Karel Schwarzenberg was reelected leader of TOP 09 at the party’s conference in Prague on Sunday. He received 160 votes from an overall 173 delegates present. In his address to the conference Mr. Schwarzenberg said that, despite having been relegated to opposition benches, the party was in a good starting position to fulfill its ambitions. He said its main task now was to work for the good of the country and defend parliamentary democracy. Deputy chair Miroslav Kalousek, who likewise defended his position in the party leadership, echoes these sentiments, warning against Andrej Babis’s ANO party which he said presented an extreme corruption risk in view of its leaders business activities and ambitions.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout will travel to South Africa to attend
Tuesday’s memorial service for the late president Nelson Mandela, the
ministry’s spokeswoman said on Sunday. From there the Czech foreign
minister will travel to Pretoria to pay homage to the former South African
leader. The Czech Republic will have no official representative at the
state funeral to be held in a week’s time.
The announcement came shortly after an embarrassing incident in which the outgoing prime minister, Jiri Rusnok, was caught on tape telling other cabinet members that he had no wish to travel all the way to South Africa for the funeral and hoped the president might want to go instead. He later apologized for his words saying he was under great stress and his work load was excessive.
The parties of the emerging coalition government are debating tax changes as of 2015. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka told Czech Television on Sunday that the proposal currently being discussed envisaged three VAT rates as of 2015 – a standard rate and two lower rates with medicines falling into the lowest category. The fallout in state revenues would be compensated for by higher corporate taxes. Details of the emerging agreement are still to be finalized. The Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats say they have made significant progress on policy matters. A debate on the division of ministerial posts has been postponed until mid-December.
Around 200 Ukrainian nationals currently residing in the Czech Republic met in the centre of Prague on Sunday in a show of support for anti-government protests in Kiev where thousands of their compatriots are demonstrating against the government's suspension of a key EU trade deal. The protesters in Prague marched through the city centre waving national flags and banners reading “Stop Janukovich” and “We want a free Ukraine”. The demonstration was monitored by the police but no incidents were reported.
A hunter in Opava was attacked and seriously injured by a wild boar on Sunday, the ctk news agency reported. The 68-year-old hunter was badly bitten and lost a lot of blood before someone came to the rescue. He was transported to Ostrava’s teaching hospital in serious condition. The wild boar population has over-bred in recent years and hunters have been organizing expeditions to reduce their numbers.
The skiing season has started in most of the country’s ski resorts thanks to a combination of natural and artificial snow. Krkonoše Mountain resorts report up to 70 centimetres of snow, Orlické Hory resorts on average 45 centimetres. The ski resort Červená Voda reported an emergency on Sunday when around 100 skiers had to be evacuated from the local ski lift after the fuse board caught fire. The evacuation took 40 minutes and no one was reported hurt.
Jiří Menzel received a lifetime achievement award at the Grand OFF World Independent Short Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland on Sunday. The Oscar-winning Czech film director is extremely popular in Poland where he attended a screening of all his films this spring. His best-known films include the Oscar-winning Closely Watched Trains, Larks on a String, Cutting it Short and My Sweet Little Village.
The parties of the emerging coalition –the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats –say Saturday’s talks were fruitful and brought significant progress on policy matters. Several issues remain unresolved in the area of taxes and health care, with agreement reached on scrapping direct payments for medical care. The three parties also agreed they would all have the right of veto on proposed legislation. The division of ministerial posts has been shelved due to the temporary absence of Christian Democrat leader Pavel Belobrádek. The parties hope to conclude talks on policy issues by next Tuesday but they have so far made no official commitment to enter into a coalition.
Outgoing Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok has become a target of ridicule
after his conversation with cabinet ministers was caught on tape in the
lower house. Using expressive language, Mr. Rusnok complained that he did
not feel like flying all the way to South Africa to attend Nelson
Mandela’s funeral and expressed the hope that President Zeman would want
to go instead. The conversation was picked up by Czech TV microphones and
its transcript caused an uproar on news sites and social networks. The
prime minister later apologized for his words saying he was under immense
The Czech Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it was not yet clear who would attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The President’s Office said President Zeman would not be travelling abroad since he had not yet fully recovered from his knee injury.
Former education minister Petr Fiala has confirmed his candidacy for party leader at the Civic Democrats election conference in January. Mr. Fiala, who only joined the Civic Democratic Party recently, is perceived as a capable and trustworthy figure who can help turn around the party’s fortunes in the wake of a crushing defeat in the last general elections. The former rector of Masaryk University, who is not connected to the party’s crippling corruption scandals or aborted promises, said on Saturday that he had decided to accept the challenge and try to bring the party out of its drawn-out crisis. The conference will take place on January 17 -18 and Mr. Fiala is expected to have two rivals for the top post – deputy chairwoman Miroslava Němcová who shoulders the burden of the party’s past failures and MEP Eduard Kožušník.