The Czech Republic’s deputy prime minister for European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, says speculation that the country could lose the right to hold the presidency of the European Union in the first half of next year is unfounded. Some European newspapers have suggested that given the current financial crisis and other issues facing the EU, France could extend its current presidency for at least six more months. However, Mr Vondra said EU rules precluded any such development. There has also been some suggestion that France could play a leading role in an informal Eurozone grouping, from which the Czech Republic, which has not adopted the common European currency, would be excluded. Mr Vondra said creating such a grouping would represent an unwise step which could divide the EU rather than unite it.
In the wake of demonstrations by the far-right in the town of Litvínov, an umbrella organisation for Romany associations says Romanies should form self-defence groups. In a statement, Romani Alliance criticised the police for not intervening last Saturday when between three and four hundred neo-Nazis marched on a part of Litvínov with a big Romany population. Police say they reacted in an adequate fashion. Romani Alliance said Romanies should not rely on a failed state apparatus but should prepare themselves to deal with any attack. Meanwhile, TV Nova reported that the far-right activists had threatened to demonstrate again if the local town hall did not deal with the so-called Romany question by the end of the month.
President Václav Klaus has again appeared on the stump with a senatorial candidate from the party he founded, the Civic Democrats. Mr Klaus appeared with Petr Skokan in the town of Česká Lípa on Thursday, two days after he made an appearance on stage on Old Town Square backing one of his party’s candidates in the Prague constituency. Prior to this week Mr Klaus had never publicly backed a political candidate since he became president in 2003. A second round of voting to the Senate – where the Civic Democrats now have the slimmest of majorities – takes place this weekend. The president’s secretary has also said he may openly back a candidate in a leadership contest at a conference in less than two months’ time.
The author Arnošt Lustig received the Franz Kafka Prize on Thursday. The literary award is co-sponsored by the Franz Kafka Society and the Prague Town Hall and includes a financial reward of USD 10,000. Previous recipients include Ivan Klíma, Harold Pinter and Philip Roth. Mr Lustig, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor, has written novels, short stories, plays and screenplays. As a young man he worked at Radio Prague.
Prime Minister Topolánek has said he will invite the president and representatives of the parties in Parliament to discuss the country’s first EU presidency. A spokesperson said Mr Topolánek was not worried about the presidency being cancelled. The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, said he would attend but was skeptical about the value of such a meeting, as he did not know who would be leading Civic Democrats after their December congress.
A party rival says he turned down a place in Prime Minister Mirek
Topolánek’s cabinet. Petr Bendl told reporters on Thursday that the
embattled Civic Democrat chairman had offered him a ministerial position,
though he declined to say which it was. For his part, the prime minister
said he would deal with such matters after this weekend’s second round
Senate elections. Mr Bendl was one of 12 Civic Democrat regional governors
who were voted out of office when the party suffered a whitewash in
elections last weekend. He has been openly critical of the party’s
and has been seen in public with other senior Civic Democrats evidently
opposed to Mr Topolánek.
Prime Minister Topolánek is under great pressure following last weekend’s election debacle. His shaky coalition survived a vote of no-confidence on Wednesday, though with a leadership contest coming up in December there has been speculation about his future.
Former Czech finance minister Ivo Svoboda was released from prison on Thursday. Mr Svoboda, who served under Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman, had served three years of a five-year term for fraud. His former party colleague Barbora Snopková was convicted alongside him for fraud committed in the running of a pram-making company. She began serving her term before Mr Svoboda and was released in August.
The Vienna Stock Exchange is set to gain a majority stake in the Prague Stock Exchange. Prague bourse shareholders and representatives of the Vienna Stock Exchange agreed on the conditions of the purchase on Wednesday. The transaction still needs to be approved by the respective regulatory bodies. The price and the size of the transaction has not been disclosed. The Vienna Stock Exchange is already a majority shareholder of two stock exchanges in Central and Eastern Europe, in Budapest and Ljubljana.
Around 1,500 people, including famous names, have attended the service in memory of Václav Kočka jr, the businessman who was shot dead last week shortly after a book signing by Social Democrat chairman Jiří Paroubek. The father of Mr Kočka, Václav Kočka sr., is a rich entrepreneur and a former advisor to opposition leader Jiří Paroubek. The family has in the past been accused of having links to organised crime.
The centre right government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Wednesday survived a no-confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament. The vote came in the wake of the ruling parties’ crushing defeat in regional elections last weekend. Prime Minister Topolánek’s government remains in office thanks to the coalition rebels who were reluctant to give an opening to the leftist opposition. Two rebels from the Green Party absented themselves from the vote and three Civic Democrat rebel MPs abstained from the vote. The no-confidence motion got 96 votes, 5 votes short of the 101 the opposition needed to bring down the government.