Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is to pay a working visit to Belarus on Thursday. One of the main points on the agenda is the EU’s Eastern Partnership scheme, which has been championed by the Czech Republic during its EU presidency, and which will be unveiled formally in Prague on May 7. The project is to help forge closer links with six former Soviet Republics and provide a platform for discussing visa agreements and free trade deals. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are expected to be part of the project but the extent to which Belarus will participate is not yet certain due to criticism of the authoritarian regime of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. The European Commission has recommended that a decision on Mr Lukashenko’s attendance of the event be postponed until the last minute.
European Union environment ministers called on the United States Wednesday
to help the bloc lead and finance the battle against climate change. Czech
minister Martin Bursik, who hosted the EU environment summit in Prague said
that Europe needed to build a coalition with the US if the fight against
climate change was to be effective.
Earlier this month in Prague, US President Barack Obama vowed that the United States was "now ready to lead" on climate change, breaking with his predecessor George W. Bush, whose stance had long frustrated Europeans. So far, the US has agreed to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, while Europe has pledged to cut its own emissions by at least 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020, and 30 percent if other advanced economies follow suit.
The Prague meeting was to help pave the ground for a summit in Copenhagen in December, which is expected to produce a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
A court in Ustí nad Labem has overturned a city ban on a planned neo-Nazi march through the centre of town. The march has been scheduled for Saturday April 18th, two days ahead of the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth, and is expected to be attended by several hundred extremists from the Czech Republic and neigbouring states. Police will be out in force for the event, with re-enforcements expected from other regions. Locals have been asked to avoid problem areas so as not to get caught up in potential street fights.
On a working visit to the Vatican, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday. The Pope is expected to visit the Czech Republic in September and the outgoing foreign minister has been arranging the details of his stay. Mr. Schwarzenberg also met with the Vatican’s State Secretary Tarcisio Bertone and laid a wreath at the grave of Czech cardinal Josef Beran.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek will visit Moldova next week to discuss a post-election crisis in the former Soviet republic. The Czech EU presidency said the prime minister had discussed the situation in Moldova with President Vladimir Voronin by telephone on Wednesday and would visit Chisinau on April 22. Moldovan officials have started recounting more than 1.5 million ballots cast in the country's disputed election in which a Communist victory sparked violent protests. The Constitutional Court ordered the recount at the request of President Voronin, after demonstrators ransacked public buildings last week.
Iveta Benešová, Petra Kvitová and Lucie Šafárová together with Květa Peschke will face the US in the Fed Cup semi-finals on April 25-26, Czech team captain Petr Pála said Wednesday. "I have nominated the best and strongest team possible," Pala said in an official statement 10 days before the clash in the southern Czech city of Brno. The team is the same as the one that beat Spain 4-1 in the quarter-finals in February.
The opposition Social Democrats have denied allegations that they want outgoing Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek to keep his post in the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Jan Fischer. The daily Právo wrote on Wednesday that calls for Mr. Kalousek to stay on and provide some degree of continuity were fueled by fears of how an inexperienced new cabinet would cope with the economic crisis. Petr Dimun who heads the opposition party’s PR department said the Social Democrats saw no reason for Mr. Kalousek to retain his post, particularly in view of the fact that the new cabinet was to be non-partisan. Mr. Dimun added that the opposition was not in the slightest bit concerned about how the new cabinet would perform, saying that the party had toppled the current government precisely because it was not coping well with the impacts of the global crisis.
A Burmese project providing a hospital at the Thai-Burmese border with solar energy has won the Energy Globe Award. The main prizes were announced in Prague on Tuesday, on the first day of the EU environment summit. The second prize went to a Tanzanian project securing drinking water supplies for a number of villages and the Spanish town Burgos won the third prize with a traffic project aimed at decreasing pollution.
Czech import prices rose by 4.5 percent year-on-year in February, increasing for the first time in 18 months, and export prices grew by 8.3 percent, the Czech Statistical Office said on Wednesday. In exports, the price increases were mostly affected by rising prices of manufactured goods chiefly by materials, miscellaneous manufactured articles and machinery and transport equipment. By contrast, more marked price drops were recorded for food and crude materials. Import prices were mostly affected by rising prices of machinery and transport equipment.
The International Monetary Fund predicted on Tuesday that the Czech Republic’s GDP would fall in 2009 by 1.3 percent. The IMF had previously predicted that the Czech economy would grow in 2009 by up to two percent, but on Tuesday, it downscaled its forecast. According to the IMF, the Czech Republic is dealing with the fall-out of the global financial crisis relatively well and the country’s financial sector is in a relatively good state. But, the organization said, as an open economy, the Czech Republic would inevitably suffer from the global financial downturn. The IMF’s revisions follow a prediction made recently by the Czech National Bank, estimating that the country’s GDP would shrink by up to two percent this year.
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