UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Prague for a three-day visit. On Friday he was received by President Václav Klaus at Prague Castle. The two discussed the situation in Libya and Northern Africa in general for about one hour. Mr Ban then met with Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda and the heads of the houses of Parliament, Milan Štěch and Miroslava Němcová. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be holding a dinner in the secretary general’s honour on Friday evening in Černínský Palace. The head of the United Nations is to remain in Prague on a private agenda until Sunday.
Regarding the ongoing government crisis, President Klaus also met with opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democratic Party on Friday to discuss that party’s plan to call for a parliamentary vote of no confidence against the government. The party’s MPs voted to support the proposal on Thursday. Mr Sobotka told the Czech Press Agency on Friday that the Social Democrats would not seek to form their own government should the government collapse, but would push for an agreement on early elections. The vote of no confidence is set to be held after Easter.
The current crisis was triggered when de facto Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta was accused of in-party corruption and of using the party to further the interests of his family’s detective agency. Mr Bárta offered his resignation and the prime minister sacked two of his party allies – Interior Minister Radek John and Education Minister Josef Dobeš. President Klaus has however refused to endorse the shakeup until the PM offers a “plan B”. The crisis deepened further this week when a secret recording emerged, suggesting that the Civic Democratic had organised the situation within Public Affairs.
Meanwhile, attention has turned again to Public Affairs chairman and Interior Minister Radek John, who said that he had received details on meetings between Public Affairs rebel Kristýna Kočí and senior Civic Democrat Petr Tluchoř from the police. Mr Tluchoř accused John on Friday of using the police, which the Interior Ministry controls, to monitor the activities of parliamentarians. Mr John says he received the information on the matter by email from an anonymous policeman. Prime Minister Nečas commented on the situation by saying he wanted to believe it was the work of one “enterprising imbecile”, rather than misuse of office.
In the continuing coalition negotiations seeking a way out of the crisis, the leadership of the Civic Democratic Party has agreed that they want the coalition to go on in its present format, rather than with the aid of rebel MPs from the Public Affairs party. One of the options discussed until now has been the continuation of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 in the cabinet with support from the three expelled Public Affairs parliamentarians; this option would require at least an additional four MPs to leave their party. A proposal from deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats, Pavel Blažek, to attempt a coalition with the opposition Social Democrats, has also been dismissed. The only remaining options therefore seem to be either an agreement with Public Affairs or early elections. The coalition leaders are to meet again on Monday to try to find a way out of the crisis. If they reach agreement, the centre-right cabinet will seek a fresh vote of confidence in the lower house.
The Public Affairs party says it is looking beyond the options for a crisis settlement that emerged from the last meeting of coalition leaders. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said after that meeting, without providing further details, that he sees some seven potential plans for how the coalition can continue to govern together. Public Affairs says that those options demanded concessions solely from their party. The sticking point in negotiations is reported to be the Interior Ministry, the running of which was a key condition for Public Affairs upon entering the coalition and which the prime minister now wants to be controlled by a political independent. Chairman Radek John said Friday that his party supports the Prime Minister in seeking to maintain the coalition.
According to the internet daily euro.cz the vast majority of Civic Democrats see early elections as the best way out of the crisis. Euro.cz claims that 80 percent of party members would prefer early elections to some form of compromise which would allow the present governing coalition to continue in office. Commentators have said the report may be a way of putting pressure on the junior Public Affairs Party ahead of Monday’s meeting.
Telephone service providers are seeking to recover debts of 600 million crowns from bankrupt lottery company Sazka. The company owes the providers for phone credits purchased through their lottery terminals, which is one of the most popular ways of buying credit for mobile phones. The three providers, Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2, have not yet decided whether they will request participation in the committee of creditors overseeing the bankruptcy. Sazka went bankrupt on March 29, namely due to problems paying for the construction of its Sazka Arena. Creditors have thus far claimed debts in excess of two billion crowns.
The Czech Republic has lost a case against the European Commission at the EU Court of Justice for compensation for improper use of pre-accession funds. Brussels wanted the country to return 9.4 million euros that were used in contravention of EU regulations, but the Czech Republic never did so. The European Commission then took 10.8 million euros out of planned payments for the country, and Prague took the situation to court. The Finance Ministry is to decide whether to contest the decision.
A new survey conducted by the CVVM agency suggests that three quarters of Czechs consider Roma unpleasant. The poll shows hardly any change in Czech-Roma relations compared with recent years. According to CVVM, 74% of respondents said that Roma not likeable, while only 12% said the opposite. 51% then said that they found Ukrainians to be unpleasant. Conversely, Czechs showed a warms feelings for Slovaks, with more than 9 in 10 saying they find them likeable. Compared with previous years of the poll, perceptions of Germans, Russians, Vietnamese and people from Balkan countries have improved slightly.
Archaeological research is set to continue in a field where over a dozen Germans civilians are thought to have been murdered and buried immediately after World War Two. The dig, which was discontinued in August of last year after finding six bodies, is intended to determine whether they may be more victims buried at the site in Dobronín, in east Bohemia. Testimonies given by the children of the alleged victims suggest that between 11 and 15 Germans were beaten to death by local Czech residents in May of 1945, just weeks after the end of the war. Police detectives opened the case as a murder investigation in September of last year.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to be mostly cloudy with daytime temperatures between 12 and 14° Celsius.