News

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Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman warns against a grand coalition

Former Prime Minister and one-time leader of the Social Democrats, Milos Zeman, has warned against the possibility of creating a grand coalition following the June elections. Speaking at the Social Democratic congress over the weekend, Zeman said that the Social Democrats should avoid a so-called opposition agreement with the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, and should instead opt for a minority Social Democratic government. Former Prime Minister Zeman speaks with a degree of experience, because following the 1998 elections he formed a government based on an opposition agreement made with the Civic Democratic Party.

Milos Zeman has also declared his support for the current Social Democratic Party leader, Jiri Paroubek, stating that he has the life experience and maturity that have sometimes been lacking in the past.

Green Party leader asked to explain his property dealings and finances

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has suggested that the leader of the Green Party, Martin Bursik, has some explaining to do regarding his personal property and the financing of the Green Party's election campaign, and that as a result, the Social Democrats would find it difficult to negotiate with Bursik following the elections. However, Paroubek stated that his party will not disregard cooperation with other Green Party members. Martin Bursik has reacted by saying that his finances are in order, and that if Paroubek has some personal problem with him, it should be clear that Green Party members chose him as a leader, and possible coalition negotiations can not take place with other figures inside the Green Party. Martin Bursik is facing accusations that he purchased property in Prague for ten times less than its estimated market value, a charge Bursik denies. The Green Party is expected to play a key role if the upcoming elections result in the need to form a coalition government.

Meanwhile, some members of the Green Party have publicized a letter criticizing internal communications within their party. These critics have also asked that all financial support for the Greens be clarified and publicized. The seventeen signatories insist that their letter does not mean that the Green Party suffers from internal divisions, and they have publicly stated their support for Martin Bursik. Among the critics are the Greens' Pardubice candidate Pavel Krivak, and the journalist Petr Uhl.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek elected leader of Social Democrats

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has been elected chairman of the Social Democratic Party at a special congress held over the weekend. 479 of 521 party members, or ninety-two percent of the party delegates voted for Paroubek to replace Bohuslav Sobotka, who was the Social Democratic Party's provisional chairman after the resignation of former Prime Minister Stanislav Gross last year. Jiri Paroubek admitted that his election is in large part a public declaration of the Social Democratic Party's unity before the upcoming elections. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek declared that his immediate goal now is to win the June elections and prevent a possible coalition of Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Green Party.

Social Democratic Party delegates also voted for Zdenek Skromach to be the new vice-chairman of the party. Eighty-nine percent of delegates voted for Skromach, who ran with the support of Prime Minister Paroubek and was the only candidate for the position of vice-chairman.

Czech Republic wants into the Schengen zone in 2007

Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has said that the Czech Republic wants to join the Schengen Zone in October 2007. Yet, according to Svoboda this time-line will depend much on the preparations of neighbouring countries because the Czech Republic does not face the problem of securing a new Schengen border, as does Poland in relation to Belarus and the Slovak Republic in relation to Ukraine. The Czech Republic will have to adapt the Prague-Ruzyne international airport, which will require implementing a new computer system—the SIS II information system—which allows for the quick exchange of information between border crossings. Czech passports will also need to contain biometric data. Membership in the Schengen zone allows for the free movement of people; currently thirteen EU countries belong to the Schengen agreement, which excludes the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Czech Airlines provides the best on-board service

The International Air Transport Association, IATA, has declared the Czech national carrier, CSA, the best European provider of on-board service to both its economy-class and first-class passengers. The results come from a survey in which 12 000 passengers travelling with eleven of Europe's most popular carriers placed Czech Airlines first, followed by the Hungarian carrier Malev, Finn Air, Austrian Airlines, and the Polish carrier, Lot. The President of CSA, Radomir Lasak, said that the survey confirmed that CSA's strongpoint rests with the high degree of professional on-board service, and the quality of refreshments served in-flight. Czech Airlines currently operates 50 planes and in 2005 the airline transported a record 5.2 million passengers.

Demonstration held in front of the Iranian embassy

Some twenty people gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in Prague on Sunday to express their support for Israel. They read from a letter written in English and addressed to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has attacked Israel in his speeches.

Robin Vik wins Prague Open

Czech tennis star Robin Vik has won the men's final of the Prague Open. Vik defeated his co-national, Jan Hajek, in two sets 6:4, 7:6. Twenty-six year old Robin Vik is the fourth Czech to win the Prague Open in its six year history, and he wins a prize of $14 400 USD.

Hasan Mubarak Sami wins Prague marathon

Hasan Mubarak Sami, a Qatar national, has won the 12th annual Prague Marathon. Sami beat the expected favourites from Kenya with a time of 2:11:11. Today's victory was Sami's third of his marathon career. In the women's race, Alina Ivanovova of Russia came first with a time of 2:29:20; Ivanovova also won the women's race of the Prague Marathon in 2000.

Weather

Rain showers are expected throughout Bohemia and Moravia early in the week, and daytime highs will reach 17 degrees.