News

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President appoints new government

President Vaclav Klaus has appointed a new 15-member minority government led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. In the government nine are members of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic party while six are unaffiliated. The new cabinet will have thirty days now to ask for a vote of confidence in the lower house, a vote many observers think the new cabinet is unlikely to pass. If it fails, it must step down. Earlier, the new prime minister made clear that he expects the cabinet to be provisional and to lead the country to early elections next year. Other issues high on the agenda will be preparing next year's state budget as well as focusing on the Czech presidency of the European Union in 2009.

The Civic Democrats were members of the opposition since 1997. Following the June elections which they won, they tried but failed to form a coalition government including the Christian Democrats and the Greens - one mandate short of a majority.

Cabinet meets for first time

The new cabinet met for the first time on Monday afternoon to outline priorities. Earlier, a number of incoming ministers discussed future plans. The new Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Petr Necas has said work on pension reform should begin and that changes should be implemented within the welfare system in order to motivate individuals to actively seek employment. New Minister for Regional Development Petr Gandalovic is planning to change the system of drawing money from EU funds. Mr Gandalovic says the Czech Republic needs to speed up the drawing for the years 2004-2006 or risk having to return money to Brussels.

On Monday, Prime Minister Topolanek confirmed that his government would ask for a vote of confidence on October 4th. Thus far he has shrugged off speculation over the government's chances.

Mlada Fronta: New PM to go to Slovakia on his first foreign visit

According to the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Topolanek's first foreign visit will be to neighbouring Slovakia this Wednesday. According to the report, Mr Topolanek's visit will be unofficial, but he is to meet Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico - that, following the two countries' football match-up in a qualifier for the 2008 European championship. Mr Topolanek told the paper the visit would be a short one.

One day earlier, newly-named Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra will also visit Slovakia to take part in a meeting of the Visegrad Four, made-up of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

Paroubek outlines Social Democrats' position on US base

On his final day before stepping down as prime minister, Jiri Paroubek met with US Ambassador William Cabanniss to give his view on the possibility of a US missile defence base being built in the Czech Republic. Mr Paroubek reportedly told the ambassador the Social Democratic party was against the idea. But, the base has approval from the country's new Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, as it did from his predecessor Christian Democrat Cyril Svoboda, who said that the US's interest in the Czech Republic proved that the country was a "trustworthy" ally. Mr Svoboda outlined as benefits not only the fact that the Czech Republic would benefit financially but that it itself would be protected in the anti-missile zone. The US reportedly would like to place radars and ten missiles in Europe by 2011, to intercept possible enemy missiles launched - for example - by North Korea or Iran.

Members of former government outline future plans

A number of prominent members in the former government have outlined future plans, with former prime minister and Social Democrat head Jiri Paroubek prepared to stay in politics, saying he expected Mr Topolanek's government to last just two months. Mr Paroubek has made clear that he would like a chance to form the next cabinet, should Mr Topolanek's fail.

Former Minister for Labour and Social Affairs and Social Democrat deputy chairman Zdenek Skromach has indicated he will devote time towards the Social Democrats' campaign in the upcoming Senate and municipal elections.

Former Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek - a Christian Democrat - meanwhile, is moving to head the country's largest environmental organisation in the Czech Republic. Cyril Svoboda, who stepped down as Foreign Minister has not revealed future plans other than a desire to study French.

Health unions warn of lack of money for social care

Health union representatives have stated publicly that they are six billion crowns short (roughly 274 million US dollars) in the state budget to be able to introduce a new system of social care that takes effect on January 1st. The chairman of the Health and Social Care Workers' Union stated on Monday if the necessary funds are not allotted there will be a danger the quality of health care in some institutions could worsen, or that some could lack funds for operation altogether. According to the new legislation on social services, patients will be able to directly receive money for services and decide on their own which services to pay for, as well as to choose whether they will be cared for by family, an assistant, or an institution.

Weather

Sunshine with a few cloudy periods are expected over the next few days with temperatures rising as high as 24 degrees Celsius.