As the countdown begins to the end of its presidency of the European Union, the Czech Republic has symbolically passed the baton to the incoming Swedish presidency – in the form of a barrel of beer. The Czech minister for European affairs, Štefan Füle, and former deputy PM for European affairs Alexandr Vondra made the presentation to Sweden’s ambassador to Prague, Rolf Ericsson, on the Vltava River in Prague on Saturday evening. The passing of the torch occurred against the backdrop of the end of the United Islands of Prague music festival, which took place at various venues on the Vltava.
The leader of a new centre-right political party says the prospect of a coalition government with the Social Democrats is unrealistic. Speaking in an interview with the newspaper Lidové noviny, Top 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg said such a coalition was unlikely because of what he called dirty personal attacks on the part of the Social Democrats leader Jiří Paroubek. He also said the centre-left party had an “unhealthy financial and budgetary policy”. Mr Schwarzenberg, a former foreign minister, said wealthy businessman Zdeněk Bakala had offered to fund Top 09. The new party will take face its first electoral test in October, when early general elections take place.
Around 350 people took part in a “Queer Pride” march in the centre of Tábor on Saturday. Police including riot units were out in force, as members of the far-right Workers’ Party also gathered in the central Bohemian town. A spokesperson said police had kept the extremists, who numbered around 30, away from the gay parade. The Czech Republic’s first big gay pride march, in Brno last June, was cut short when far-right extremists attacked participants.
A number of police officers in Brno have been arrested on suspicion of having connections with far-right and neo-Nazi groups, novinky.cz reported. Searches of their homes have been carried but no charges have yet been pressed, a police spokesperson told the news website. The investigation into the police officers allegedly began after the recent arrests of 10 far-right activists. Five of those charged are being held in custody at a prison in Brno; around 150 supporters gathered there on Saturday to protest against their incarceration.
The wife of Social Democrats leader Jiří Paroubek has accepted a rather unflattering prize on his behalf. Petra Paroubkova on Saturday picked up the Papaláš or Bigwig of the Year award from the organisers of a festival of political songs in Sokolov, west Bohemia. Accepting the prize, Mr Paroubek’s wife parodied the type of speech given by Oscar recipients, saying she and her partner had not expected it, and that she was speechless. One of the organisers told reporters he was surprised the couple had accepted the prize.
Ondřej Liška will lead the Green Party into the October general elections. The Greens’ national council gave him near unanimous backing at a meeting in Prague on Saturday. A former minister of education, Mr Liška takes the reins following the resignation of Martin Bursík in the wake of poor results for the Greens in recent elections to the European Parliament. The party will elect a new chairman at a conference in December. Ondřej Liška, who is 31, has said he wants to hold talks with members of a Greens fraction which was strongly opposed to the leadership of Mr Bursík.
The agent of Pavel Nedvěd has held talks with Lazio about the possibility of the Czech soccer legend joining the club on a one-year contract, the newspaper Corriere Dello Sport reported. Nedvěd, who is 36, recently played his last game with another Italian club Juventus and indicated he was retiring. His agent was quoted by Corriere Dello Sport as saying the midfielder would decide on his future after he returned from a two-week holiday. Nedvěd spent five years at Lazio before joining Juve in 2001.
It is “stupidity” on the part of EU leaders to suggest guarantees
given to Ireland do not represent a change to the Lisbon treaty, says the
Eurosceptic Czech president, Václav Klaus. An agreement reached on Friday
aimed at helping the Irish government win support for Lisbon in a second
referendum does not affect the ratification of the document in other
states. However, Mr Klaus told Czech Radio that a schoolchild would know
the guarantees for Ireland do actually change Lisbon.
The Czech president, a fierce opponent of further European integration, said before the Brussels summit that the agreement with Ireland should be approved by the Czech Parliament because it changes the character of the Lisbon treaty. The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, disagreed, saying it was a “government type” international treaty and therefore did not need parliamentary ratification.
Both houses of the Czech parliament have voted to ratify the EU’s reform treaty. However, Mr Klaus is currently refusing to put his signature to ratification. He is waiting for the result of a legal challenge taken by Eurosceptic Czech senators, and also says he will not sign as long as Ireland hasn’t approved Lisbon.
The seventh case of swine flu in the Czech Republic was confirmed on Friday, only one day after the announcement of the last case. Czech health authorities said a 28-year-old woman who recently travelled from the United States tested positive for the H1N1 virus. The patient is in good clinical condition and is being monitored at her home.