The Social Democrats have rejected responsibility for the country's political deadlock and expressed readiness to enter into a new round of talks on forming a new government. At a press conference on Tuesday party leader Jiri Paroubek said his party was willing to discuss support for a minority Civic Democrat cabinet with a limited two year mandate. He ruled out support for a three party coalition between the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens or a rainbow government involving his party.
The European Democrats have won a court battle to obtain 15 million crowns from state coffers. A Prague court ruled on Tuesday that the small centre right party was eligible for state support for mandates won in the 2002 local elections and that the money had been unlawfully withheld by the Finance Ministry. The ministry refused to make the payment on the grounds that the European Democrats contested seats in the local elections not as a party or coalition but as "a loose alliance of party members and independent candidates". The court ruled that this argument was not justified and has ordered the ministry to settle the debt. The Finance Ministry has the right to appeal.
Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek has accepted a second bid to form a
government. On Monday President Klaus announced that he would give the
Civic Democrat leader another chance to form a viable government, despite
the fact that his first attempt to do so had ended in failure. President
Klaus made the announcement after his bid for a four-party "rainbow
government" was blocked by the Social Democratic Party.
Mr. Topolanek accepted the offer with some reluctance on Tuesday after receiving the green light from his party leadership. He is to be officially re-appointed prime minister designate on Wednesday. Political analysts believe that his chances of succeeding are slim and that the President's decision is an attempt to bring the country closer to early elections. The Constitution stipulates that early elections can be called after three unsuccessful attempts at forming a government.
Responding to the new challenge, the smaller parties have all stated their preferences regarding a way out of the drawn-out political crisis. The Christian Democrats said they favor a centre-right or rainbow coalition. The Greens are against a minority Civic Democrat government as proposed by the Social Democrats and would favour a caretaker cabinet which would lead to early elections in 2007. The Communists have said they are ready to support a centre-left cabinet or a rainbow coalition of all parties including themselves.
The Czech military police contingent which has spent three years training Iraqi police officers near Basra in the south of the country, has completed its mission and handed over the training centre to the local authorities. The 100-member strong military contingent was sent to Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein and in the course of the past three years has trained over 12,000 Iraqis for the local police force as well as a team of instructors to eventually take over their work. The Czech Parliament is now debating the possibility of extending the contingent's mission in Iraq but the outcome will depend on whether the British contingent whose base it has been using will remain in place. For the time being the Czechs have been stationed elsewhere.
The rate of corruption in the Czech Republic has declined but the country still ranks among the worst in the EU. This, according to a new Transparency International report that evaluated how the situation has changed in 163 countries in the last year. The Czech Republic figures among more than ten countries where the corruption index has improved the most. In 2005, the Czech Republic ended 47th, with 4.3 points on a ten-point scale, where 10 is the best showing, along with Namibia, Slovakia and Greece. In this year's report it finished 46th with 4.8 points, along with Kuwait and Lithuania.
Czechs are one of the most optimistic nations when asked about employment opportunities, a European public opinion poll suggests. Results of a new Eurobarometer survey indicate that 56 percent of Czechs believe they will be employed in two years' time. In the 25 EU member states, the Czech Republic ranked 8th when it came to optimism. Citizens of neighbouring Slovakia and Poland on the other hand appear to be much more pessimistic; a mere 29 percent of each population think they will hold a full-time job in 2008.
Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek says he is prepared to negotiate with the Civic Democrats if their leader Mirek Topolanek is entrusted with the task of forming a new government. During a special press conference on Monday evening, for which Mr Paroubek cut short his vacation, he said the Social Democrats are willing to come to a compromise and tone down demands in terms of a policy programme and important posts. Mr Paroubek, whose party came second in the elections in June, strongly rejected any responsibility for the country's political deadlock.
Members of the environmental organisation Greenpeace blocked the main entrance to the Environment Ministry on Monday. The activists were protesting at a ministry proposal to give firms permission to release 102 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the years between 2008 and 2012. On wooden planks nailed across the entrance the activists wrote "closed for inactivity" and "not protecting the climate but polluters". Four protesters were arrested by the police who needed three hours to unblock the entrance to the ministry.
Up to a third of the Czech Republic's butchers could go out of business, the head of the Czech meat processors union, Jaromir Klouda, said in an interview for Lidove noviny. Czech butchers have until the end of 2009 to meet European Union standards for preparing meat. Mr Klouda said for small butchers adapting their workplaces it would involve difficult building work and could be prohibitively expensive.