The outgoing Social Democratic cabinet passed an amendment to consumer tax rates on Wednesday. Tobacco products will be affected, with the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes costing about 15 crowns more as of 1 January 2007. The new law must still be passed by the lower house and the Senate, and signed by the President in order to become effective. Despite the rising costs of tobacco products in the Czech Republic, sales are not dropping; in 2004 a total of 22.7 million cigarette packets were sold, and in 2005 that number rose to 23.5 million.
Tomas Rosicky has been named new captain of the Czech Republic's football team. Rosicky was chosen by senior players and the Czech team's management on Tuesday evening. The 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder said it was a great honour to captain the national team, adding that their current target was qualification for the European Championships in two years' time.
President Vaclav Klaus' office has announced that prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek is scheduled to meet with the president on Friday at 10:00am to present his minority cabinet. The chairman of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has revealed that his proposed cabinet consists of 10 Civic Democrats and five non-party members. The names for the top posts include: Petr Necas for Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Vlastimil Tlusty for Minister of Finance, Ivan Langer for Minister of the Interior, Tomas Julinek for Minister of Health, Petr Gandalovic for Minister for European Affairs, Jiri Pospisil for Minister of Justice, Martin Riman for Minister of Industry and Trade, Ales Rebicka for Minister of Transport, Bedrich Moldan for Minister of the Environment, Jiri Sedivy for Minister of Defense, Milena Vicenova for Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Vondra as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miroslava Kopicova as Minister of Education, and Margita Fuchsova as Minister of Culture.
Murder trial proceedings against Czech citizen Martin Novotny, 23, began in Denver, USA on Wednesday. Mr. Novotny is accused of stabbing his Brazilian girlfriend Ana Elisa Goncalves-Toledo, 24, in December 2005, after she broke off their relationship. He has confessed to the crime. If found guilty, Mr. Novotny could be sentenced to death; he is the first Czech citizen to face a possible death sentence under U.S. law.
The leading Civic Democratic candidate for the post of minister of
finance, Vlastimil Tlusty, has announced that in addition to early
elections, his party intends to prepare several reform proposals. The
Civic Democrats plan to present concrete pension and tax reform proposals
to the other parties during negotiations over support for a Civic
Democratic minority cabinet. Mr. Tlusty told reporters that the other
parties will likely "ruin everything" but that the Civic
Democrats must try to gain support for the reforms.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrat leader and outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says that he expects to be entrusted with the task of forming a new government in October, since he does not believe that a minority Civic Democrat government can win a confidence vote in the lower house. Mr. Paroubek told reporters that in the coming weeks his party will stay in opposition, prepare for local and Senate elections and refrain from any negotiations on a future government.
The leader of the Party of European Democrats (SNK-ED), Jana Hybaskova, announced on Wednesday that her party wants to launch a constitutional appeal in order to remove the Social Democrats from power because they do not respect court rulings and endanger democracy. Ms. Hybaskova made the statements at a press conference where she aired the grievances of the European Democrats, who are owed about 15 million crowns ($681 000 USD) according to a May court ruling. The dispute over the money for campaign contributions dates back to 2002, when the European Democrats ran as an association, rather than as a party or registered coalition; it is on this count that the Ministry of Finance has refused to make the payment, despite the court ruling in favour of the European Democrats. Ms. Hybaskova says that her party was left shortchanged during the recent June 2006 elections, when it could have used this money during the campaign.
A Czech online news server claims that the radar which could be built in the Czech Republic within a projected US missile base in central Europe could jam TV, radio and mobile phone signals. Citing a military specialist, the iDnes server writes that the XBR radar is the size of a small space station and would be the only one of its kind in Europe. The specialist suggests that given the country's relatively small size the radar could also prove to be a threat to air transport. Available surveys suggest that most Czechs are opposed to the idea of having a US missile base on Czech territory and politicians are debating the possibility of holding a referendum on the issue, should the US make an official request.
Following talks with the Civic Democratic Party on Tuesday, the acting chairman of the Christian Democratic Party Jan Kasal said his party would not actively support a minority Civic Democrat cabinet. Mr. Kasal said that once the new cabinet was unveiled his party would decide whether to vote against it or tolerate it by leaving the chamber during a vote of confidence. There is no question of active support, we are not in favour of early elections, Mr. Kasal told journalists. Former Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek, who resigned last week after a rank and file rebellion over the prospect of cooperating with the Communists, was not on the negotiating team. Three deputy chairmen resigned in his wake, accepting co-responsibility for a bad decision. The party's negotiating team is now led by the former first deputy chairman Jan Kasal who will serve as acting chairman until the party elects a new leadership at a national conference in December.
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