The Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, will visit Israel and the
Palestinian territories on Wednesday, at the end of the Czech presidency
the EU. His agenda will include talks on the current situation in the
Middle East following the Cairo speech by US President Barack Obama, and
the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. During the trip, Mr Kohout
will meet with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, as well as with
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Foreign Minister Jan Kohout also wants to evaluate the situation in the Middle East after six months of the Czech EU presidency. In the beginning of the Czech term at the helm of the block in January, Czech officials dealt with the crisis following the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, told Czech Radio on Tuesday that he
would only make up his mind on whether or not he will ratify the Lisbon
treaty after all other EU states have reached a decision. Mr Klaus, who is
a staunch critic of the reform document, said he would wait for the result
of the Irish referendum scheduled for October. He also said he would not
decide before the Constitutional Courts in the Czech Republic and Germany
reach their verdicts on the document, and he will also wait for the Polish
position on the issue.
The Lisbon treaty was approved by both chambers of the Czech Parliament earlier this year but President Klaus refused to complete the ratification process. He said that putting his signature to the treaty would put Ireland under pressure to ratify the document.
A drunken man beat Civic Democrat MP Vladislav Vilímec in a street in Plzeň, western Bohemia, on Monday night. The incident took place after the party’s regional nomination conference. Mr Vilímec, who was hit in the head, said the attack was politically motivated. The MP did not press charges against the attacker.
The Czech Supreme Court confirmed on Tuesday suspended sentences for two men who had been convicted of selling the hallucinogenic plant Salvia Divinorum, known as the Sage of the Seers. A court in Prague found the men guilty in 2008 of promoting illicit drugs by selling dried leaves of the plant over the internet, and handed them a one year suspended prison sentence, although sage is not included in the international list of narcotics.
Playwright and former Czech president Václav Havel is going to direct a film based on his latest play “Leaving”, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday. Producers of the planned movie said it took Mr Havel a long time to decide, but that he had a “very clear idea” of what the film should be like. Mr Havel also stopped a TV production of a theatre performance of his play as it would jeopardize the interests of the film producers. The production of the film should start next year, and Mr Havel’s wife, the actress Dagmar Havlová, is set to land one of the leading roles.
Actor Antonio Banderas will be among the guests at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival that kicks off on July 3. Organizers said on Tuesday that the Hollywood star will join another famed guest, John Malkovich who will be presented with the Crystal Globe Awards for Lifetime Achievement. The festival will present more than 220 films, 65 of which will have their world premiere in Karlovy Vary.
Christian Democrat leader Cyril Svoboda has criticized plans to put off the nomination of a Czech EU commissioner until after the autumn general elections. In a statement for the ČTK news agency Mr. Svoboda said the Czechs were throwing away the chance to gain an interesting portfolio in the new EC because of political squabbles at home. Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer has expressed readiness to start talks which would produce a widely acceptable candidate but the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene, the Civic and Social Democrats have made a deal to postpone the debate until after the general elections.
Close to half of Czech firms say they are planning lay-offs in the coming months in order to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis and increase their chances of survival. In a flash poll conducted among 154 companies, a third of them said they may have to lay off up to twenty percent of employees, while five percent of them said they would have to let go up to thirty percent of employees to stay afloat. Fifty-four percent of firms polled said they were cutting costs elsewhere. The export-oriented Czech economy is feeling the effects of the crisis in neighbouring states, with eighty percent of Czech firms reporting a severe drop in demand in the first quarter. The credit-crunch is making it difficult for them to take out fresh loans, meaning that some will temporarily have to shut down production if the situation worsens.
First six rabbis graduated on Tuesday from the Maharal Institute, a rabbinical seminary which opened last year in Prague’s Jewish quarter. The students, who spent ten months in Prague, came from Israel, the United States, Austria, and Latin America. The Maharal Institute was founded to promote the study of the works by famous 16th century rabbi Loew, also known as the Maharal. This year marks the 400th anniversary of his death.
At a meeting of the Czech cabinet on Monday, Jan Fischer’s interim government agreed to buy another 500,000 doses of Relenza, to vaccinate the Czech public in the event of a swine flu epidemic. The Czech Republic already has enough doses of Tamiflu to inoculate 20 percent of the Czech population, this new batch of Relenza means that one quarter of the Czech population would be covered in the event of an outbreak. The purchase of the antiviral drug will cost the Czech state 138 million crowns this year (7.35 million USD), and a further 236 million crowns (12.57 million USD) in 2010. Six cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the Czech Republic to date.
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