Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky gave up his cabinet post on Monday to become a judge at the Constitutional Court. Mr Rychetsky's resignation had been widely expected after he won the president's nomination and Senate approval to fill one of the vacant seats at the country's top court. Under Czech law, no cabinet member can assume the job. The president is expected to formally name three new judges, including Mr Rychetsky at Lany Chateau on Wednesday. Mr Rychetsy's position could remain vacant for weeks while Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who temporarily takes over the justice portfolio, looks for a successor. Mr Rychetsky, a fifty-nine year old former lawyer and dissident, has been in top Czech politics since the fall of Communism in 1989.
The Czech wheat harvest will fall by nearly one third this year because drought in the past weeks affected winter-battered crops and cut grain yields, an official prediction showed on Monday. The Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU) cut its wheat harvest prediction by five percent from June. It predicts Czech farmers would likely harvest 2.7 million tonnes of winter and spring wheat, down from 3.9 million in 2002. Czech crops were damaged by a severe winter, which forced farmers to plough in thousands of hectares of winter grains in the spring. A severe dry spell in Europe in the past weeks made a further dent in yields. The poor harvest is expected to meet domestic consumption but leave no surplus for exports. The CSU also cut its basic grain harvest forecast by five percent from June to 5.3 million tonnes. This is a 13 percent drop from last year and the poorest harvest in nearly 30 years.
The NATO command team, which is expected to take over control of ISAF forces in Afghanistan from Germany and the Netherlands on August 11, will have four Czech members. According to Czech deputy chief of staff Jaroslav Kolkus, the Czech Army is also preparing several more commanders, should they be asked to join the team. During a trip to Prague on Monday, the deputy chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, General Peter Pace, said that the role of Czech troops in international operations such as in Bosnia, Kosovo, as well as Afghanistan, was indispensable. General Pace also discussed cooperation with NATO, the planned reform of the Czech Army and the involvement of Czech soldiers in peace-keeping operations.
The Czech Republic may run for elected membership of the UN Security Council in 2008-2009. The foreign ministry is working on a proposal, which is to be submitted to the government and discussed by the cabinet after its summer break. According to Jan Michal from the foreign ministry's UN department, two other unnamed Eastern European countries are planning to apply for UN Security Council membership. The Council has fifteen members - five permanent members and ten elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The Czech Republic has only been an elected member once - in 1994 and 1995.
A seasonal increase in holiday prices is expected to have fuelled Czech consumer inflation in July, but overall price growth remained well under control, a Reuters poll showed on Monday. The poll of 12 analysts predicted consumer prices would grow an average 0.2 percent month-on-month. Analysts said the expected falls in food and transport prices probably failed to offset higher holiday costs. That monthly rise would cause the year-on-year inflation rate to remain unchanged, after June's 0.3 percent increase, the first growth after five months of declines, the poll showed. The slowdown in year-on-year price growth would come as a result of a higher statistical base for comparison from last year when the Czech government allowed regulated housing rents to rise, analysts said. The Czech Statistical Bureau is scheduled to release July inflation data on Friday. Financial markets will be scrutinising the report for clues as to whether Czech interest rates have bottomed out after last week's quarter point cut in the key two-week repo rate to a new low of 2.0 percent.
Police say they believe to have arrested a man who stole a tram in the west Bohemian town of Plzen on Friday. The twenty-one year old man jumped onto the empty tram when the driver went outside to get some fresh air and set off for a joy-ride. After five stops, he got off and ran away. According to a police spokesperson, the man had borrowed the tram because he loved to drive them and was rejected by the Transport Authority, where he had recently applied for a job. He can face up to two years in prison or ordered to pay a heavy fine.
Tuesday is expected to be just as hot as the past week with temperatures reaching a maximum of 33 degrees Celsius.
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