The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, on Monday strictly denied reports that he supported Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. The news website EUobserver.com reported on Monday that the Czech foreign minister, along with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini, were the only EU foreign ministers to support the Libyan dictator. The website quoted Mr Schwarzenberg as saying that Muammar al-Gaddafi’s fall would be a catastrophe. The Czech foreign minister said his remarks were misunderstood; he said if the Libyan leader’s fall led to the establishment of a “sensible regime”, it would be very beneficial. However, the EU should not interfere in Libya’s internal affairs, Mr Schwarzenberg added.
Czech President Václav Klaus has criticized some of West European leaders over their friendly relations with the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. After a meeting with his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski in Prague on Monday, Mr Klaus said that while central and east European presidents and prime ministers have been very cautions towards the Libyan leader, several top West European officials will now have a problem over their friendly relations with the dictator. For his part, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said the EU was not prepared for the changes that are taking place in several northern African countries; the Polish head of state said the EU should find the courage for long-term support of democracy in these and other countries.
In related news, Czech President Václav Klaus and his Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Komorowski agreed on Monday that the relations between the two countries were excellent. Mr Komorowski, who is on a two-day visit to the Czech Republic, said common interests within the EU, similar historical experiences and growing economic cooperation were the cornerstones of these relations. The Polish president is set to meet Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Tuesday, before visiting the country’s largest oil refinery in Litvínov which is owned by a Polish firm.
The head of Czech doctors’ trades unions, Martin Engel, on Monday asked hospital physicians to end their protest and withdraw their resignations regardless of the fact his former employer would not give him his job back. Mr Engel was one of over 3,800 Czech doctors who handed in notices in a bid to ensure higher salaries. After doctors reached a deal with the government last week, they began withdrawing their resignations; however, many of them will not be able to return to their former posts as some hospitals have already hired new staff. Mr Engel said he appreciated his colleagues’ solidarity but added that the situation should not be used to question the agreement.
Czech GDP growth will this year slow down to 1.75 percent, according to an estimate by the International Monetary Fund, the head of the fund’s Czech mission, Zuzana Murgašová, told reporters on Monday. In 2010, the country’s GDP grew by 2.3 percent. Ms Murgašová said the government’s austerity measures would cause lower GDP growth in 2011 but were essential in reaching fiscal sustainability. The deficit of the state budget should reach some 4 percent of the GDP this year, according to the estimate.
A court in Prague accepted on Monday a proposal from one of the creditors of the lottery giant Sazka and appointed a supervisor for the firm. The supervisor will determine Sazka’s assets and review the firm’s accounting. However, the court rejected a proposal to ban Sazka from taking certain steps without the supervisor’s prior consent.
Sazka is facing insolvency proceedings after it failed in January to make a bond payment. Earlier this month, Sazka accepted an offer by the investment groups Penta and E-Invest that will take operating control of the company and a share of future profits.
Some 60 percent of Czechs would like to elect their president directly, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency released on Monday. Some 17 percent of those polled said they wanted the president elected in the current way, that is by a joint session of both chambers of Parliament. Another 13 percent said the Czech president should be elected by a “wider body of electors”. The number of supporters of direct presidential election dropped by 7 percent over the last two years, the agency said. Most Czech political parties would like to introduce a popular presidential vote so that the next Czech head of state, which will take office in February 2013, is elected directly.
The Czech Education Ministry might in the future cover up to 60 percent of costs of company-run day care centres, Education Minister Josef Dobeš said on Monday. Mr Dobeš said that company-sponsored day care centres would have to become affiliated with the ministry to be eligible for support. They would also have to follow the ministry’s curriculum. If approved by the government, the plan should be launched in September. Mr Dobeš said
Four Czech and Slovak foodstuffs have been granted EU protection as regional specialties, the European Commission announced on Monday. These include two local brands of salami known as Lovecký salám and Liptovský salám, as well as two kinds of sausages. These products were added to the EU list of traditional specialities guaranteed trade mark protection. The European Commission said the protection would not prevent other producers from using the name of the meat products, even if they do not follow the specifications approved. However, producers using a different recipe would not be allowed to use the label.
Officers of the Texas National Guard began on Monday a week-long course to train Czech soldiers in providing first aid in combat. Around 90 Czech army officers are taking part in the course which is being held at the military training area in Vyškov, southern Moravia. A spokesman for the local military academy said the instructors had experience from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Texas National Guard began cooperating with the Czech army in 2006, and has since held a number of joint exercises.
A farmer in the community of Brzkov, some 100 km east of Prague, has avoided a jail sentence for animal cruelty, a local newspaper reported on Monday. In 2009, a court sentenced the man to ten months in prison for killing over 200 pigs and keeping another 115 animals in very bad conditions that made them feed on the carcases. However, a higher court overturned the verdict and gave him a conditional sentence. The man is also banned from keeping animals for a period of five years.
The start of the week will be overcast with some clear spots and occasional snow. Highest day temperatures should range between -5 and -1 degrees Celsius.