Daily news summary News

01-05-2009

Interim prime minister willing to discuss cabinet line-up

The interim prime minister, Jan Fischer, has said he is willing to discuss the proposed cabinet line-up after shocking political leaders with his own choice of candidates. Mr. Fischer was selected for the post of interim prime minister under an agreement between the two strongest parties in Parliament who expected to push through their own candidates for various ministerial posts. However Mr. Fischer deviated from the planned scenario and the list of candidates which he presented to President Vaclav Klaus on Friday included several unexpected names, the most controversial of which appears to be the nominee for finance minister Jaroslav Míl.

The outgoing prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said he was surprised by the move and indicated that the proposed line-up would not win a vote of confidence in Parliament. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek likewise criticized the proposed line-up, saying he expected further negotiations. President Klaus has not commented on the development.

The Fisher cabinet was expected to take over on May 8th and lead the country to early elections in October. It is not clear if this unexpected hurdle will delay its appointment.

Twenty people being tested for swine flu virus

The Czech health authorities on Friday ruled out another suspected case of swine flu, twenty more people are being tested. The authorities have tightened security measures at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport and people arriving from Mexico now have to undergo thermal screening before being allowed to enter the country.

EU countries to decide individually on travel restrictions

In a related development, EU health ministers on Thursday rejected a French call to suspend all EU flights to Mexico, leaving it up to individual member states to decide on whether or not to introduce restrictive measures. Czech Health Minister Daniela Filipiová, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 27 member block, said she considered the EU to be well prepared for a possible pandemic.

Czech fighter jets police Baltic air-space

Four Czech military fighter jets have started policing the airspace of the Baltic countries within a rotating NATO security operation. The four Gripen planes will police the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who do not have the means to protect their airspace and rely on NATO allies for assistance. In September the Czech Gripens will be replaced by Danish F-16 fighter jets. This is the first time that the Czech Republic’s air force has been deployed in a foreign operation since the end of World War II.

Lukashenko will not attend Eastern Partnership summit in Prague

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko will not take part in the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit due to be held in Prague on May 7th, the CTK news agency reported on Friday, citing a source close to the Czech EU presidency. According to the source, Belarus will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko. President Lukashenko has come under fire for his authoritarian style of rule and there were mixed feelings about whether Belarus should be invited to the summit. President Klaus made it clear that he would not be welcome at Prague Castle if he did arrive.

The Eastern Partnership scheme aims to forge closer ties between the EU and six former Soviet republics, a plan that has angered Moscow. It aims to accelerate political and economic reforms in the region in return for EU support and concessions of trade and travel. While the Czech EU presidency has championed the project some of the old EU member states remain lukewarm about the idea.

May Day rallies and gatherings held across the country on Labour Day

May Day rallies were held in many parts of the country on Friday. The Communists and Social Democrats held separate rallies to mark Labour Day while the centre-right Civic Democrats traditionally met on Prague’s Petrin Hill for a happening aimed to attract predominantly young people who go to Petrin to mark the Czech version of St. Valentine’s Day on May 1st. Far-right groups and anarchists also held gatherings, the biggest taking place in the Moravian city of Brno where police were out in force for the event.

Flu medicine only available on an ID

As of May 1st Czechs will no longer be able to buy flu medication containing pseudoefedrine over the counter. In line with a new amendment to the law flu medicine such as Coldrex or Stopgrip will only be sold to people in small amounts on the basis of a health insurance card and ID. The move is an attempt to curb abuse of the substance in the production of the illegal street drug pervitin. However it involves putting personal data into a central evidence system and some pharmacies will not be selling flu medicine at all for fear of violating the privacy law. The matter is being investigated by the Office for Protection of Private Data.

Some deputies want age of consent and criminal liability to remain unchanged

The lower house of Parliament on Thursday passed an amendment to the penal code which would leave the age of criminal liability and the age of consent as it is at age 15. The amendment was drafted by the Communist Party in reaction to the new penal code which was due to lower the age of criminal liability and the age of consent to 14 as of 2010. Experts have criticized the move and in signing the penal code President Klaus likewise called it disputable. Both the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats say it was a big mistake.

Fifteen-year-old seriously injured by hit-and-run driver

A 15-year-old girl is in serious condition after being hit by a terrain vehicle in Prague 10. The incident happened after dark during the annual witch-burning-celebrations that take place on the eve of May 1st. Police are searching for the hit-and-run driver. Eyewitnesses say the girl wandered away from the bonfire and lay down in the grass on a clearing where the driver presumably failed to see her. By the time her friends reached her side the driver had made off. The police suspect that some of the people present knew who he was.

Weather

The next few days are expected to be partly cloudy with intervals of rain and shine and day temperatures between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius.

01-05-2009