President Václav Klaus named on Thursday two new ministers to the centre-right government led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas, formally bringing to an end the recent government crisis. Non-partisan Jan Kubice, former head of the Czech police’ anti-corruption unit, has replaced Radek John as interior minister. Radek Šmerda, of the junior coalition party Public Affairs, takes over as transport minister following the resignation of Vít Bárta. Meanwhile, Radek John has retained the post of deputy prime minister, and has been given a new anti-corruption portfolio. The appointments end a government crisis that broke out earlier this month over alleged corruption practices within the Public Affairs party.
Czech trade union leaders walked out of a meeting with government officials and employers on Thursday, and said a mass rally would be held in Prague in late May in protest against the planned government reforms. Referring to the recent government crisis, the head of the trade unions’ association, Jaroslav Zavadil said the cabinet had lost the right to carry out reforms, which he described as anti-social. Trade unions are therefore planning a rally in Prague to protest the government’s reform agenda. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek said the reforms were inevitable, while the minister of industry and trade, Martin Kocourek, accused the unions of trying to grab political power rather than defend the interests of employees.
Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra met with Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in Prague on Thursday and assured him of the Czech Republic’s support for the NATO operation in Libya. Mr Vondra said Czech soldiers would not take part in the operation but the country was ready to join a humanitarian operation to help Libyan civilians. The Czech defence minister also informed the NATO official about a planned reform of the Czech military. For his part, Admiral Stavridis thanked the Czech army for taking part in NATO operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The president of Hungary, Pál Schmitt arrived in Prague on Thursday for a two-day visit to the Czech Republic. After a meeting with his Czech counterpart, Václav Klaus, at Prague Castle, the presidents spoke out against what they called a “populist rejection” of nuclear power in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Both officials agreed the issue of nuclear power should be discussed more at meetings of the Visegrad Four group, which joins the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.
The Hungarian president’s visit will continue on Friday; Mr Schmitt is set to meet Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and other officials before visiting the town of Mělník, in northern Bohemia. Since 2009, the town has been home to a statue of Jan Palach, a Czech student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. The statue was created by a Hungarian artist András Beck.
During a ceremony welcoming the Hungarian president at Prague Castle on Thursday, two activists dressed up as Chilean policewomen attempted to arrest Czech President Václav Klaus over his pocketing a pen during a recent visit to Chile. The fake police officers were detained by real Czech police, and were released an hour later.
The major Czech right-of-centre party, the Civic Democrats, celebrated on Thursday the 20th anniversary of its foundation. Some 600 party members marked the occasion at Prague’s Žofín Palace; they were addressed by the party’ founding father and first chair, President Václav Klaus. However, the celebrations were tainted by an on-going conflict within the party between the supporters and critics of the coalition with the junior Public Affairs Party. President Klaus also reportedly asked the organizers to make sure he would not meet his successor as party chair, former prime minister Mirek Topolánek, at the event.
The Czech Environment Ministry has allowed manual felling of trees infested with bark beetle in the core zones of the Šumava National Park. Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa told reporters on Thursday that he had banned the use of biocides and aerial spraying over the park; any felled trees would also have to remain on the site. Logging will take place in some 12,800 hectares of the park’s most precious part; the minister said the area would be smaller than last year.
The decision came after the park’s new director, Jan Stráský, asked the ministry to allow massive logging in all parts of Šumava to prevent the spreading of the bark beetle. A number of experts believe Mr Stráský’s approach is wrong and several scientists had left the park’s expert council in protest.
The Ukrainian air carrier AeroSvit launched on Thursday regular weekly fights between the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary and the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. There will be two flights a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, the company’s head of European operations, Václav Král said. The new connection will primarily cater to tourist coming to Karlovy Vary and other west Bohemian spas. Mr Král said flights in May and the following months were booked up to 50 percent. An official from the Karlovy Vary regional administration said the weekly flights should boost the region’s links with Ukraine; the Karlovy Vary airport also offers directs flights to St. Petersburg, Moscow and Yekaterinburg.
The Czech Olympic Committee approved at its session in Prague on Thursday national nomination criteria for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. The committee hopes that between 130 and 180 Czech athletes will compete at the quadrennial sporting event. The deputy chair of the Olympic Committee, František Dvořák, said if the men’s national football team and women’s national basketball team qualify for the games, the number of Czech athletes taking part in the Olympics would be the highest in history. Czech sporting associations will hand in their final nominations in June, 2012, less than two months before the start of the London Olympics.
The head of the Czech football association, Ivan Hašek on Wednesday launched an appeal to try to save the storied but debt-stricken football club Slavia Prague. Slavia, the league champions in 2008 and 2009, face losing their operating licence over debts of 112 million crowns to their former owner, the British company ENIC. Mr Hašek said it had been decided to invite the owners of Slavia to proceed together with the Czech FA to try and save the cash-strapped club. He said the situation was very serious adding that he, like the broader public, was in the dark over who the current owners are. Slavia have had an average season this year and are mid-table. The team’s players have not received wages since the start of the year. Salaries owed are believed to be in the region of 10 million crowns.
The current sunny spell should continue until the Easter weekend. Daytime highs will range between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius.