Separately, Mirek Topolánek said the outgoing Czech government does not plan to boost its measures to deal with the economic crisis. The stimulus given so far is worth around 180 billion crowns, he said on Sunday. Measures proposed but still to be adopted include changes to the law on income tax allowing faster write-offs of assets by business, cuts in social insurance payments made by employers and amendments to the insolvency law. The Social Democrats have said they would back faster write-offs and insolvency changes but have problems with the social insurance changes, one of the government’s main measures. The lower house should hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss the crisis package.
Czech President Václav Klaus has expressed surprise at the announcement his country will back Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski as the new head of NATO. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg announced support for his Polish counterpart on Saturday. In a statement released by his office, President Klaus, who under the constitution is head of the Czech armed forces, said the issue had not been discussed at any relevant forum and that Mr Schwarzenberg must have been expressing a personal opinion. NATO leaders are due to meet next week to decide on a replacement for the current Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The favourite in the race so far is Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The Czech Republic’s football team produced a goalless bore draw in the World Cup qualification away match against Slovenia on Saturday night. Captain Tomáš Ujfaluši also picked up a yellow card which will result in him missing Wednesday’s home tie against Slovakia. The Czech team was attacked at home for an anaemic performance. But manager Petr Rada took comfort from the away point which puts his team third in the group with eight points, the same as Slovenia, but behind Slovakia and top of the table Northern Ireland.
The Czech state veterinary service has announced a new case of so-called mad cow disease or BSE in a cow in the north of the country. The State Veterinary Office said around 200 cattle would have to be killed as a result. The infected cow was detected during a regular check after it had already been slaughtered. The Czech Republic last reported two cases of BSE in cows in 2007.
The Czech Republic has said it will back Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski as the new head of NATO. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg announced support for his Polish counterpart a week ahead of a NATO meeting which should decide on the replacement for the current Secretary General, Dutchnman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The favourite in the race so far is Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The Czech football team will take on Slovenia on Saturday evening in Maribor for a key World Cup qualification match. Much of the pre-match attention has been on whether Czech striker Milan Baroš will lead the attack after the manager’s comments that his place was not certain. The two teams are both among a group of four countries with seven points so far with group leaders Slovakia on nine. The Czech Republic won the home game against Slovenia 1 – 0 in October.
A two-day informal EU foreign affairs meeting concluded on Saturday at the South Bohemian town of Hluboká after focussing on bringing in countries from the Balkans. EU foreign ministers backed offering membership to countries in the Western Balkans once they meet EU entry conditions and dropping visa conditions as soon as possible. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg insisted at the meeting that the Balkans are part of Europe and should be part of the EU too. But that view is not shared by all 27 EU countries. Mr Schwarzenberg also warned that EU members and candidates feared the ongoing Czech political crisis could disrupt ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and the entry of new members.
The war of words between Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and President Václav Klaus over the government’s fall was splashed across the pages of Saturday’s Mladá Fronta Dnes. In an interview with the paper President Klaus said the Prime Minister’s accusations that he plotted to topple the government with opposition leader Jiří Paroubek and Prague mayor Pável Bem were “simply lies.” He added that Mr Topolánek had never identified with the Civic Democratic Party’s basic ideas. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told the paper President Klaus had campaigned to get rid of him as soon as he was elected party leader in 2002 but he had tried to cover up the poor state of their relations.
US President Barack Obama is likely to have a lower key start to his Prague visit than local politicians had hoped, the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. It reported the US President has opted for a private dinner in a Czech restaurant with his wife after he touches down in Prague on April 4 rather than an official visit to Prague Castle and the Czech President. Czech organisers have been somewhat taken aback that the whole programme has a more private character then they envisaged, the paper adds. The meeting between US and President Václav Klaus is due to take place early on April 5.
The Japanese electronics giant Hitachi has announced it will shut a recently opened Czech plant producing plasma televisions because of falling prices and demand. The plant, employing 800 in the unemployment black spot of Žatec, should shut by the end of March. Hitachi only opened the 85 million dollar plant in 2007. The Czech government has said that the incentives used to attract the Japanese company, such as tax breaks and cheap land, will have to be repaid. The closure is one of the biggest announced in the country since the onset of the world economic crisis.
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