The Czech Foreign Ministry says that the official approval of the
operation of the Temelin nuclear plant by the South Bohemian regional
authorities was in line with Czech legislation, dismissing protests
coming from neighbouring Austria. According to Austrian MPs, the Czech
Republic did not officially inform Austria of the step. Some Austrian
officials say the move was in breach of the 2001 Czech-Austrian
agreement of Melk concerning the security of the plant. The plant was
officially approved last Friday, six years after construction was
finished. The document became legally binding on Monday.
The plant, situated some 60 kilometres away from the Austrian border, has been widely criticised by certain Austrian politicians as well as Austrian and Czech environmentalists, who claim that it is dangerous.
President Vaclav Klaus has re-appointed Civic Democrat leader Mirek
Topolanek prime minister and asked him to make a fresh attempt at forming
a new government. Mr Topolanek was first appointed prime minister in
August after a general election that left the 200-seat lower house of
parliament equally divided between right- and left-wing parties. But he
failed to win a vote of confidence from parliament in October and was
forced to resign after only 38 days in the job.
Meanwhile, the Civic Democratic Party has launched informal talks on forming a new government and expects Mirek Topolanek to report on their results to the President next week, party deputy head Petr Necas said on Wednesday.
President Vaclav Klaus has appointed Jaroslav Bures as deputy chairman of the Supreme Court. Mr Bures is now a deputy to Iva Brozova whom President Klaus unsuccessfully tried to dismiss earlier this year. Ms Brozova was injured in a car accident in May and is to be out of office until the end of the year. She said that Mr Bures's appointment was in breach of the Constitution as the Supreme Court should have only one deputy chairperson. During Ms Brozova's absence, the court has been headed by its deputy chairman Pavel Kucera.
The number of cases of tick-borne encephalitis has increased by 70 percent compared to last year, according to a report by the State Health Authority. 890 people got infected this year - the highest number in the last decade. Experts attribute this year's increase to a hot summer with many tropical days and also to a larger number of infected insects. Only ten percent of Czechs have been vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis, a disease which can cause permanent neurological damage and - in some cases - death.
The Social Democrats say they expect Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to submit in writing his proposed solutions to the current political situation. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said at a news conference on Wednesday that a potential agreement between the Civic Democrats and his Social Democrats should be "public, transparent and crystal clear". On Tuesday the party expressed willingness to discuss support for a minority Civic Democrat cabinet with a limited two year mandate. On Wednesday, party chairman Jiri Paroubek admitted the possibility of a grand coalition of the Civic and Social Democrats.
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 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.