Outgoing prime minister Jiří Rusnok and defence minister Vlastimil Picek will represent the Czech Republic at the funeral ceremony of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Monday, according to the Czech government spokeswoman. Sharon died at the age of 85 at a Tel Aviv hospital on Saturday after being in a coma for the last eight years following a massive stroke. Sharon made his name in the military in a series of wars against Israel’s Arab neighbours, later becoming minister of defence, and prime minister.
President Miloš Zeman says he has not taken a definitive opinion on
whether he should approve certain ministers in the nascent coalition
government or not. The head state said in a television interview Sunday
that was the reason why he was prepared to meet with ministerial
candidates. Zeman detailed specific objections to three proposed ministers,
without naming them, in a press conference on Friday, adding that the head
of state had the right to refuse Cabinet suggestions.
His words have been widely interpreted as targeting likely interior minister Milan Chovanec; minister of industry and trade Jan Mládek; and minister for human rights, Jiří Dienstbier; all Social Democrat nominees. Zeman said his misgivings about Jan Mládek focused on why he was refused clearance by the national security service 14 years ago. Mládek has pointed out that a more recent security application was not refused but abandoned because it was no longer needed.
Former education minister Petr Fiala has boosted his chances of becoming the next leader of the centre-right Civic Democrat Party. Fiala was backed to become party chairman by regional party meetings at Zlín, Vysočina and Hradec Králové on Saturday. He has already won support from regional meetings in South Moravia and Central Bohemia. The Civic Democrats are set to choose a new leader at a national meeting in Olomouc on January 18 and 19. The Liberec region has backed rival contender, MEP Edvard Kožušník.
President Miloš Zeman declared Sunday that he is broadly in favour of the nascent coalition’s programme goals but had some misgivings about how they could be achieved. In particular, Zeman said he wondered how funding for policy goals could be found given that moves to introduce more progressive tax for individuals and higher company and sector taxes have not been specified. The three way coalition of Social Democrats, ANO, and Christian Democrats have agreed not to introduce any tax changes this year. The head of state repeated that he has not sought to block the coalition’s creation and had given a conditional go ahead for the appointment of ANO leader Andrej Babiš as finance minister.
Speed skater Martina Sáblíková won a bronze medal in the combined competition at the European Championships in Hamar, Norway. The 26 year old clinched the medal with a win in the 5000 meters event after being placed eighth overall before going into the fourth and final discipline. The gold medal was won by Dutch woman Ireen Wüst.
Czech president Miloš Zeman led tributes to Sharon, describing him as a great and courageous statesman who was not afraid to fight for his nation. Foreign Minister Jan Kohout underlined his moves as prime minister to foster peace with the Palestinians, such as the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Sharon was a controversial exponent of Jewish settlements on land earmarked for the Palestinians and was tarnished by the massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon following the invasion of the country when he was defence minister.
A poll released by public broadcaster Czech Television showed 52% of respondents said they believed the president should appoint incoming prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s proposed list of ministers without any changes. President Zeman should be able to make changes regarding some nominations according to 38%, with 7% saying that the three way centre-left coalition should not be appointed at all. No opinion was expressed by 3% of the just over 1,000 people questioned. In another poll by the Median agency, 24% said that the president should make full use of all the powers possible to him with 74% saying he should be limited by the previous practice of heads of state.
A total of Kč 6 million has been set aside this year by the government for a project to restore the abandoned family home of Czech student Jan Palach and make it into a fitting memorial. Prague philosophy student Palach set fire to himself on January 16, 1969, to protest at the passivity of Czech and Slovaks towards the Soviet led invasion of the country in August 1968 to clamp down on the so-called Prague Spring. He died a few days later. Palach was brought up in a village near the central Bohemian town of Mĕlnik, where the family house is now falling into disrepair.
Czech constitutional law expert Jan Kysela has rounded on what he describes as head of state Miloš Zeman’s expansive and interventionist interpretation of his role. Kysela added that political parties should stand up to the president and put him back in the place allotted to him in the latest battle over Cabinet nominations. Kysela said a series of acts and statements by president Zeman suggest he is out of step with the role intended for the head of state under the constitution. Social Democrat deputy chairman and foreign ministry nominee, Lubomír Zaorálek, has warned Zeman will create a quasi presidential system if he wins the latest battle.
The Czech Republic’s biggest manufacturing exporter, Škoda Auto, fell short of the million car sales mark in 2013. The car maker announced sales of 920,800 for the year, down by 18,400 on its figure for 2012. Western Europe still represents its biggest single market with around four out of every 10 cars sold. The remainder of sales are broadly divided between central and eastern Europe on one hand and China on the other.
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events