The right wing opposition TOP 09 is trying to get Ludek Niedermayer, former vice-governor of the Czech central bank, to head its list of candidates in the May election to the European Parliament, daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Friday. Niedermayer, now Director of Consulting at Deloitte Czech Republic, worked for eight years as vice-governor of the Czech National Bank and has been close to TOP 09 senior officials, especially to its leader, former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
President Miloš Zeman is visiting Czech troops stationed in Afghanistan,
the first Czech head of state to do so. Mr Zeman, who arrived in Kabul on
Friday, has also met with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. The Czech
president visited military installations in Kabul and Bagram where handed
out parcels with Czech food products and
films. Mr Zeman is set to return to the Czech Republic on Sunday.
There are more than 260 Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s ISAF mission who are set to withdraw later this year, along with other allied troops. Mr Zeman was scheduled to visit the troops at the end of last year but had to postpone the visit due to health issues.
TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg has called for greater public responsibility for the future of the country. In a speech delivered on Three Kings Day, Mr. Schwarzenberg said that in the past year certain groups and individuals had tested and sometimes crossed the limits of their powers in a democratic state and it was disconcerting that the public had reacted with apathy and disinterest to this threat. The TOP 09 leader said he realized that people had good reason to be disenchanted with Czech politics, as he himself often was, but he said the only way to affect a moral rebirth was for the public to be more aware and take greater responsibility for the fate of democracy in the country.
Former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg visited Ukraine over the weekend, openly comparing demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square with the 1989 Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution. The Top 09 leader undertook the visit as an ostensible fact-finding mission in his new capacity as the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee. However, back home he has found himself the target of criticism for his vocal support of the opposition. I spoke to Mister Schwarzenberg about the trip and began by asking him why he went:
A former Czech minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, took part in a demonstration in support of Ukraine’s pro-Western opposition on Kiev’s Independence Square on Saturday. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who currently chairs the Czech lower house’s foreign affairs committee, was quoted by a local news website as saying the demonstrators were showing the entire world their desire to forge closer ties with the European Union. Protests began in Ukraine after the government of President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the EU last month, apparently under pressure from Russia. On Sunday the Czech EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said the bloc was suspending talks with Kiev on the agreement.
The chief of the general staff of the Czech Army, General Petr Pavel, was at an airport base in Kabul on Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of international troops leaving the base. No casualties were reported among the soldiers in the convey, who belong to NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). No Czech soldiers were injured. General Pavel continued with his visit once the alert at the NATO base was lifted.
Dublin has become the first city in Europe, and only second in the world, to dedicate a memorial to the late Czech president Václav Havel. The monument entitled Havel’s Place was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, and former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, on Tuesday. Mayor Quinn told Radio Prague it was an honour for his city to pay homage to the late human rights champion.
Karel Schwarzenberg was reelected leader of TOP 09 at the party’s conference in Prague on Sunday. He received 160 votes from an overall 173 delegates present. In his address to the conference Mr. Schwarzenberg said that, despite having been relegated to opposition benches, the party was in a good starting position to fulfill its ambitions. He said its main task now was to work for the good of the country and defend parliamentary democracy. Deputy chair Miroslav Kalousek, who likewise defended his position in the party leadership, echoes these sentiments, warning against Andrej Babis’s ANO party which he said presented an extreme corruption risk in view of its leaders business activities and ambitions.