President Václav Klaus met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Prague on Thursday. The Czech head of state said that he wanted to make the EU project “Eastern Partnership” with six former post-Soviet nations a real partnership, which he currently does not consider it to be. He added that he hopes other EU member states would make an effort to get the initiative off the ground. The two heads of state also discussed the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a landlocked area in the South Caucasus that is the subject of a long-standing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Mr Klaus showed understanding for the Azerbaijani position, stating that he would not appreciate it either if a part of his country’s territory was occupied by someone else.
In related news, the government coalition seems to be considering reducing the number of ministries by three. Sources from inside both the Civic Democrats and Public Affairs on Thursday told the Czech News Agency ČTK that the culture, environment and regional development ministries could be scrapped within the government’s cost cutting measures. Under this new plan, the Ministry of Culture could be merged with the Education Ministry, while the other two ministries would fall under the Ministry of Agriculture. Should the coalition go ahead with this step, each of the three coalition parties would loose one portfolio.
Czech President Václav Klaus told the French TV station France 24 that the common European currency was a “catastrophic project riddled with faults”. He added that a public debate about joining the Eurozone was not taking place in Czech Republic and that therefore, no timeframe for when this would be the case had been determined. Speaking on the issue of the fiscal compact, the Czech president said that his country’s government had refused to join the agreement because it would have transferred the nation’s state budget responsibility to Brussels. Mr Klaus was speaking to reporters from the TV network on Monday, on occasion of a visit to Paris. The interview will air on Friday.
Police in the Moravian city of Ostrava have arrested a 37-year-old man who is suspected of having turned his illegal methamphetamine lab into a family business. According to officers, the man, who had been charged with illegally producing the drug in the past, was running the lab with his partner, a friend and his wife, as well as two other individuals. Social workers are taking care of the couple’s children, who were present when the man and his partner were arrested. Police suspect that the man had been producing methamphetamine since 2008 and sold half a million crowns worth of the drug since last fall, when they started monitoring him. If found guilty, he faces a prison sentence of up to ten years.
The leader of the National Socialists, Jiří Paroubek, has said that the government’s resignation was inevitable. He added that the opposition should table a vote of no-confidence in government within the next two weeks. He also called on all other opposition parties to support his push for early elections. Public Affairs were not a coalition partner, he said, but a strange group that “embodies all that was wrong with Czech politics in the past 20 years”. He accused them of spying on people, political stalking and sectarianism.
In related news, Mr Nečas made it clear that further budget cuts had to be made and that his government was not prepared to budge from planned austerity measures that would bring the state budget deficit below three percent GDP in 2013. The prime minister stressed that while he was ready to accept some of the coalition partner’s demands, the government was not flexible on its program’s priorities.
The trial against Public Affairs de-facto leader Vít Bárta went into its final stage on Thursday. Mr Bárta faces corruption charges related to payments he made to Public Affairs deputies. The hearings on Thursday continue with the testimony of Public Affairs MP Kristýna Kočí, as well as a recorded phone conversation in which top party officials discuss the pension reform. If convicted, Mr Bárta will face up to six years in jail. The court is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday.
According to snap surveys from the Median Agency, some 80 percent of the Czech population would welcome early elections. Another 16 percent of respondents polled said they were against this solution to the current government crisis, while the remaining four percent said they were not sure what the best solution was. Should snap elections take place, about 50 percent said they would prefer them to be held in the summer, while 39 percent said early elections should be held in the fall, in conjunction with the Senate and regional elections, which are set to take place in autumn.
Top party officials from the government coalition’s Civic Democrats and junior coalition partner Public Affairs on Thursday announced that in their effort to find common ground, they had not yet managed to reach an agreement. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said a decision on the future of the government, which found itself in the midst of a crisis precipitated by Public Affairs earlier this week, could be expected on Tuesday, as had previously been announced. Previously, Public Affairs officials said the party would quit the coalition by the end of the month unless the number of ministries was reduced by three and the coalition agreement was revised.
Galatasaray Istanbul and Czech international striker Milan Baroš broke his nose at his team’s training session and underwent surgery to fix it, the Turkish club’s website reported on Thursday. The accident reportedly took place when Baroš clashed with defender Gökhan Zan. The 30-year-old footballer is out for at least one game of the Turkish Süper Lig and might have to wear a protective mask when he returns.
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