Heads of government from ten countries aspiring to join NATO have expressed
confidence that up to seven of them will be invited to join the alliance at
the November NATO summit in Prague. The Estonian Prime Minister, Siim
Kallas, told a meeting in the Latvian capital Riga that he could not see any
The Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, told the Riga meeting that he favoured closer cooperation between countries set to join NATO and the European Union and those left out, in order to prevent a "velvet curtain" dividing Europe. He suggested that the Vilnius Group of ten NATO hopefuls merge with the Visegrad Group, made up of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and has since been a strong advocate of further expansion.
The English actor Michael York has been one of the main stars so far at the Karlovy Vary international film festival, now in its third day. He is there for a retrospective to present his most famous film, "Cabaret" from 1972. On Friday, the successful young Czech director Petr Zelenka has also been in Karlovy Vary to talk about his latest film "Rok dabla" - the year of the devil - which is one of two Czech films in the competition section. During the weekend, festival visitors will also have the chance to meet directors and actors from several other films in the competition section, from as far afield as Mexico, Spain and Latvia. Radio Prague will be bringing you the latest festival news in our broadcasts and on our website throughout next week.
The Czech Republic has been commemorating the saint's day of Cyril and Methodius, two Christian missionaries who came from the Greek city of Thessaloniki in the 9th century and brought the Christian faith to the country as well as the Cyrillic alphabet, still used by several Slavonic languages. St. Cyril and Methodius Day reminds people of the spiritual legacy of the Christian faith in Czech history, and the two Byzantine brothers are considered by Christian churches around the world as exemplary missionaries. Friday's holiday, remembered in many places around the Czech Republic, culminated in the Moravian pilgrimage town of Velehrad, where several masses for thousands of believers were served by Czech and Moravian bishops.
Following a meeting of the Social Democratic party's leadership in Prague on Friday, party leader Vladimir Spidla has announced that Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek is likely to become new Chairman of the lower house of the Czech parliament. In the previous parliament, Mr. Zaoralek held the post of chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Spidla also informed journalists that early next week consultations on the composition of a new cabinet should be finished. It remains to be seen if the Social Democrats will agree to the candidates put forward by the centre-right Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats. The three parties have conducting coalition talks on forming a new cabinet and on Wednesday they signed a coalition agreement.
The leadership of the Freedom Union has been discussing the pace of lowering the state budget deficit, that formed part of coalition talks with the Social Democrats on Wednesday. The slower pace put through by the Social Democrats led the Freedom Union leader, Hana Marvanova, to step down from her post on Thursday. However, Mrs. Marvanova said that although she did not agree with the new cabinet's financial policy, she would give it her full support because of its pro-European orientation.
Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla has said that the new cabinet will have 17 ministers, but an 18th ministerial post could be created for a minister for European matters. There will be yet another new ministry - the ministry of information technology. The two centre-right parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union should occupy six seats in the new cabinet, but no concrete names have yet been mentioned. President Vaclav Havel expects the new cabinet be appointed on July 15th, and Vladimir Spidla said he would do his best not to disappoint Mr. Havel's expectations.
Mr Pilip, the interim head of the Freedom Union, told journalists that despite the resignation of its chairwoman, the Freedom Union wants to successfully complete talks on a coalition government with the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. Ivan Pilip said he would not seek any ministerial post in the future government and would not even run for the post of party chairman. On Monday Mr Pilip will start debate on when to call an extraordinary national conference of the Freedom Union.
The chairman of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, described the resignation of Hana Marvanova as an unfortunate step, considering the nearly completed negotiations on the new coalition government. The deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats Jan Kasal said the whole Coalition grouping, that is the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, were going to be affected by Ms Marvanova's move but he expressed hope the coalition talks would not be threatened.
The leader of the Freedom Union, Hana Marvanova, resigned on Thursday explaining she was not satisfied with the results of the coalition talks between her party, the Christian Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats. Ms Marvanova said, however, that as an MP for the Freedom Union she was ready to vote in favour of the future government in a parliamentary confidence vote. Hana Marvanova says she plans to remain a member of the Freedom Union and does not want the party to be shaken by her step. According to the party statutes, the Freedom Union is now to be led by the first deputy chairman Ivan Pilip who failed to be elected to the lower house in the mid-June general elections.
Following the resignation of Hana Marvanova, the leader of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, met representatives of the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats, the two partners in the Coalition grouping. After the meeting, Mr Spidla told journalists that negotiations on the future government were not threatened and they were to continue. The leadership of the Social Democrats is to discuss the matter on Friday.
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