Antonin Sum, the personal secretary of the post-WWII Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, passed away in Prague on Tuesday at the age of 87. Born in 1919, Mr. Sum participated in the WWII resistance to Nazi Germany, and became secretary to Jan Masaryk in 1947. Mr. Sum was sentenced to 20 years in communist prisons, and after the fall of communism in 1989, he wrote a number of books and articles about Jan Masaryk, son of the founding President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas G. Masaryk. In 2003, Antonin Sum was awarded the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
Brno's Masaryk University has developed a new computer software program to combat plagiarism. The first of its kind in the Czech Republic, the software is modeled on those used at universities in North America. The system will be accessible to both staff and students at Masaryk University, though it is expected that university instructors will make the most use of the new tool.
Mirek Topolanek, leader of the right-of-center Civic Democratic Party, has been named the new prime minister designate by President Vaclav Klaus. As expected, the news was made official at Prague Castle on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Topolanek is now looking to find support for his proposed Civic Democratic minority government, a process he says may take two to three weeks of negotiations. Mr. Topolanek told reporters that talks with the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens will begin immediately, but that the Civic Democrats will not seek support from the Communist Party. Meanwhile, Social Democratic leader, Jiri Paroubek, told reporters that an agreement with the Civic Democrats could be signed by next Wednesday, thus allowing for a new Czech government to take the reins.
According to a report due to be discussed by the lower house, the Czech presidency of the European Union—set to begin in January 2009—and the necessary preparations will cost the state about 3.3 billion crowns ($151 million USD). Some 480 new civil servants will be employed in connection with the presidency, and language training for them is included in the proposed budget. The Czech Republic will preside over the EU in partnership with Sweden and France, with each country leading the team effort for six months; Prague will be at the helm from January to June 2009.
After last week's intensified security measures at airports in the United Kingdom following the unveiling of a terrorist plot, more than 5000 pieces of luggage did not make it onto planes in London, some of these belonging to Czech travelers. Passengers on flights from London to Prague have thus been without their baggage for several days, and now British Airways is sending more than 2000 pieces of luggage to continental Europe via long-haul trucks. The luggage should arrive in Prague late Wednesday.
The way to a new Czech minority government was made possible on
Wednesday morning, with the Social Democratic government led by Jiri
Paroubek submitting its resignation to President Vaclav Klaus. The
unanimous vote came after more than ten weeks of post-election
negotiations over the formation of the Czech Republic's next
government. A coalition of Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats
and the Freedom Union led by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek was in power
for nearly sixteen months.
Now, Mr. Paroubek says that Mirek Topolanek and his Civic Democrats should get a chance to try and govern, but that the Social Democrats prefer to tolerate a new minority government for only two years. Earlier this week, Mr. Paroubek indicated that support for a minority Civic Democratic government would depend on approval of Mr. Topolanek's proposed cabinet, as well as key policy issues like the proposed flat tax, and a national referendum regarding the possible establishment of a US missile defense base on Czech territory.
The current government's ministers will stay in their posts until a new cabinet is formed. As it stands, the country also has two prime ministers, with Jiri Paroubek standing as the acting prime minister until Mirek Topolanek forms a new cabinet.
A new police squad has been established to fight forced labour and exploitation of workers in the Czech Republic. This concerns mainly foreigners from Ukraine, Moldavia and Russia who are forced into prostitution or exploited in menial jobs. The unit's head Jan Mikes said that the Czech Republic had little experience in this field for the present time and was gathering know-how from abroad, particularly from the Netherlands. According to the daily Lidove Noviny up to 20,000 foreigners work in the Czech Republic illegally and an estimated 80 percent of those are subjected to forced labour or exploited.
The outgoing Social Democrat government will resign on Wednesday, clearing the way for a new administration. Deputy-prime minister Zdenek Skromach made the announcement after the lower chamber elected a new leadership on Monday, ending ten weeks of deadlock. Once the cabinet of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has resigned, President Vaclav Klaus is expected to appoint the head of the winning party Civic Democrat Mirek Topolanek prime minister designate, giving him a shot at winning support for a minority Civic Democrat government.
The outgoing prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, has said he expects the Czech Republic to actively participate in the UN mission in Lebanon. Speaking to journalists Mr. Paroubek said this had not been officially approved but that he was "counting on" Czech participation. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda was more cautious saying that given the country's participation in peace missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the Czech Republic had come close to exceeding its capacity. UN resolution 1701 gives a mandate for an expanded UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) which is to be made up of some 15,000 international troops.
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