The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says he has drawn up a plan aimed at bringing an end to the current conflict in the Middle East. Mr Topolánek, speaking as the president of the European Union, said he had already discussed the proposal – which envisages a cease-fire between the two sides – with leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Czech prime minister said he also intended to discuss the plan with US President George Bush later on Monday.
On Sunday a high-level European Union delegation led by the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, began a fact-finding mission to the Middle East, where Israeli forces have been attacking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the last week and a half.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democrats has delayed the announcement of a cabinet reshuffle. The leaders of the two smaller parties in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, called for the postponement, saying they wanted to discuss the proposed changes with their party leaderships next Sunday. The prime minister has not said which ministers will be changed, but there have been reports that Christian Democrats chairman Jiří Čunek could be replaced as minister for regional development. The news website ihned.cz reported that Mr Čunek has asked Mr Topolánek to dismiss Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, a party rival of his.
The reshuffle expected on Monday was promised after poor results for the three parties in the governing coalition in Senate and regional elections in October. The Green Party’s minister for minorities and human rights, Džamila Stehlíková, has said she expects to be among the cabinet members replaced. As well as making changes to his cabinet, the prime minister is creating a new national economic council.
The supplies of Russian gas to the Czech Republic dropped by 9.5 percent on Monday. The Czech Republic’s biggest natural gas supplier RWE Transgas says it received 1.7 million cubic metres less gas than originally agreed with the Russian partner. The drop came after Sunday’s five-percent fall in the pressure of gas supplies to the Czech Republic due to a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over prices and payment. A number of other countries in the region have also seen reduced supplies of gas over the weekend.
The spokesman for the Czech prime minister during the Czech presidency of the European Union, Jiří Potužník, is being allowed to stay in the post, despite sparking a diplomatic row by describing Israel’s attacks on Gaza as “more defensive than offensive”. Mr Potužník told the news agency AFP that was the position of the Czech prime minister, before later saying his words had been misconstrued. The faux pas was described as a serious mistake by the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg. However, the minister said the Czech Republic did not need to issue an apology for the statement, which was condemned by an aide of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Around 50 cultural events will be held in the Czech Republic as part of the country’s six-month presidency of the EU, with the same number of events set to take place beyond the countries borders, officials said at a presentation on Monday. On Wednesday the first major cultural event of the presidency takes place at Prague’s National Theatre, featuring among others the Forman brothers, the twin sons of film director Miloš Forman. The Czech premiere of Ca Ira, a new opera by rock musician Roger Waters, a former member of Pink Floyd, will also be staged in Prague on May 1 as part of the Czech EU presidency’s cultural programme.
There was a marked increase in the number of producers of organic food in the Czech Republic in 2008, according to figures presented in the January edition of the monthly Bio Obchod. Whereas at the end of 2007 there were just over 250 organic food producers in the country, at the end of last year that number had risen to over 400. There was also a 27-percent increase in the number of shops selling organic foodstuffs, and the Czech Republic’s two biggest bakeries started producing organic breads in 2008.
Thousands of Czechs registered for online sports betting on Monday, after online betting has become legal in the country. All those interested in betting online on sports results must personally register at a branch of one the Czech betting companies to prove they are over 18 years of age. Before online betting was legal, Czechs annually spent an estimated three to four billion crowns, or between 150 and 200 million dollars, on websites run by foreign companies.
A new species of venomous spider has been discovered in South Moravia. Named Eresus Movavicus by its discoverer, Milan Řezáč, it is one of the largest as well as most poisonous spiders in central Europe. Its sting can cause severe fever which can last several hours. The new species has already been registered with the World Spider Catalogue.
Jiří Dědek Šindelář, the bass player for the Czech rock band Katapult, died in Prague on Monday at the age of 60. The news website idnes.cz reported he died of a serious lung disease. Katapult formed in Prague in the mid 1970s with Mr Šindelář as one of the band’s founding members.
It should get colder in the next few days, with maximum temperatures of minus 6 degrees Celsius expected. We can also expect sunny spells with snow at times.