The Czech authorities have taken action to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease to the Czech Republic. Border crossing points and all airports have been ordered to introduce tight security checks. Any food products confiscated from passengers as well as food left-overs from incoming flights from Great Britain and Northern Ireland are to be collected and destroyed at Prague's Bulovka hospital. At Ruzyne Airport all arrivals from Great Britain and Northern Ireland have to pass through a special disinfecting area.
The Freedom Union has been debating its role in the Four Party Coalition at a weekend conference in Hradec Kralove. The two day conference dashed hopes of the coalition integrating in future into a single right-wing party, and brought out into the open fresh controversy between the Freedom Union and Christian Democrats over the division of power within the alliance. Following its success in the Senate and local elections the Four Party Coalition has set its sights on breaking the power-sharing deal of the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party. However, political observers say that the task will not be an easy one since they appear to have trouble finding common ground on many important issues. At present they are trying to reach agreement on a fair division of seats in a shadow cabinet. The Freedom Union, which is to fill 7 seats, has approved a list of 14 candidates. It is making a bid for five key ministerial posts the ministry of foreign affairs, the finance ministry, the justice ministry, the ministry of labour and social affairs and the education ministry.
The governing Social Democratic Party is to have a leftist faction, which will be presented as a democratic alternative to the policies of the Czech Communist Party. Social Democrat Party leader Milos Zeman, who predicted some time ago that the Czech Communist Party would eventually be destroyed by the Social Democrats, has said he is not opposed to the idea of a leftist faction. The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has said he would support it, on condition that it would defend the principles of social justice, solidarity, freedom and self- administration. The Social Democrats lost part of their supporters to the Communist Party after striking an opposition agreement with the right-of centre Civic Democrats in 1998.
The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has begun a three-day official visit to Spain. Talks with Spanish top officials are expected to focus primarily on European integration and bilateral ties. Mr Zeman is accompanied by a large entourage of ministers and business leaders, among them Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik, Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr and Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl.
German border patrols are reported to have detained another batch of illegal migrants attempting to cross the Czech-German border. According to the CTK news agency the group of twenty eight foreign nationals, from India, Afghanistan and Vietnam was being smuggled across the border by two Czechs who are now being questioned by police. Austrian border patrols also detected and turned back a group of 17 illegal migrants attempting to cross the Czech Austrian border under cover of night. All are believed to be Armenian Kurds although none of them were found to have identity papers. In this case the smugglers managed to escape.
The governing Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party which has kept the minority government in power since the 1998 elections are due to meet for talks next Friday to discuss the future of the controversial opposition agreement. Under the opposition agreement, which is extremely unpopular with the electorate, the right of centre Civic Democrats agreed to keep the Social Democrats' minority government afloat in exchange for budget concessions and key parliament seats. The two parties have clashed recently on several key issues and the Civic Democrats have warned that if the governing party does not keep its part of the deal it will not get continued support. However the Social Democrats have also hardened their stance, saying that there are limits to the compromises they are prepared to make. Meanwhile, some members of the Four Party Coalition are calling for talks with Social Democrats on the possibility of joining forces if the opposition agreement breaks down.
Jan Hrebejk's Oscar-nominated film "Divided We Fall" was the hit of this years Czech Lion Film Awards. Nominated in six categories, the film won five awards, for best film, best director and best screenplay. Anna Siskova and Bolek Polivka who had lead roles in the film won best actress and best actor awards. Divided We Fall is to premiere in the United States this spring.
Sunday night should be cold and rainy with nighttime temperatures dropping to one to two degrees below zero. Monday should be overcast with morning frost, more scattered showers, and snow in the higher altitudes. Day temps between three and seven degs C.
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