After long and difficult negotiations the government on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at thoroughly reforming the Czech Republic's education system. Among other things, the bill envisages more importance being placed on the creative use of information by school pupils and less emphasis on rote-learning. Furthermore, the current "maturita" school-leaving exams would be replaced from 2008. The government bill is expected to raise some debate when it goes before Parliament.
Former finance minister Ivo Svoboda has been sentenced to five years in prison for fraud while he was an executive at a pram-making company which subsequently collapsed. His co-defendant Barbora Snopkova was given a five-and-a-half-year sentence by the Central Bohemian Regional Court on Wednesday. Mr Svoboda served as finance minister from March 1997 to April 1999 in the minority Social Democrat government led by Milos Zeman.
Schools around the Czech Republic held a minute's silence on Wednesday in honour of teacher Bohuslav Sibl, who was stabbed to death by a 16-year-old pupil in the east Bohemian town of Svitavy last week. The classroom killing was the first of its kind in this country, and has provoked a widespread debate about young people and violence.
President Vaclav Klaus has expressed his support for the mission to send Czech Special Forces troops to Afghanistan. The president made the statement on Tuesday after speaking with the commander of the Army's General Staff Pavel Stefka and Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka. With regards to Afghanistan Mr Klaus said he had been given detailed plans on the mission including information on special tasks. The Afghanistan mission, already approved by Parliament, will see more than 100 elite soldiers from Czech Special Forces sent to the combat zone to help weed out remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, as part of the U.S.-led operation 'Enduring Freedom'. At the same time a recent CVVM poll revealed that some 75 percent of Czechs disagreed with the soldiers being sent abroad.
The heads of government of the Visegrad group states - the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary met in Prague on Monday to discuss EU related issues. The four EU candidates have consulted each other regularly in the course of EU accession even on matters where it was not possible to adopt a common strategy. The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who hosted the meeting at Kolodej Chateau, said cooperation within the Visegrad group would prove useful even after EU accession when the newcomers could help each other to find their place on the common market. Among the issues discussed in Prague was the EU's restrictive labour market policy with regard to the newcomers.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Saturday that he was not considering the option of forming a minority Social Democrat government. The prime minister and chairman of the senior coalition Social Democratic Party, made the statement after a second MP left the smallest party in the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union, on Friday, raising questions about the future of the governing coalition.
Amid rising uncertainty about the stability of the ruling coalition, the deputy chairman of the opposition Communist Party, Jiri Dolejs, has said that, under certain conditions, the Communists would be willing to support a minority Social Democrat government. Speaking in a televised debate on Sunday, Mr Dolejs said that if the Social Democrats behaved as a left-wing party, the Communists would grant them tacit support. The Communist Party and the Social Democrats would have 111 seats in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies.
President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla have laid wreaths at the grave of the first president of Czechoslovakia Tomas Garrigue Masaryk to commemorate the 154th anniversary of his birth. Both politicians said they considered Tomas Garrigue Masaryk as the most significant personality in Czech history. The founder of the Czechoslovak state T. G. Masaryk was born on March 7, 1850 in the South Moravian town of Hodonin and died at the presidential Lany Chateau in 1937.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said that he is not considering the option of forming a minority Social Democrat government. The prime minister, who is also the chairman of the senior coalition Social Democratic Party, made the statement after a second MP left the smallest party in the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union, on Friday. MP Marian Bielesz announced his decision only a few days after Tomas Vrbik quit the Freedom Union in protest at its participation in the Social Democrat-led government. Both MPs, however, decided to remain members of the Freedom Union parliamentary party, which means that the ruling coalition retains its slim 101-vote majority in the 200-seat lower house of parliament.
Following the departure of two of its members of parliament, the leadership of the junior government Freedom Union has decided to call an extraordinary meeting of the party's national committee. The chairman of the Freedom Union, Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares said that the party leadership would ask for confidence at the extraordinary meeting on Sunday but he declined to speculate on what would happen if the result of the vote was negative.