Pernstejn Castle near the city of Brno has been damaged by a fire which started around 6 am on Friday. A collapsed roof is thought to have destroyed a store containing valuable furniture and around 300 paintings. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but the damage is estimated at around 100 million Czech crowns (over 4 million US dollars). The Gothic-Renaissance castle is considered one of the finest in Moravia; it was built in the 13th century and belonged to the Pernstejn noble family.
A new poll conducted by the CVVM agency suggests that around seventy-five percent of Czechs believe that politicians should resign over unclear property or financial situations even if it has not been proved that they broke the law. The respondents were much less critical of infidelity in marriage; only 25 percent of them considered it as a reason for resignation from a political post. Respondents were also very critical of unauthorised use of academic titles.
Meanwhile, the national committee of the second largest coalition
party, the Christian Democrats, has approved the original agreement of
the three parties and even nominated their candidates for the vacated
ministerial posts. Party chairman Miroslav Kalousek has called on the
Social Democrats to approve the original deal.
Thursday's events mark another turn in a drawn-our crisis in the Czech government coalition which started two months ago after the Christian Democrats called on Prime Minister Stanislav Gross to step down over the controversy surrounding the financing of his Prague flat and his wife's business dealings.
Stanislav Gross held the post of Czech prime minister for less than a year. He took over from Vladimir Spidla, who resigned last June after government parties - including his Social Democrats - were routed in the European Parliament elections. Mr Gross also replaced Mr Spidla as chairman of the Social Democrats. While known as a negotiator rather than a visionary, the European Union's youngest prime minister and former railway worker failed in weeks of talks to win enough backing from his political colleagues to continue amid a scandal over his family's finances.
Czech international goalkeeper Petr Cech is one of six players short listed for the English Professional Footballers' Association's prestigious player of the year award, after an extremely successful first season at Chelsea. The 22-year-old, who comes from the west Bohemian town of Plzen, has set a number of records in the Premier League. He was recently voted second best goalkeeper in the world.
The leadership of the Social Democratic Party has not approved Thursday's
agreement with the other two parties of the collapsed ruling coalition,
the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. The parties originally
agreed to re-join forces and form a new cabinet, allowing Prime Minister
Stanislav Gross to resign after months of turmoil and averting early
elections but the Social Democrats have not ratified the agreement. The
chairman of the lower house, Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek, said that
the party's leadership insists on their earlier proposal to form a
pro-European coalition cabinet which would not include the leaders of the
three coalition parties.
The deal, approved by the three parties' negotiators in the early hours of Thursday meant to pave the way for Prime Minister Stanislav Gross to quit over a housing scandal and be replaced, probably by his preferred candidate, European Union ambassador and rank-and-file Social Democrat Jan Kohout.
Earlier, the leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, called for the formation of a coalition of all parties except the Communists, which would lead the country to early elections in November. Under this proposal, such elections would be held at the same time as a referendum on the European Union Constitution. None of the parties concerned have welcomed the plan.
The three parties in the collapsed coalition are meeting once again to try
to form a new government without Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. Mr Gross's
Social Democrats have proposed forming a "pro-European"
semi-technocrat government headed by career diplomat Jan Kohout; it would
run the country until general elections in mid-2006.
Meanwhile, the Christian Democrats say they want nothing less than a new coalition agreement. They recently left the government in protest at Mr Gross's presence as prime minister, after he became involved in a financial scandal.
The Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica has bought a majority stake in Cesky Telecom. Under a contract signed in Prague on Tuesday, Telefonica will pay the Czech government 82.6 billion crowns for its 51.1 percent shares in the company. The government will use the revenue to finance social and environmental projects, cover the losses of the bail-out agency Ceska Konsolidacni Agentura and to implement the planned pension reform.
Representatives from the Czech automaker Skoda Auto have signed a licensing agreement in China for the production of the company's "flagship" Octavia model in that country in 2006. Skoda's parent company Volkswagen, already produces models in China. While the Skoda models have also been planned for the Chinese market, eventual export to neighbouring countries has not been ruled out. Full production will come underway by 2007 when Skoda Auto estimates it could produce at least 40, 000 cars in China.
A control test by the State Veterinary Administration has confirmed the Czech Republic's 18th case of BSE. A five-year-old cow in the region of Central Bohemia was found to be infected with the disease the third case this year. Some 260 animals will be put down. Since 2001, some 750, 000 cattle have been tested for the disease; despite the 18th positive case, the State Veterinary Administration has said it does not expect a significant increase in BSE infection in cattle in the Czech Republic.