The new Czech prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, has laid out the policy
programme of his coalition government. At a news conference in Prague on
Tuesday, the prime minister said its main objective would be to ratify the
European Union Constitution. He said he hoped the issue would be put to a
public referendum at the same time as general elections next summer. The
prime minister also said he would support exports and small and
Mr Paroubek's new government faces its first test on Friday, when it will undergo a vote of confidence. The prime minister says he is positive it will receive the backing of all 101 government deputies.
The Olga Havlova Award has been presented to a group called Zrcadlo (Mirror), which shares its experiences of mental health problems with other sufferers. The committee of the Olga Havlova Goodwill Committee also paid tribute to Kuman Vishwanathan, an Indian man who set up a "Coexistence Village" to encourage white Czechs and Romanies to live together in north Moravia. Olga Havlova, the highly respected wife of former president Vaclav Havel, died of cancer in 1996.
During his visit to Moscow, President Vaclav Klaus expressed criticism at the fact that the former Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski was among those who received medals from the Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Before leaving Moscow, President Klaus told President Putin that despite Mr Jaruzelski's role in the defeat of Nazism, for Czech citizens he remained a symbol of the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. Wojciech Jaruzelski was Poland's Defence Minister when Polish units, along with Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian and East German troops invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, putting an end to the reforms of the Prague Spring.
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Margot Wallstrom, who's on a visit to the Czech Republic, has presented her ten arguments in favour of the adoption of the EU Constitution. The CTK news agency wrote that although she never mentioned the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Ms Wallstrom's ten arguments came across as a response to Mr Klaus's ten objections to the EU Constitution that he recently published. While Mr Klaus warns that European countries will lose their right to create their own laws and the Czech Republic's decision-making power will be reduced, Ms Wallstrom argues that the constitutional treaty will bring fairer and more efficient decision-making in the EU and will simplify its legal system.
On Monday, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus joined his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and over 50 other world leaders for a ceremony in Moscow marking the victory over Nazi Germany. Some critics, including former President Vaclav Havel, have questioned the attendance of Central and Eastern European leaders, pointing out that the liberation from Nazi Germany by the Red Army resulted in several decades of authoritarian Soviet communist rule. President Klaus said that the liberation of Czechoslovakia and the later political development in Central Europe could not be confused.
Following his Moscow visit President Klaus told reporters that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was planning a visit to the Czech Republic. Mr Putin has never paid an official visit to the Czech Republic and President Klaus did not rule out it might take place this year. Mr Klaus also told reporters that the US President George W. Bush, who also took part in the celebrations, thanked him for the Czech involvement in the US-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda will distribute tasks among his deputies only after the replacement in the post of his first deputy has taken place, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday. The current first deputy Jan Winkler is to be replaced by the Czech Ambassador to Moscow, Jaroslav Basta of the Social Democrats. The nomination of Mr Basta was approved by the Social Democrat leadership on Friday. The filling of the post by the Social Democrats is considered of key importance by some of the party's members who believe that this will ensure greater influence of the party on the country's foreign policy. Some Social Democrat MPs have made their support for the government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in a confidence vote conditional on this move.
Ceremonies have been taking place around the Czech Republic on the 60th
anniversary of the end of the Second World War. On Sunday morning
President Vaclav Klaus, other politicians and war veterans attended a
memorial ceremony at the National Memorial on Vitkov Hill in Prague to
remember those who gave their lives.
On Saturday evening President Klaus also met Czech veterans at Prague Castle, and honoured six of them by promoting them to the rank of general, as well as a further three in memoriam. In a speech he warned against attempts to rewrite the history of the Second World War, and to equate the perpetrators with the victims.
Ceremonies have also been taking place to remember foreign troops, from both the Red Army and the western Allied armies, who gave their lives during the liberation of Czechoslovakia. Around 100,000 people also attended celebrations in Plzen on Saturday to remember the liberation of the city by American troops. Among those attending commemorations in the Czech Republic is the vice-president of the European Commission, Margot Wallstrom.
Alongside various memorial ceremonies, there have also been several re-enactments of historical events, including the bloody battle on Vinohradska Street for control of the radio building during the Prague Uprising, and on Sunday morning thousands of people braved unseasonally cold weather at Prague's Letna Plain for a huge historical military parade. The parade was also the first chance for the people of Prague to see some of the Czech Republic's new fleet of Gripen supersonic fighter aircraft in the air during a fly-past.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has denied earlier reports that he signed an open letter attacking Russia's record on democracy and political freedom. Mr Havel said that although he had not signed the letter, he could sympathize with anyone pointing out the deep ambiguities of the Soviet liberation of Eastern Europe at the end of the war. The letter's 75 signatories include former prime ministers of Soviet bloc countries like Estonia, as well as current and former politicians from both Europe and the United States. It is to be published in the UK's Financial Times newspaper on May 9, to coincide with ceremonies in Moscow marking the end of the Second World War. The signatories accuse Russia of betraying the principles behind the victory against Nazi Germany 60 years ago.