The Czech trade surplus rose to 7.5 billion CZK (341.5 million USD) in September, a rise of 2.2 billion crowns on a 12-month comparison, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. The positive trade balance largely stems from a 3 billion crown increase in the trade surplus in machinery and transport equipment. Exports reached the highest level since March 2006 and the second highest level ever, the office added.
Following a meeting with the leaders of five parliamentary parties on
Friday President Klaus indicated that a solution to the country's
political crisis was "in the making". The president said that
the party leaders had reached "a fragile agreement on a possible
solution" which still needed to be approved by their respective party
leaderships and that there were many questions left open. Mr. Klaus did not
disclose any details of what such an agreement would entail. He said
another meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday when he hoped party leaders
would be able to seal the deal.
Citing an unnamed, well-informed source at Prague Castle, the internet server Novinky.cz claims that the agreement in question is a government of all parliamentary parties except the Communists which would lead the country to early elections in 2008. Such a government would be made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, the Greens and the Social Democrats.
The government has selected Zdenek Hruby, currently head of the CEZ energy utility's supervisory board, as the man who should prepare the Czech Republic for its EU presidency in 2009. Foreign Minister Aleaxander Vondra introduced Mr. Hruby to the lower house's Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday. Lubomir Zaoralek, lower house deputy chairman, said the Social Democrats would not challenge the appointment. The Czech Republic is to preside over the EU in the first half of 2009.
President Klaus has amnestied thirteen people among them the head of a nursery and two teachers who were sentenced in connection with an accident which happened to one of their charges. During a children's party a little girl's wig caught fire and the child suffered serious burns. All three women received suspended sentences.
The controversial Christian Democrat mayor of Vsetin Jiri Cunek has defended his policy to evict several hundred Romany rent-defaulters from the town centre. Mr. Cunek's statement to the media that he was "cleaning an ulcer" has provoked controversy and raised the ire of his own party, whose leadership has distanced itself from the statement and is considering expelling him from party ranks. Mr. Cunek defended his words and actions in Friday's edition of Lidove Noviny saying that he had strong backing among the local community and that his critics were talking "a load of drivel" about a problem they knew nothing about.
The finance ministers of Germany and the Czech Republic announced on Friday they would join forces to block the European Commission's plans to raise minimum duties on beer. Last month the European Union's executive arm proposed a 31 percent increase in the minimum EU duty on beer and spirits to reflect inflation since the tax was last set 14 years ago. The rise, which needs the unanimous approval of the EU's 25 member states, would add a euro cent (about 1.3 U.S. cents) to the price of a half litre of beer. Czech Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty said Prague was prepared to veto the alcohol duty rise. He also rejected the argument that the Commission's move was necessary to combat alcoholism across the EU.
The Czech Republic is likely to reopen its embassy to Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra said on Thursday. However, it is planning to close down its embassy to the Democratic Republic of Congo and a consulate general in Montreal, Canada. Czechoslovakia's embassy in Kabul was closed in 1992. In recent years, the Czech Republic closed its office in Cote d'Ivoire and opened embassies to the DPRK, Moldova and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In all, the country has 122 diplomatic missions around the world, 90 of them embassies.
Communist leader Vojtech Filip, who also met President Klaus on Thursday, said that he informed the president that his party sees a government of national unity as a way out of the political stalemate. He reiterated that the Communists are prepared to vote for a constitutional amendment allowing for early elections but he stressed it does not mean they favour such a solution. Mr Filip said the Communist Party would back a centre-left government of the Social Democrats and the Greens or a part of the Christian Democratic Party. According to the head of the Communist parliamentary party, Pavel Kovacik, the Communists will not support any kind of covert grand coalition of the Civic, Social and Christian Democrats, suggested in previous days by the Christian Democratic Party.
Czech men's tennis star Tomas Berdych has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Masters tournament in Paris. Berdych, the eighth-seeded Czech, cruised past America's Robby Ginepri 6-3, 6-3 in just 65 minutes on Thursday afternoon. He is going to face either Britain's Andy Murray or Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia.
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