The outgoing Social Democratic cabinet is still discussing the possibility of sending Czech soldiers to Lebanon, to join an international peacekeeping force administered by the United Nations. According to Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, Friday's meeting of European Union foreign ministers will be key to the Czech Republic's decision. Mr. Svoboda says that it is important to clarify whether the Czech mission's mandate would be one of peacekeeping and observation, or whether the units would also be charged with disarming Hizballah. The foreign minister is also concerned about the costs of such a mission, and says that it must not jeopardize ongoing Czech peacekeeping in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, or Bosnia-Hercegovina. Mr. Svoboda's public statements on the issue of Czech involvement in Lebanon have been more cautious than those of the outgoing prime minister, Jiri Paroubek.
High-alert security measures in place at Prague's Ruzyne airport since August 10 have been called-off, says an airport spokesperson. The extra precautions at customs were put in place after the discovery of a planned terrorist attack originating in London and aimed at the United States. Since then, travelers leaving Prague for destinations in the United Kingdom were forced to undergo extremely thorough screenings at passport control. However, the ban on fluids and gels aboard planes flying to the U.S. remains in place.
Meanwhile, the Christian Democrats one of the smaller parties who have had to take a back-seat after the Social Democrats refused to support a centre-right coalition government said they were ready to go into the opposition. Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek said his party would not support a minority Civic Democrat government because under the present circumstances such an arrangement was really a thinly veiled grand coalition. The Green Party - which was likewise forced out of the talks on a new government - has not ruled out switching allegiances and supporting a minority Social Democrat government should such a situation arise.
World number nine Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic confirmed Tuesday that he will not be playing in the US Open because of a back injury. "It's over for the US Open and it seems the break could be even longer," the player told the CTK news agency. Stepanek, 27, has a 30-15 record this season, winning his first ATP title in Rotterdam, and reaching the finals in Hamburg and Wimbledon quarter-finals. A question remains over his participation in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against the Netherlands from September 22-24.
A planned round of talks on a new government was called off on Tuesday after the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene failed to reach agreement on who should attend. Prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek and the outgoing prime minister Jiri Paroubek are trying to reach agreement on the conditions under which Mr. Paroubek's Social Democrats would be prepared to tolerate a minority Civic Democrat government. The conditions discussed include the set-up of the future government, its policy programme and its term in office. The Social Democrat leader, whose position was bolstered by the even division of forces between the left and right parties in the lower house, stalked out of Monday's talks saying there would be no further negotiations with the Civic Democrats but later changed his mind after what he described a s a conciliatory gesture from the winning party. The prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek said the negotiations with the Social Democrats should not last longer than a fortnight - with or without a deal.
Hundreds of Greek and foreign tourists, including many Czechs, were evacuated from two hotels in northern Greece because of a forest fire, which broke out on Monday. About 90 Czech children spent the night on a beach as the flames were progressing towards their hotel. According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, all Czech nationals in the area are safe. A decision is imminent on whether to bring them back home and busses are on standby for that purpose.
Czech Airlines reported widening losses on Tuesday. Its first half losses widened to 773 million koruna (27.5 million euros, 35.4 million dollars) from 533 million koruna in the same period last year. The company is now expecting a shortfall of 17.5 million koruna for the full year, equal to its 2005 loss, according to company chairman Radomir Lasak. Lasak ascribed the company's problems to a recent dramatic surge in capacity undertaken in the absence of preparation and necessary restructuring, rather than to a hike in oil prices. The airline is hoping to return to profit in 2008 following a sweeping restructuring which has been in place since the start of the year. The initiative calls for a 10 to 20 percent reduction in personnel.
A remembrance ceremony on Monday in front of the Czech Radio building on Prague's Vinohradska Street marked the 38th anniversary of the beginning of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Officials laid wreaths in front of the Czech Radio building which was the site of the bloodiest fighting in August 1968 between the occupiers and the citizens of Prague. The invasion of Warsaw-Pact troops crushed the reform movement known as the Prague Spring and Soviet units stayed in Czechoslovakia until 1991. More than 70 people were killed and several hundred wounded in the first weeks of the invasion.
Financial analysts approached by the CTK news agency have agreed that the major advantage of an early adoption of the euro for Czech citizens would be easier travelling. On the other hand, they warned that the economy might overheat causing a rapid growth of prices. The government have agreed that the Czech Republic should adopt the European currency in 2010 but the term has been put into question by some experts. For example, the deputy finance minister Eduard Janota said on Sunday that the Czech Republic's planned adoption of the Euro in 2010 was in danger because the Czech Republic was not going to fulfil all the Maastricht criteria by the middle of 2007.