The minister for human rights and minorities Džamila Stehlíková said on Tuesday that she was prepared to give up her post in the centre-right government without any fuss in the interest of political stability. Ms. Stehlíková said she was pleased that the EU presidency considered human rights an important priority and said she expected her successor to complete the projects underway. They include barrier-free access and better living conditions for disabled people, gender equality and protecting the rights of senior citizens and children. The Czech Republic is due to host an international conference on gender equality in May.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Tuesday denied that Prague had a "peace plan" for the Middle East. Mr. Topolánek said he had been misquoted, when he told reporters that Prague had a certain scenario to halt fighting in Gaza, steps that could eventually lead to a ceasefire in the region and open border crossings. He refused to elaborate on the scenario. There has been a great deal of speculation about the Czech-led EU negotiations in the Middle East with Tuesday’s Lidové noviny saying that Israel had rejected the Czech peace proposals.
Czech Public Television has said it would apologize to President Vaclav Klaus for broadcasting footage of Mr. Klaus warming up ahead of his New Year’s address to the nation. The president was shown swinging his arms back and forth and doing some simple exercises as he prepared for the live transmission on New Year’s Day. Czech Television later used some of this footage in its Sunday current affairs programme without the president’s knowledge or permission. The head of Czech Television’s news and current affairs department Michal Petrov said he considered this a serious blunder and would personally apologize to the president. He said the person responsible would be punished in line with internal regulations.
The leadership of the Christian Democratic Party is trying to block the
prime minister’s attempt to dismiss party leader Jiří Čunek from the
government. Mr Čunek, who is deputy prime minister and regional
development minister, was to have been one of several ministers replaced
within a planned government re-shuffle, but its announcement was put off
after the leaders of the two smaller parties in the governing coalition
asked for extra time to debate the proposed changes with their party
leaderships. The leadership of the Christian Democrats has now backed its
chairman, proposing that Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, also of the
Christian Democrats, should be replaced instead.
The prime minister on Tuesday officially confirmed it had been his intention to replace Mr. Čunek, but his hands are now tied due to the government’s shaky position in Parliament and the fact that the Czech Republic currently presides over the European Union.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg who is leading an EU fact-finding mission to the Middle-East says a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip may take a few days to arrange. Mr. Schwarzenberg said that on Monday he had managed to speak with all parties involved and that things were slowly being set in motion, though he said a ceasefire should not be expected “today or tomorrow”. He said at the start of the mission that his immediate priorities were to arrange a ceasefire and get humanitarian aid into Gaza. Mr. Schwarzenberg is accompanied by the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner. Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on a separate mission in the Middle East and has been holding talks with leaders in Egypt, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank in a bid to secure a peace deal.
Close to sixty percent of Czechs do not want to see Communist Party representatives in high office, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency. Half of the respondents polled said they would like to restrict the influence of the communists on the country’s domestic and foreign policy. Just over a third of respondents, mainly older people, expressed support for the Communist Party.
President Klaus will not be attending the official celebrations marking the start of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency. Wednesday’s gala evening at Prague’s National Theatre will be attended by the country’s leading political and cultural figures. The organizers have prepared a rich cultural programme conceived by the Forman brothers, the sons of film director Milos Forman. The president’s spokesman Radim Ochvat gave no reason for the president’s absence. The news site Lidovky.cz has called it the president’s first public boycott of the EU presidency.
At a news conference in Prague on Tuesday the Czech Prime Minister Mirek
Topolánek and Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra
presented the priorities and programme of the Czech EU presidency. In
addition to the crises which have recently emerged in the Middle East and
over gas supplies from Russia, the country has longer–term goals which
have been dubbed the three Es – economy, energy and external relations.
Prime Minister Topolánek said it was now vitally important to minimize
the impact of the economic crisis on the European market and work on a
recovery plan for the economy. The Czech Republic also wants to open a
debate on nuclear safety.
A delegation of the European Commission is expected to visit Prague on Wednesday, when the official launch of the Czech presidency will take place. The following day Prague will host an informal meeting of EU ministers.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democrats has delayed the
announcement of a cabinet reshuffle. The leaders of the two smaller parties
in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, called
for the postponement, saying they wanted to discuss the proposed changes
with their party leaderships next Sunday. The prime minister has not said
which ministers will be changed, but there have been reports that Christian
Democrats chairman Jiří Čunek could be replaced as minister for regional
development. The news website ihned.cz reported that Mr Čunek has asked Mr
Topolánek to dismiss Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, a party rival of
The reshuffle expected on Monday was promised after poor results for the three parties in the governing coalition in Senate and regional elections in October. The Green Party’s minister for minorities and human rights, Džamila Stehlíková, has said she expects to be among the cabinet members replaced. As well as making changes to his cabinet, the prime minister is creating a new national economic council.
Thousands of Czechs registered for online sports betting on Monday, after online betting has become legal in the country. All those interested in betting online on sports results must personally register at a branch of one the Czech betting companies to prove they are over 18 years of age. Before online betting was legal, Czechs annually spent an estimated three to four billion crowns, or between 150 and 200 million dollars, on websites run by foreign companies.
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