Regional and Senate elections took place in the Czech Republic over the weekend in which the opposition Social Democrats defeated the parties of the governing coalition. The strongest opposition party scored a comprehensive victory, winning in all of the 13 regions of the Czech Republic. Social Democrat candidates also made it to the second round in all but one of the 27 electoral districts for the Senate where the poll was held. The relatively high turnout – just over 40 percent – suggests that Czech voters took these elections more seriously
Czech top officials have welcomed a statement by US President George Bush according to which seven countries, including the Czech Republic, have met the criteria for the US visa waiver programme and would be given visa-free status with a month’s time. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said the abolition of US visas for Czech citizens would remove one of the last remnants of the Cold War era and further deepen good relations between the two countries. Although no date has been announced, Czech officials have indicated that it will most likely be November 17th, the anniversary of the student protests that led to the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.
A brass band opens the Gratias Agit award ceremony in Prague's Černínský palác on Friday. The ceremony itself, and the party that follows, are in the words of Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg the single biggest event staged by the Czech Foreign Ministry each year. On Friday, the awards were given to a handful of exceptional individuals from around the world, a few of whom we'll be talking to later. But first, here's organiser Zuzana Opletalová explaining what the awards are about:
A 21-member Czech patrol came under fire in the province of Logar in Afghanistan on Wednesday, an attack that left a number of their assailants dead and seven Czech soldiers injured, one of them seriously. The Czech convoy came under attack around four kilometres from the Shank base, the same day that the government approved a plan to increase the number of Czech personnel in the Afghan mission in 2009.
The former Czech president Václav Havel has just been awarded the German Point Alpha Prize for his contribution to German, and European, unification. Tuesday’s ceremony did not take place at the usual venue – the former border between East and West Germany – but at the German Embassy in Prague. The embassy itself has also been marking an important chapter in its own history.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama briefly mentioned the Czech Republic along with other eastern European states in Friday’s presidential debate with Republican opponent John McCain. The comments came as the candidates discussed the perceived threat posed by Russia, particularly in light of its recent invasion of Georgia. Addressing the issue, Mr Obama stated that as a NATO country “We also have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region…the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Czechs, that we are, in fact, going to be supportive and in solidarity with them in their efforts.”
Czech president Václav Klaus is to depart for a five day working trip to the US. Among the stops on the official itinerary are Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington and Phoenix, Arizona. The president will promote an English-language version of his controversial “anti-global-warming” book and also meet with business leaders and politicians during the trip.
Two Czech soldiers, who were injured in Monday’s attack on the Czech Provincial and Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, arrived in Prague on Wednesday. The rocket attack by Afghan insurgents has been the third since the second army contingentwas deployed in the Afghan province of Logar, and the security situation in Afghanistan is further deteriorating.
The Czech government approved the second of two agreements on Wednesday on the stationing of an American radar base on Czech soil, as part of the planned U.S. missile defence shield. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová told reporters the agreement would be signed by her American counterpart on September 19th in London. Once that happens, the only thing standing in the way of the radar base would be approval by the Czech parliament. But as Rob Cameron reports, that remains a considerable obstacle.
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