The leaders of the three-party, right-of-center government coalition are resuming talks on Thursday afternoon. On the agenda is the signing of an amended coalition agreement as well as personnel questions. The junior coalition member Public Affairs have made it clear that they insist on changes to the coalition agreement as well as four posts in the cabinet if they are to continue supporting the coalition. While party leader Radek John was optimistic ahead of talks, other members of the party were hesitant to comment on the likely results. The new round of talks is meant to resolve ongoing disputes over personnel questions and policy issues within the government coalition, which was brought to the brink of collapse by a corruption scandal in April.
President Václav Klaus met with Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Thursday to discuss the minister’s foreign policy plan. The president criticized several points, most of them focusing on EU issues. The two also discussed Mr. Schwarzenberg’s recent visit to Libya, as well as the Czech Republic’s presidency of the Visegrad group.
Mr. Schwarzenberg’s foreign policy plan, which should specify Czech foreign policy and diplomacy issues, was also criticized by Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra, who said that several points, among them the current crisis in Greece, were not addressed in the plan. Mr. Klaus has demanded that the Czech Republic be exempted from the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, a point which he says needs to be added to the plan. However, the Social Democrats, who hold a majority in the Senate, oppose this step, which may complicate the approval process of the foreign policy plan.
According to the daily Právo, Public Affairs’ election campaign manager Pavel Dobeš may take the post of transport minister following Radek Šmerda’s resignation. Deputy transport minister Lukáš Hampel, who joined the party a month ago, will not be taking the job, the daily writes on Thursday. Mr. Dobeš, who is 28 years old, took over the election campaign portfolio from the party’s de-facto leader Vít Barta.
In related news, transport Minister Radek Šmerda announced on Thursday that he was going to resign from his post by July 1. Mr. Šmerda announced his decision after meeting with Prime Minister Petr Nečas. The Public Affairs party has been pushing for the position of transport minister to be filled by one of its members; Mr. Šmerda is without party affiliation. Along with other personnel demands and an amendment to the coalition agreement, regaining the post of transport minister was one of the conditions posed by Public Affairs for its continued support of the government coalition. Prior to Mr. Šmerda, the post had been occupied by the de-facto leader of the Public Affairs party, Vít Barta, who was forced to resign in the wake of a corruption scandal.
The chairman of junior coalition member Public Affairs Radek John announced that his party will remain in the government coalition. An amendment to the coalition agreement will be signed in the afternoon, when the leaders of the three parties of the right-of-center government meet for talks. Mr. John added that his party will be given four posts in the cabinet and are hoping to secure the post of finance minister. Coalition partner TOP 09 said they welcomed the party’s decision to remain in the government coalition.
In April, a corruption scandal within the Public Affairs party brought the government to the brink of collapse and lead to the resignation of transport minister Vít Barta.
Trade unions are planning a happening in protest of planned reforms in the health sector to take place July 12. On that day, Parliament is set to discuss the new legislation, under which some patient fees would be increased. The happening is meant draw attention to the serious implications of changes in the health sector using humour. According to the leaders of the trade unions’ umbrella organization ČMKOS, some elements of the new legislation may be against the constitution; should it be approved, unions are prepared to take it to the Constitutional Court.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved another three healthcare reform bills. If passed by Parliament and signed into law by the president, the legislation will change the rules for assisted reproduction, sterilization, and castration; it will also overhaul the emergency rescue system and its funding, as well as rules governing the handling of patients’ records. The bills are part of a broader healthcare reform that, among other things, introduces standard healthcare covered by public insurance and extra care paid for by the patients themselves. The bulk of the reform bills were approved by the lower house last week.
The national anti-drugs office (NPC) in collaboration with Prague police on Monday arrested a group of six suspected of cocaine distribution. Police caught the suspects in the act of selling 100 grams of cocaine, another 680 were found at house searches following the arrest. The confiscated drugs have a retail value of nearly one million Czech crowns. Should they be convicted of the charge, the suspects face prison sentences between eight and twelve years.
Czech arms producer Česká zbrojovka is close to finalizing a 1.2 billion crown, or over 71 million US dollar, deal to sell some 20,000 pistols, submachine guns and assault rifles to the police force of an Arab country, the daily Hospodařské noviny reported on Monday. The report said the country of destination could most likely be Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Kuwait, the paper said. The company’s CEO, Lubomír Kovařík, told the paper the firm was in the “final stages” of striking a deal with an important client. The daily reported the arms deal involves some 10,000 modernized pistols ČZ 75, the CZ Scorpio EVO 3 submachine guns and CZ Bren 805 assault rifles.
Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová has advanced to the women’s final at Wimbledon. It took all three sets to determine the winner: Kvitová won the first set handily 6:1, but Azarenka answered in the second, 3:6. Kvitová then jumped to an early 3:0 lead in the 3rd and broke Azarenka’s serve twice to close out the set 6:2. Azarenka double-faulted on the final point, deciding the winner. In all, the semi-final lasted 1 hour and 44 minutes.
On Saturday Kvitová will face either Maria Sharapova of Russia or German wild card Sabine Lisicki. The final will be her first in a Grand Slam and she becomes the first Czech female player in the Wimbledon final since Jana Novotná, who won the title in 1998.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has issued a storm warning for the north-eastern part of the country. Precipitation of up to 100 milimeters is expected to hit the Beskydy mountains, some smaller streams may flood. The storms are supposed to hit the region late on Thursday and continue throughout the night.
The next few days will be mostly overcast with rain and storms. Daytime highs should range between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius.