A meeting between Czech President Václav Klaus and members of the European Parliament erupted in sharp dispute on Friday, with the president of the EP Hans-Gert Poettering stepping in to try and calm the situation, the news site aktuálně.cz reported. According to aktuálně, Mr Klaus was angered when questioned by Green Party MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and wanted to cut the meeting short. Mr Cohn-Bendit is said to have asked the president about his stance on the Lisbon treaty, as well as about his ties to Declan Ganley, the head of the conservative think-tank Libertas (Mr Klaus, a euro-sceptic, met with the Irish businessman last month in the face of EU criticism). Daniel Cohn-Bendit later described Friday’s meeting at Prague Castle as “crazy” and Mr Klaus’s behaviour as “paranoid”. The president’s spokesman Jiří Weigl rejected Mr Cohn-Bendit’s account of the incident and called his actions a “provocation”.
The ruling Civic Democrats have begun a three-day conference to decide on the next party leader and set the party’s course for the coming months. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, chairman of the Civic Democrats since 2002, is being challenged by Prague Mayor Pavel Bém, highly critical of the Civic Democrats’ current direction. After receiving far higher regional backing, Mirek Topolánek is currently expected to retain the post. Unlike Mr Topolánek, who is for the continuation of the current coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Greens, Mr Bém said he would prefer a minority Civic Democrat government. Around 500 delegates will vote on Sunday to decide on the party’s next leader.
In related news, Jiří Paroubek, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said on Friday that his party might be willing to back a minority Civic Democrat government but only on the condition tolerance of such a government would be tied to early elections.
The EU Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana has expressed confidence that the upcoming Czech EU presidency will be “a big success”. He made the comment on Friday after meeting with the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The two discussed the role of the EU as well as the importance of a planned meeting between the heads of EU member states and incoming US president Barack Obama. The Czech Republic will hold the EU presidency when Mr Obama is sworn in. Along with relations with the US, other issues that the Czech presidency will face will include the global economic crisis as well as contributing to stability in the Balkans, where the Czechs have several hundred troops in peacekeeping missions.
The president of the European parliament Hans-Gert Poettering has revealed that Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will address the European Parliament next month when the Czech Republic takes up the six-month EU presidency, and will be followed by Czech President Václav Klaus in February. In Prague on Thursday Mr Poettering stressed he considered Mr Topolánek - and not the Czech president - the head of the European Council. Mr Poettering also said he expected Mr Klaus would deliver a speech that would contribute to the EU’s strengthening.
British author J.K. Rowling – the creator of the Harry Potter series – has praised progress regarding the care of a Czech autistic boy who was previously confined to a caged-bed. The children’s author led the campaign against the use of such beds in the Czech Republic; they are now only used in some psychiatric institutions. The boy was transferred to a facility where he now receives one-on-one therapy, a representative of Mrs Rowling’s charity foundation said. Mrs Rowling made her comments on the Czech boy’s improved conditions during a reading for children in Edinburgh on Thursday.
Czech carmaker Škoda Auto reportedly could lay-off as many as 870 employees, the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has reported. The car manufacturer is facing an economic slow-down due to global financial crisis and freezing production for three weeks in December. The potential lay-offs represent some three percent of Škoda Auto’s workforce.
Slavia Prague have failed to qualify from the group stage in football’s UEFA Cup, after a 2:0 home defeat to Hamburg on Thursday night left them with just one point from three games. The Czech league leaders have yet to score a single goal in the group stage.
Czech scorers left their mark in NHL action on Thursday, racking up a number of goals in league games. Phoenix’s young center forward Martin Hanzal earned his first hat-trick to lead the Coyotes to a 6:3 win over Toronto, while David Krejčí scored the winner for Boston 3:1 over Tampa Bay. Other Czechs who scored on the night included Patrick Eliáš and Petr Sýkora in their respective games.
It is expected to be mostly cloudy into the weekend, with a chance of rain. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs of around 6 degrees Celsius.