The Czech Minister for Legislation, an independent nominated by the ruling
Social Democrats, tendered his resignation on Wednesday, making good on
promise of last week to quit the Cabinet should all ministers not agree to
step down en masse by this time. Jaroslav Bures is the fifth minister to
resign from government in recent days.
The ministers of foreign affairs, the environment and transport -- all three Christian Democrats -- quit last week, after their party left the governing coalition of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. They did so in protest of Mr Gross' failure to explain away allegations of questionable family business dealings. The Minister of Informatics, Vladimir Mlynar, resigned after Mr Gross survived a related no-confidence vote on Friday, thanks onlt to the abstention of Communist deputies.
Meanwhile, the ministers of justice and defence, like Mr Mlyar, both members of the centre-right Freedom Union party, have said they will remain in the government until at least next week when Prime Minister Gross is expected to decide about a collective resignation of the Cabinet.
A British taxi company has begun actively recruiting drivers in the Czech Republic due to a shortage of applicants in the United Kingdom. Station Taxis, which is based in Darlington, County Durham, has even set up a training school in Prague. Three Czech drivers are now working for the British firm and another four are expected to arrive in the U.K. by the end of the month.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross wants to link a confidence vote in his Cabinet to a bill on lower taxes. The news has evoked strong criticism from the President and the opposition Civic Democrats. President Klaus said this strategy would amount to an unacceptable delay in holding the vote. The opposition Civic Democrats said that not even the best possible law could compensate for the Prime Minister's lack of credibility.
At 61 percent, the Czech public's satisfaction with the economy is at its highest level in eight years, according to a mid-February poll by the CVVM agency. The last time the public had been so optimistic in this regards was in 1997, following a package of austerity measures adopted by the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, the current Czech president. The CVVM poll found that just over one year ago, in January 2004, only 41 percent of the Czech public was satisfied with how the economy.
The Czech Republic has among the highest number of women in the workplace in the whole of European Union, the daily Pravo reports, citing a newly released study. Some 44 percent of Czech women of working age are employed or self-employed, it said, and only Finland, Lithuania and Romania have a higher percentage of women in the workplace.
President Vaclav Klaus said on Monday he would not accept the resignations
of the four ministers who have given notice in recent days, until it
becomes clear exactly which other ministers intend to remain in the
The Minister of Information Technology, Vladimir Mlynar, tendered his resignation on Saturday, following the results of a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Stanislav Gross the previous day. The ministers of foreign affairs, the environment, and transportation resigned early last week when their party, the Christian Democrats, withdrew from the governing coalition in protest over Mr Gross' refusal to step down following the release of controversial information about his personal finances and the business dealings of his wife.
Mr Mlynar, a member of the centre-right Freedom Union, said he would not remain in a government that relied on the tacit support of the Communists; Mr Gross survived the no-confidence vote only because the Communist deputies abstained from it. The prime minister has promised to call for a parliamentary vote of confidence in the minority government he now leads, but a date for this vote has not yet been set.
President Vaclav Klaus told journalists on Monday that calls to link that vote with the passage of certain legislation would amount to an unacceptable delay in holding the vote, of perhaps months.
French police have begun questioning several people after seizing 100 kilogram's of Semtex explosive hidden in a truck in the northern town of Hazebrouck. The operation on Saturday was part of an investigation into organised crime. Semtex - a Czech-made plastic explosive - has been used by various terrorist groups. The French prosecutor's office has said it believes that the Semtex seized at the weekend was to be divided up and sold to criminal gangs, rather than to terrorists.
The leader of the Freedom Union, Pavel Nemec, has asked Prime Minister
Stanislav Gross to hold a meeting to discuss the future of the
government. The Freedom Union, which is the smaller party in the
coalition with the Social Democrats, has decided to leave the
government if the entire cabinet refuses to resign. On Friday, the
minority government narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, thanks
to the Communists who abstained from the vote. On Saturday, Freedom
Union Information Technology Minister, Vladimir Mlynar, sent his
resignation to the government office, saying he could not be in a
government that needs the Communists to stay in power.
Meanwhile, a senior Social Democrat MP, Michal Kraus, said in a TV discussion programme on Sunday that the cabinet would not resign as it would lead to the fall of the government and the rise to power of the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Mr Kraus stressed that his party would stay on as a minority government even if the Freedom Union were to depart. In such a case, the Social Democrats would have a mere 70 seats in the 200 seat lower house.
Pope John Paul II, the first Slav head of the Catholic Church in history,
died at just after nine-thirty on Saturday evening. At noon on Sunday,
church bells tolled throughout the country to honour the Pontiff. To the
head of the Czech Catholic Church, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Pope was a
great person who led an untiring fight for human rights, both before and
after the end of the Cold War. The priest and former Czech dissident Tomas
Halik pointed to his personal charisma and to his symbolic significance.
Although most Czechs are not practising Catholics - only some four percent of the population attend mass regularly - Pope John Paul II was very popular in the Czech Republic and hugely respected for his role in helping to bring about the fall of communism. Czech was one of the many languages that the Pope spoke, and he visited the Czech Republic three times during his papacy, firstly in 1990 - less than a year after the fall of communism. To the former Czech President and former dissident, Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II was "his wise and understanding confessor" who gave him hope and the strength to cherish life.