The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says he has drawn up a plan
aimed at bringing an end to the current conflict in the Middle East. Mr
Topolánek, speaking as the president of the European Union, said he had
already discussed the proposal – which envisages a cease-fire between the
two sides – with leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and
the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Czech prime minister
said he also intended to discuss the plan with US President George Bush
later on Monday.
On Sunday a high-level European Union delegation led by the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, began a fact-finding mission to the Middle East, where Israeli forces have been attacking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the last week and a half.
There was a marked increase in the number of producers of organic food in the Czech Republic in 2008, according to figures presented in the January edition of the monthly Bio Obchod. Whereas at the end of 2007 there were just over 250 organic food producers in the country, at the end of last year that number had risen to over 400. There was also a 27-percent increase in the number of shops selling organic foodstuffs, and the Czech Republic’s two biggest bakeries started producing organic breads in 2008.
The supplies of Russian gas to the Czech Republic dropped by 9.5 percent on Monday. The Czech Republic’s biggest natural gas supplier RWE Transgas says it received 1.7 million cubic metres less gas than originally agreed with the Russian partner. The drop came after Sunday’s five-percent fall in the pressure of gas supplies to the Czech Republic due to a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over prices and payment. A number of other countries in the region have also seen reduced supplies of gas over the weekend.
A new species of venomous spider has been discovered in South Moravia. Named Eresus Movavicus by its discoverer, Milan Řezáč, it is one of the largest as well as most poisonous spiders in central Europe. Its sting can cause severe fever which can last several hours. The new species has already been registered with the World Spider Catalogue.
Around 50 cultural events will be held in the Czech Republic as part of the country’s six-month presidency of the EU, with the same number of events set to take place beyond the countries borders, officials said at a presentation on Monday. On Wednesday the first major cultural event of the presidency takes place at Prague’s National Theatre, featuring among others the Forman brothers, the twin sons of film director Miloš Forman. The Czech premiere of Ca Ira, a new opera by rock musician Roger Waters, a former member of Pink Floyd, will also be staged in Prague on May 1 as part of the Czech EU presidency’s cultural programme.
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.
For the first time Czech betting firms on Monday will launch online internet gambling: five of the largest gambling firms in the Czech Republic have been allowed by the Finance Ministry to operate the service. Gamblers who wish to bet on-line will first have to register in person at bricks and mortar betting shops. The service is expected to raise the amount spent on betting in the country, currently at around 12 billion crowns per year (the equivalent of around 622 million US dollars).
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Sunday that a spokesman for the EU presidency, currently held by Prague, had blundered in describing Israel's ground assault in Gaza as "defensive." "It was his personal mistake," he told Czech TV, adding it was a "serious one." On Saturday Jiří Potužník, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek's EU presidency spokesman, initially described the Israeli operation as "more defensive than offensive." and told AFP this was the position of the Czech prime minister for the European presidency. The Czech Foreign Ministry later changed tack, while Mr Potužník himself said his words had been misunderstood. The statement on Saturday was denounced by an aide close to the Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well by the radical movement Hamas.
The Czech EU presidency has called for the negotiation of a ceasefire in reaction to Israel’s launch of ground operations in the Gaza Strip. Israel sent troops and tanks into Gaza after a week of air strikes, intensifying operations to try and stop rocket attacks by militants. Earlier, an emergency UN Security Council meeting failed to see agreement on a united approach to the conflict in Gaza. More than 400 Palestinians were killed in air strikes in the preceding days: ground clashes have seen dozens of additional casualties on both sides, sources have reported.
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