The 64th anniversary of the end of World War II was marked by a number of events in the Czech Republic. On Friday, President Václav Klaus laid a wreath at a monument to Czech soldiers who lost their lives in the service of other countries’ armies. The ceremony was attended by senior politicians including outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. Mr Klaus said after the ceremony it was “a duty” to remind younger generations of what had taken place, while the head of the Czech Senate, Přemysl Sobotka, said it was necessary to remember those who had sacrificed their lives. This year, for the first time, the president did not name new generals to the Czech Army.
In related news, one of the tasks faced by the caretaker cabinet will be to improve the image of the Czech EU presidency, which many observers say suffered after the fall of the previous government. Czech news agency ČTK reported on the matter on Friday. A number of recent informal summits hosted by the Czech EU presidency, such as a meeting on regional development, had since seen a low turn-out by European officials. Many, including the Czech ambassador to the EU, Milena Vicenová, described the fall of the previous government halfway through the EU presidency as most unfortunate. The Czech Republic took over the running of the EU on January 1, and immediately had to address a number of international crises - including the conflict in Gaza and the gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
The Czech Republic’s national hockey team was defeated by Sweden on Thursday at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Switzerland. The final score was 3:1. The loss means that the Czechs are out, with no shot at a medal for the third straight year. During the quarterfinal game the Czechs failed to capitalise on the power play while the Swedes went ahead. Afterwards, coach Vladimír Růžička expressed disappointment, making clear the lone goal simply wasn’t enough. Czech fans had hoped the team might go further through the leadership of players like Jaromír Jágr.
Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko has told reporters he is pleased with prospects offered by the Eastern Partnership summit, held in Prague on Thursday by the EU and the Czech EU presidency. He made the comment even though he himself did not attend. Mr Lukashenko had been given an invitation for Belarus, along with representatives from five other former Soviet-bloc countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), but opted to send a deputy prime minister in his stead. The leader’s human rights record has put him at odds with individual EU member states. The Czech president, Václav Klaus, had also warned in advance if Mr Lukashenko arrived in Prague, he would not be received at Prague Castle.
President Václav Klaus has named the country’s new interim government to office. 16 new ministers were sworn in at Prague Castle shortly after four pm on Friday. The move was a final step in ending a crisis which ensued when the previous cabinet was defeated by the opposition in a vote of no-confidence (which took place in March). One of the main goals of the new caretaker cabinet, led by Prime Minister Jan Fischer, will be to see through the remaining two months of the Czech EU presidency, as well as to lead the country to early elections. At the ceremony on Friday, Czech President Václav Klaus expressed confidence the government would be successful in facing its tasks ahead.
English football side Chelsea, home to Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech, have failed to advance in the Champions League. On Thursday, the side tied 1:1 with Barcelona in their second-leg semi-final match. The draw means Barca go ahead on aggregate, facing defending champions Manchester United in the final. For most of the game on Thursday Chelsea led 1:0, but Barca were able to level in extra time. It is the second year in a row that Chelsea suffered an agonising defeat in the tournament: last year they lost in the final on penalties.
This Friday saw the last in a series of EU summits held in Prague this week: representatives of the Czech EU presidency and the European Commission met with Southern Corridor countries, including Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey and others, to discuss energy transport from the Caspian region to Europe. Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said the corridor could be could be ushered in by the Nabucco pipeline. He stressed that more than energy was at stake but a “two-way exchange on goods, investment, labour and knowledge”.
In the NHL playoffs, Martin Havlát scored a goal and earned an assist to help his team Chicago defeat Vancouver in Game 4. Havlát tied the game with less than three minutes remaining, and then assisted on the winner in overtime. Chicago’s series with Vancouver is now tied at two-apiece. The next game takes place in Vancouver on Saturday.
Two members of the incoming caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer have come under attack even before they have taken up office. The new Minister of Transport, Gustáv Slamečka, turns out to have Slovak citizenship. The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, says this could pose security problems. Meanwhile the new Minister of Culture Václav Riedlbauch has come under criticism for his active past in the pre-Velvet Revolution Communist Party. According to Thursday’s Lidové noviny, Riedlbauch tried to stop musicians heeding students’ pleas they take part in a protests against the Communist regime in November 1989 which eventually caused it to fall. He was an artistic director at the National Theatre at the time.
In related news, outgoing European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra said ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit that it is a way of offering these countries the highest possible relations with the EU given that they were not yet ready for membership. It was not a substitute for joining the EU, he added. The upgrade in relations for some countries could mean that they sign association agreements with the EU. These set out a broad framework for cooperation. EC President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the summit's conclusion that the new agreements would push political and economic reforms which could bring the countries closer to the EU. Separately, Mr Vondra said he would have expected the leaders of large EU countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain to have attended the meeting.