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Czech report Czech report
by Euro Reporter
2011-04-14 08:29:48
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Czech president to be sent thousands of pens

Some say the pen is mightier than the sword. If true, Czech President Vaclav Klaus will soon be a very mighty man. More than 5,000 Czechs have signed up to a Facebook campaign to mail pens to the president after a video of him sheepishly pocketing a pen he took an obvious liking to during an official signing ceremony last week in Chile became widely popular on the Internet.

Klaus says it's customary for leaders to keep pens after signing accords. But the manner in which he sized up the pen - encrusted with semiprecious Chilean stones - and then sneakily slipped it into his pocket while he sat at a desk alongside Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has seen him ridiculed by some of his countrymen. "It seemed to me absolutely inappropriate to do anything like that during an official ceremony," said Vojtech Palous, a 23-year-old student of medicine from Prague.

"To do that in front of television cameras was just insane." Campaign participants are being asked to send to the presidential office pens, pencils or other writing means on May 2 because "Mr. President obviously has nothing to write with." Palous said it is likely his family will send the president a parcel with a collection of pens. "The campaign is great because so many people were able to say they disapprove with Klaus, and they can do it in a relatively funny way," Palous said. The Czech Foreign Ministry declined comment Wednesday when asked if they thought Klaus' huge YouTube exposure could harm the country's image.


Reshuffled gov't to agree on way of asking for confidence

The Czech coalition government will seek agreement on the way of asking the Chamber of Deputies for confidence after it is reshuffled, Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) told Frekvence 1 radio station Tuesday. He also said he already knows what to do about the offer of resignation that Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra (ODS) made on Monday. The government comprises the ODS, TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV). "As soon as the government line-up is adjusted, even if temporarily only, according to the proposal and opinion of the prime minister, coalition negotiations on an addendum to the coalition agreement can start," Necas said.

He demands that politicians of the junior government VV) who are linked with the ABL security agency leave the government. They are VV chairman and Interior Minister Radek John and Education Minister Josef Dobes. Transport Minister and the VV's informal leader Vit Barta resigned on Friday already. The negotiations that will follow the changes in the government will also focus on specifying some reform plans, Necas said. "We will certainly agree on the way in which the reconstructed government will ask for confidence in the Chamber of Deputies, which I see as a step that we must take," he said. Turning to Vondra, Necas said he is a good minister, but a matter from the previous election term has affected him.

"This means that I will make some decision, but I will not definitely be announcing it on Frekvence 1 Tuesday," Necas said. Vondra has come under pressure from the coalition partners over a dubious order for Promopro firm during the EU presidency in 2009 when he was deputy prime minister for European affairs. He was in charge of financial management of the presidency.


Prayers against extremism not an exercise of religious freedom

The Czech Interior Ministry says the action taken by police on Saturday in the town of Krupka against chaplains conducting people in prayer was in order. The worshipers had travelled to Krupka to support local Roma residents there. Their aim was to prevent a march convened by the extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) from passing through a housing estate predominantly inhabited by Roma people. The organizers of the prayer assembly reject the Interior Ministry's claims and are preparing to file a constitutional complaint and take other legal steps over the police intervention against the religious service.

The ministry believes the intervention was performed in accordance with the law. One participant in the prayer meeting allegedly behaved aggressively toward the intervening police officers. According to the ministry's press release on the incident, officers were not intervening against a religious assembly, but against a counter-demonstration blocking the announced DSSS march. "If an allegedly religious assembly is a counter-demonstration against certain political opinions, it is not an exercise of religious freedom. Such a church assembly is just an ordinary, unannounced assembly and must be handled as such," the ministry claims in its press release.

Evžen Martínek of the "We Don't Want Neo-Nazis in Ústí" Initiative (Iniciativa V Ústí neonacisty nechceme) disagrees with this analysis and is preparing a constitutional complaint to address the problem. He is also considering a lawsuit against the police for causing harm to several participants in the religious assembly. Police are rejecting claims that they gave protection to the right-wing extremists. After the demonstration ended, police arrested a man from Slovakia and a court sentenced him to a six-month suspended sentence and two years' probation yesterday. In the speech he gave at the DSSS assembly he incited hatred against a particular ethnic group. The court also confiscated objects with Nazi symbols on them from him which he had with him during the event.


Czech president calls talks on government's fate

Czech President Vaclav Klaus called leaders of the ruling coalition for "crucial" talks on Thursday to discuss the future of the centre-right government. Klaus said public trust in the government and the political class was badly damaged after allegations of corruption. The announcement came while leaders of the three-party coalition, which won investor confidence with plans to slash the budget deficit, were meeting on Wednesday night to try to find a way out of the crisis.

"As the president, I can no longer passively watch the attempts at the breakdown of Czech politics," Klaus said. "Therefore I have decided to invite the chairmen of the three coalition parties to the Prague Castle tomorrow morning for crucial political talks on how to go ahead, and whether to go ahead in this formation," he told reporters. Allegations of corruption and improper relations between businessmen and politics have been a mainstay on the central European country's political scene for years, but no high-profile cases have led to convictions by courts. Markets have so far largely ignored tensions in the country which has suffered no big investor pressure and has state debt at less than half of the EU average.

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