The opposition Civic Democratic Party have officially announced their support for independent Senate candidate Vladimir Zelezny, a television tycoon who controls the Czech Republic's most popular commercial station, Nova. The chairman of the Civic Democrats branch in Znojmo, the constituency where Mr Zelezny is running, said the party did not know of a better candidate, adding that it did not matter that the TV magnate was not from the region.
The ruling Social Democrats are planning to present the electorate with a list of four names from which to choose the party's candidate for president, Health Minister Marie Souckova said on Friday. They are former prime minister Milos Zeman, ombudsman Otakar Motejl, former justice minister Jaroslav Bures and Charles University professor Martin Potucek. It is believed that the Social Democrats decided to allow the public to pick their presidential candidate because elements within the party feared that the outspoken Mr Zeman might win an internal party vote. The public vote will take place on October 22 and 25. The term of the current president, Vaclav Havel, ends in January, and his successor will be chosen by both houses of parliament.
The deputy president of the Czech police Miroslav Antl could be dismissed if it is proved that he had been drinking before a traffic accident in the east Bohemian town of Pardubice on Thursday. A source told the CTK news agency that a breathalyser test proves that Mr Antl was over the limit when the crash occurred, though a police spokesperson said that the incident was still under investigation.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who's on a one-day visit to Afghanistan, has told the command of the International Security Assistance Force that a substantial number of Czech military medical personnel stationed in Kabul will leave Afghanistan by the end of the year. Although the work of the Czech military field hospital is highly appreciated by local citizens, Prime Minister Spidla said the Czech Republic could not afford its further operation. Mr Spidla also said that at the beginning of next year a Czech special operations unit would arrive in Afghanistan, if approved by the Czech Parliament.
Twenty-two municipalities in the Melnik region north of Prague are aiming to prolong a state of alert to help in the continuing clean-up of damages caused by August's catastrophic floods. The state of alert should remain in place until the third week of October. Clean-up crews are still trying to remove damaged material from post-flood areas, but new damages were recently discovered on some structures, and some areas remain dangerous for inhabitants and livestock. The issued state of alert grants local officials wider authority, including the right to call up those doing national service for the clean-up effort. Before taking effect, the state of alert must still be confirmed by the Czech government.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has welcomed the outcome of an EU-commissioned report according to which the controversial Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after WWII, do not pose an obstacle to Prague's bid to join the European Union. The European Parliament commissioned the study after Austrian and German politicians demanded that Prague revoke the Benes decrees since they were incompatible with EU laws. Speaking to journalists in Brussels, the Czech Foreign Minister said he hoped that this clear legal stand would remove all lingering doubts and prevent further disputes on the matter.
At an intergovernmental EU conference in Brussels on Tuesday the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda presented his country's stand on the five remaining chapters of the EU accession process. According to Mr. Svoboda Prague is still hoping to negotiate a better deal on agriculture where the proposed production quotas are far below the sector's current needs. The Czech government has given the EU negotiating team a clear mandate and fall-back positions that are regarded as a minimum for the Czech agricultural sector to be able to survive competition on EU markets. The 12 EU candidates present at the meeting all expect a positive evaluation of their membership bids in the EU's annual progress report due on October 9th.
Austrian Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, rejected a pro-Benes decrees report presented to the European Parliament on Monday and said that Austria would continue to hold talks with the Czech Republic over the controversial decrees. The historic Benes decrees, sanctioned the expulsion and confiscation of property of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. Amidst the Czech Republic's preparation for EU membership, the decrees have become a highly politicised issue by right-of centre and far-right parties in both Germany and Austria, calling for them to be repealed before the Czech Republic was allowed to become and EU member. An analysis of the decrees' compatibility with current EU legislation made for the European Parliament by a group of lawyers headed by the German Professor Jochen Frowein, however, said that the decrees could not stand in the way of the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner has dismissed the report, saying it focused solely on the legal aspect of the decrees and failed to consider the political and moral aspects.
Czech President Vaclav Havel fired the country's ambassador to Kazakhstan on Monday, over his alleged involvement in a scandal concerning a plot to kill a leading Prague journalist. According to President Havel's spokesman, Miroslav Andr was relieved of his duties in Astana following a recommendation by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's government. Whilst the Czech government, the President's office and the Foreign Ministry refused to give further details, Czech and Kazakh media reports have linked Mr Andr to Karel Srba - a former official at the Czech foreign ministry, who was arrested in July for allegedly leading a plot to kill newspaper reporter Sabina Slonkova. The reports claimed Mr Andr worked under Mr Srba as a military intelligence agent. Mr Andr has rejected the allegations, saying he hadn't spoken with Mr Srba since 1999.
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