News

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Klaus presidency bid wins unanimous support from Civic Democrat MPs

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek opened the Civic Democrats’ conference on Saturday morning by announcing that all of the party’s deputies and senators had pledged their support for Vaclav Klaus in next year’s presidential elections. Mr Klaus, the current president, who is seeking a second term in office, responded to the unanimous support of his party by saying that this proved that he had fulfilled the mandate he was set for his first term in office. Mr Klaus is currently the only candidate for next year’s presidential elections, but it is thought that economist Jan Svejnar may well run against him, should he gain enough support from other political parties. The ruling Civic Democrats have a total of 122 representatives in the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. To win the presidential election, Mr Klaus would need the vote of all of these representatives, as well as 19 other MPs.

Topolanek addresses party conference: warns against in-party bickering

Prime minister and head of the senior ruling Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, addressed his party at its conference on Saturday, warning that in-party bickering could seriously undermine the government. In a 30 minute speech, the prime minister told his party that he was 90% happy with the way that the governing coalition was operating, and with the work of his cabinet, but added that future success and victory at the next elections could be jeopardised by in-party fighting and egotism. He criticised those in the party who, he said, only made themselves heard when they were unhappy with some party policy. Mr Topolanek told Civic Democrats that their government remained ‘strong’, and that the party had managed to push through all of the laws and reforms which it had proposed so far in parliament. Also in his speech, the prime minister told MPs that there could no cooperation with Communist Party politicians, even, he said, at a local level.

PM says he was weak to accept EU treaty

In contrast to what he called a ‘strong’ Civic Democratic government, Mr Topolanek said that he had been ‘too weak’ to prevent the adoption of the EU reform treaty, which grants the European Union some powers which previously belonged to its individual member states. Mr Topolanek said that he knew he had not acted in accordance with the Civic Democrats’ 2006 manifesto when he voted for the reforms. But, he added, vetoing the treaty would have isolated the Czech Republic in Europe, which he was not prepared to do. Deputy PM for European Affairs Alexander Vondra insisted that the Czech delegation had succeeded in watering down the final version of the treaty, which it went on to approve. He added that the EU treaty, in its final form, was acceptable and in harmony with the policies of the Civic Democrats.

Conservative leader Cameron guest at Civic Democrat Conference

Leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron, also made an appearance on Saturday at the Civic Democrats’ party conference. According to the Civic Democrats’ website, Mr Cameron came to Prague to speak about the values that his party shared with the Czech Civic Democrats. In particular, Mr Cameron wanted to discuss the European Union, and the Movement for European Reform, to which both the British Conservatives and Civic Democrats belong. Mr Cameron is not the first Conservative leader to address a Civic Democrat party conference. In 2005, Mr Cameron’s predecessor, Michael Howard, delivered a speech at the party’s annual conference.

One-third of voters disappointed by Topolanek

Meanwhile, in a poll conducted by the Median agency for Mlada Fronta, one third of voters said that Mr Topolanek had proved a ‘disappointing’ prime minister so far. Nearly 45% of those polled said that Mr Topolanek did not fit the post of PM. Over half of those asked said that it was his rudeness and vulgarity that had let them down the most. Just under 47% of those polled said that they thought Mr Topolanek was unable to solve problems, while a fifth of respondents were unhappy with the way Mr Topolanek led his private life. But the news wasn’t all bad – 55% percent of those polled said that Mr Topolanek had proved a better head of government than the former prime minister and current head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek.

Police sued over clampdown on neo-Nazi rally

Police involved in the clampdown on a neo-Nazi rally in Prague city centre a fortnight ago are to face legal action. Prague lawyer Klara Slamova has lodged a criminal complaint against the police force which detained several hundred neo-Nazis on their way to a protest in the city’s Jewish quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a Nazi pogrom. Mrs Slamova has also brought charges against Prague Mayor Pavel Bem and his deputy Rudolf Blazek. She maintains that city councillors abused their power when they banned the neo-Nazi march, and that police curtailed protestors’ personal freedom when they clamped down on the rally. The protest took place on November 10th, and led to nearly 400 arrests – both far-right extremists and anarchists were detained.

French painting fails to woo Czech buyers at Saturday sale

A painting by the French artist Maurice de Vlaminck sold at auction in Prague on Saturday for 5.3 million CZK (279,000 USD). Experts had estimated the price of the painting, which dates from 1914, at 7 million CZK. According to the head of the auction house, Marie Galova, the Czech fine art market has a ‘very local character’, and thus buyers show interest primarily in Czech works of art. She said the Vlaminck painting was an exceptional offer aimed to test whether Czech would be willing to shell out for a top-quality work by a foreign painter. As it is, Vlaminck’s painting has become the 13th most expensive work of art to be sold at a Czech auction. Only one foreign painting features in the list of the ten most expensive paintings to be sold at auction in the Czech Republic. That work is by Russian artist Ivan Shishkin, and titled At the Mirror. It sold in 2006 for 7.5 million CZK.

Plans for hundreds of thousands of solar panels in southern Moravia

Plans have been unveiled to install hundreds of thousands of solar panels in Southern Moravia. The firm Energy 21 is looking to construct several power stations in the region, which would be fuelled by solar power alone. It is thought that the power stations’ combined output could be up to 30 megawatts, which would provide several thousand homes with power. The firm already has one such power station in the region which currently provides around 300 households with electricity. The plans are still awaiting approval, and Energy 21 is yet to provide all the details of the project. The south of Moravia has been chosen for the project as this is the part of the Czech Republic which receives the most sun annually. Meteorologists say that Southern Moravia receives on average 10% more sun than Northern Bohemia and Silesia.

Sport: Baros demands place in Lyon first eleven or move from club

Czech striker Milan Baros is considering a move away from his club Lyon, unhappy with spending too many games on the bench. His agent, Pavel Paska, told the Czech daily Sport on Saturday that Baros would decided whether to stay on at Lyon in the course of the next 14 days. Baros, who was the top scorer in the Euro 2004 championship, last played in Lyon’s first team on the 2nd October. According to his agent, the French Champions are unwilling to let Baros go, and may well try and block any move away from the club. Mr Paska added that the situation could be resolved by freeing up a place for Baros in the team’s first eleven. Milan Baros is worried that without more time on the pitch, he will go into next year’s Euro 2008 championship underprepared.

The troubled striker has been making news most recently for exploits off the pitch. He faces a hefty fine and driving ban having being caught speeding by the French police at the beginning of November. Mr Baros was driving his Ferrari at over 270 km/h, which police later said was a regional speed record.

Skier Lukas Bauer opens season with second-place in Norway

Czech cross-country skier Lukas Bauer has started his season by coming second in the 15k event at Beitostolen in Norway. The race is the first in this winter’s cross-country World Cup. Olympic silver-medallist Bauer came second only to German Alex Teichmann, whom he finished 6.3 seconds behind. Bauer, who spent a large portion of last season battling with injury, said that he was ‘extremely pleasantly surprised’ by the result.

Weather

The weekend is set to be rainy and overcast, with temperatures ranging between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.