formal request made by President Barack Obama at Sunday’s EU-US summit in Prague. However he said that as EU president the Czech Republic would naturally debate the matter with EU members and coordinate the process of admission. Several EU member states have already indicated they would be prepared to accept a limited number of former Guantanamo prisoners on a case-by-case basis.
The Czech Republic’s proposed new prime minister Jan Fischer has said that the main priority of an interim government in this country must be the successful continuation of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency. Current prime minister Mirek Topolánek’s cabinet handed in its resignation late March halfway through the country’s EU presidency. On Sunday evening, leaders of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, Greens and Social Democrats agreed that Mr Fischer should be nominated as a new prime minister to fill Mr Topolánek’s post. This nomination still needs to be agreed upon formally by the party leadership and handed to President Václav Klaus for approval.
The European Union’s Eastern Partnership, which will see stronger ties between the bloc and six former Soviet states including Georgia, Armenia and Moldova, will be formally unveiled in Prague in exactly one month’s time, outgoing Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said on Monday. The launch of the programme, which is one of the Czech Republic’s priorities during its EU presidency, was approved by a parliamentary commission on Monday morning, Mr Vondra said. The deputy prime minister said that it would be decided at the last minute whether Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko would be invited to Prague for the launch of the programme. Belarus is part of the partnership which aims to bolster ‘independence, democracy and the market economy’ in countries which could eventually apply for EU membership.
In the same interview, President Václav Klaus reacted to Sunday’s speech by US President Barack Obama at Prague Castle, praising it for being ‘unexpectedly Czech’. Mr Klaus said that the American President did not tie his speech to the EU-US Summit which took place later on Sunday in Prague’s Congress Centre, which, Mr Klaus said, was a good thing. In the course of his meeting with President Barack Obama at Prague Castle before the latter’s address, Mr Klaus said that the two men spent around three minutes discussing climate change. The Czech president is an outspoken climate-change denier, while Mr Obama dedicated a part of his speech on Sunday to laying out plans to fight global warming.