Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has blamed the poor gas flow to Europe on weak pressure, the Czech EU presidency said on Tuesday. In a phone conversation with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who brokered the agreement on the resumption of gas supplies to Europe, Prime Minister Tymoshenko blamed technical difficulties, specifically the pressure of gas arriving from the Russian Federation being too low. According to the Czech presidency she "promised to act" on a recommendation from Mr. Topolánek that Ukrainian authorities seek assistance from European gas experts "immediately." Earlier a spokesman for Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz said that Kiev had blocked the transit of gas to Europe because of "unacceptable transit conditions" imposed by Russian energy giant Gazprom.
The six day halt in deliveries has hit Europe hard, with some states, such as Slovakia and Bulgaria, declaring an energy emergency. The Czech EU presidency on Monday stressed the need for the EU to speed up work on a common energy policy.
Bulgaria has said it is deeply offended by its representation in the EU mosaic in Brussels made by the controversial Czech artist David Černý. The massive temporary art installation uses stereotypes to depict EU member states in a highly provocative way, with Bulgaria depicted as a Turkish toilet. Bulgaria’s spokesperson at the European Council Bettina Yotevova said the work was extremely insulting. The artwork, which was put up on Monday and is expected to be unveiled on Thursday, has sparked enormous controversy. Moreover it has come to light that the group of 26 international artists who were said to have cooperated on the project with the controversial young artist David Černý do not exist and the work is Černý’s alone. After issuing a denial, the artist allegedly admitted the fact to the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra. Mr. Vondra said he was deeply shocked by the revelation. The artist has apologized for misleading government officials. He tried to defend his action by explaining that mystification was part of modern art.
Senator Daniela Filipiová is to become the country’s new health minister. A senator for the Civic Democratic Party, Ms Filipiová said she intended to continue with the health reform set in motion by her predecessor, the outgoing health minister Tomas Julínek. A long-serving member on the Senate’s health care committee, Ms Filipiová is said to have a good understanding of the problems involved. She said she would search for compromises that would make the health reform more-widely acceptable.
Health Minister Tomas Julínek has criticized Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s decision to replace him, calling it shortsighted. Mr. Julínek is leaving the post after two years in office, with Mr Topolánek saying he had failed to explain his health care reform to the public and gain the coalition parties' support for it. The health fees which he introduced at the beginning of last year were believed to be one of the main reasons for the coalition’s poor showing in October’s regional and Senate elections. Mr. Julínek said on Tuesday that the decision to replace him had come at the worst possible moment, in view of the global economic crisis. He said that the Czech health sector would most likely be in the red this year and predicted that next year could be even worse, arguing that he was the most competent person to deal with such an emergency.
The former Czech president Václav Havel is reported to have undergone minor surgery at Prague’s Motol hospital and is said to be in a stable condition. Hospital spokeswoman Eva Jurinová declined to give any details regarding the operation. Mr. Havel’s website said he had been hospitalized in connection with an "inflammatory disease" and would remain in medical care for a few more days.
The Czech Republic wants to use its EU presidency to work for better international protection of children, Czech Police President Oldrich Martinu told journalists after a meeting of police chiefs from several EU states and Europol representatives in Prague on Tuesday. Among its priorities are establishing a more effective system to trace missing children across the EU and taking effective measures to curb child porn on the Internet.
Lenka Pavlová, head of the Czech Office for International Legal Protection of Children, has announced that she is leaving her post for personal reasons. Deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister Marian Hošek is to take over her agenda on a temporary basis. Ms. Pavlová has been in the post for just over a year.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has not ruled out a bailout for the group Bohemia Crystalex Trading, which is in bankruptcy proceedings. The minister made the statement in response to an appeal for help from the glass manufacturer’s managers and trade unions who have sought to find a means of keeping the group afloat. Mr. Kalousek said that a financial injection from the state would have to be based on guarantees that the companies’ losses would not deepen and that renewed production would gradually start making a profit. Analysts have put the down-turn in the Czech glass-making business to a lack of inventiveness and new design, saying that thanks to its skilled glass masters the business still has a chance to recover.
The next few days are expected to be overcast with day temperatures ranging between minus one and minus five degrees Celsius.
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