The government has rejected the Civic Democratic Party's proposal of a one-off referendum bill on the EU Constitution. The three governing parties have produced their own referendum bill which is far broader and would enable a referendum to be held on any vital issues relating to the country's future. Both proposals will be debated in Parliament. The approval of either of those bills would open the door for Czechs to vote on the European Constitution. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said that the ratification of the EU Constitution is a top priority. The new Cabinet is expected to launch an information campaign on the EU Constitution within a matter of weeks. President Vaclav Klaus has already come out strongly against its ratification, publishing a brochure in which he enumerates all the possible pitfalls.
Support for the new government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek remains uncertain, with five Social Democratic Party deputies unwilling to accept the new government set up. The old-new government must ask for a vote of confidence in the lower house within 30 days of taking office and with its slim majority in Parliament the three party coalition needs the support of all its deputies. The opposition Civic Democrats and the Communists have said they will not support the new Cabinet. The five Social Democratic Party deputies whose vote is uncertain, say they would like to strengthen their party's influence in certain areas of government. Behind the scenes negotiations continue.
An Azerbaijani political refugee who was arrested on a brief visit to his homeland has been allowed to return to the Czech Republic. Professor Sadai Nazarov, who was granted political asylum in Czech Republic in 1997, returned to his homeland in January to visit his ailing father. He was arrested on treason charges and spent over three months in detention. His release was secured after weeks of intense diplomatic negotiations, when the Azerbaijani authorities agreed to halt legal proceedings against Nazarov. The 58 year old dissident arrived at Prague's Ruzyne airport in relatively good health and was met by family and friends.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has revealed that the Czech government may try and sell North Bohemia's Severoceske doly brown-coal mine after it completes the privatisation of Vitkovice Steel and Karlovy Vary's Thermal Hotel. Mr Sobotka, however, suggested that - on the whole - large privatisation deals in this election term were over. Since 2002 the Social Democrat-led government sold oil and chemicals group Unipetrol as well as the fixed-line giant Cesky Telecom. Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Mr Sobotka rejected speculation over the privatisation of power producer CEZ, Czech Airlines and the Czech Post, saying such sales were unrealistic and would not even be "kicked-off" at this time.
Footballer Milan Baros has been named to the line-up for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final which will see Baros' Liverpool face off against Chelsea. Liverpool is considered the underdog in the match-up, but could benefit from the Czech striker's speed. Baros had been doubtful for the match after receiving a minor knee injury in a league game at the weekend.
On Tuesday officials in Azerbaijan blocked its citizen Saday Nazarov from departing for Prague from Baku's airport, even though Mr Nazarov enjoys political asylum in the Czech Republic and has a valid refugee passport. Mr Nazarov, a former government advisor in his home country, was first detained in Azerbaijan in January - charged with "high treason". He had travelled to his homeland to visit his father, who was seriously ill. Mr Nazarov's return to the Czech Republic was expected Tuesday when it was planned he would meet with Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda. The Foreign Ministry has expressed hope that his case will now be resolved and that Azerbaijani officials will allow Mr Nazarov to return to Prague in one day's time.
Police in the west Bohemian region of Cheb have admitted for the first time that cases of child prostitution in the area are more widespread than previously revealed. Detective Jiri Istavnik told public broadcaster Czech TV that police in the area had investigated 7 cases of sexual abuse of minors by visiting tourists since 1997. Police also cited 60 cases in which youths' moral upbringing had been put under threat. Last week the subject of child prostitution again made headlines after a German television reporter from Pro 7 taped secret footage of a 12-year-old girl being offered for sexual favours. Until now police in Cheb had denied child prostitution in the area had gone beyond the isolated case.
The respected Czech science fiction author Josef Nesvadba has died at
the age of 78. Mr Nesvadba's family made the announcement on Tuesday
without disclosing further details. Josef Nesvadba's death comes as a
blow to the Czech sci-fi literature scene which he so influenced in the
1960s and 1980s, continuing in the philosophical footsteps of Czech
writers like Karel Capek and Jiri Weiss. His many works include
"Einstein's Brain" and "Hell Benes" (2002) - his final book.
In 2003 Mr Nesvadba was a key guest at the annual Prague Writer's Festival, where he debated the nature of speculative fiction with colleague and fellow sci-fi writer Ondrej Neff.
Social Democrat MP Jan Kavan has told Czech Radio he knows of "around" five Social Democrat members of parliament who may choose not to support the new government led by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. The government must face a confidence vote within 30 days. Mr Kavan told Czech Radio that he and colleague Vladimir Lastuvka would vote in favour of the new government if the Social Democrats were allowed a greater hand in foreign policy. But currently the Foreign Ministry falls under the jurisdiction of the Christian Democrats. The new prime minister, aware of Mr Kavan's and the other MPs' reservations, reminded them that if the current government fell it would lead only to early elections.
President Vaclav Klaus accepted the resignation of Stanislav Gross as
Prime Minister on Monday, ending weeks of political crisis. The Cabinet
was also dissolved, as is required by the Constitution, when a prime
minister resigns. Before tendering his official resignation, Mr Gross'
party, the Social Democrats, and their coalition partners, the Christian
Democrats and the Freedom Union, signed a deal for a new government. The
incoming prime minister is Jiri Paroubek, a vice chairman of the Social
Democratic party who was the Regional Development Minister in the previous
Stanislav Gross, a former interior minister, had led the government since last July; he remains Social Democrat party chairman. Calls for Mr Gross' resignation came after media coverage revealed that he had spent more to buy his Prague apartment than he could have afforded on a government salary. Mr Gross had offered several, contradictory explanations of how he had paid for the apartment. The controversial business dealings of his wife had also become a political issue.
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