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New feature: weekly news round-up

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The best way to gain an overview of the latest Czech news is to read the Monitor’s daily Breakfast Brief.

Starting next Friday, we’re also launching a news round-up column that summarizes the biggest events of the week. So if you’ve been away for a couple of days or haven’t had time to follow daily news, you’ll be able to get quickly caught up on what’s happening in this country.

Here’s this week’s summary, written by the Monitor’s Petra Pokorná:

>> Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s cabinet lost a no-confidence vote on Tuesday as four coalition MPs voted with the opposition and gained the needed 101 votes out of 197 to topple the government. As sun, rain and snow took turns randomly outdoors, expletives were hurled back and forth during the parliamentary debate in the lower house. More than 2.5 million people were watching the debate on Czech Television. President Václav Klaus has again become the key figure in Czech political turmoil – besides Prague Mayor Pavel Bém and ODS deputy Vlastimil Tlustý, Klaus is responsible for the collapse of the cabinet, according to Topolánek. What’s more, Klaus will be the one choosing the politician who forms the new government. Klaus accepted the cabinet’s resignation from Topolánek on Thursday, saying he wants a new cabinet to be formed quickly. ODS is against a caretaker government. ČSSD and 13.3% of people polled by Median think a caretaker cabinet should govern the country till early elections take place in autumn or next spring. Patria Finance said Tuesday the collapse of the cabinet would not likely have much effect on financial markets. The crown weakened slightly on Wednesday, while the Prague Stock Exchange’s main PX index reached a two-month high. Two thirds of companies fear a possible Paroubek-led cabinet, a Chamber of Commerce poll among 2,000 companies revealed on Thursday.

>> Being the only candidate for the post of ČSSD chairman, Jiří Paroubek easily defended his chairmanship by gaining 74% of votes at the party congress, which took place on the first day of spring. President Václav Klaus, until recently honorary chairman of the ODS , became the first head of state to attend a Social Democratic party congress since 1989. During his eight-minute speech, the crowd of Social Democrats applauded him eight times, and the president received a bouquet of orange roses afterward. Klaus called on all parties to be more responsible.

>> The citizens of Prague are becoming more peaceful. Crime in the capital city in the first two months of 2009 declined by 15% compared to the same period last year. There were 434 murders, burglaries, blackmail and other crimes involving violence committed in Prague. Police from the Hradec Králové region has also recently recorded success in fighting violent crime. It arrested a 17-year-old student from Nový Bydžov who was allegedly planning a bomb attack at his school, Czech press reported Wednesday. And speaking of crime, artist David Černý did not commit fraud with his controversial Entropa by presenting it as a work of 27 European artists while he was the sole creator, two law firms hired by the Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said.

>> Experts and some politicians expressed disappointment when they found out that only four bidders applied for the privatisation of Czech Airlines (ČSA) by Monday deadline – Unimex-Travel Service consortium, Air France-KLM, Darofan from the Aeroflot group, and Odien AV III will compete for a 91.51% stake in the company. The privatisation of ČSA, Prague Airport and of other projects might be blocked by the ČSSD given the current political situation.

>> Despite the economic crisis, Czechs are still buying beer. Beer consumption in 2008 only fell by 1.3% to 16.1 million hectolitres compared to 2007 which saw record beer sales. Ostravar of Staropramen breweries presented a new brand of semi-dark beer called Bazal designed in part for Baník Ostrava football fans.

>>Topolánek did not remain in Klaus’s shadow this week. Topolánek’s name entered all global media on Wednesday when he called Obama’s plan aimed at boosting the US economy “a road to hell”. “From what I can tell, the speaker has some domestic political problems that might speak more to what he was talking about,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said dismissing Topolánek’s remark. ČSSD deputy and Central Bohemia Regional Governor David Rath chose a different way to address the US president. He wrote a letter to Barack Obama discouraging him from stationing the planned anti-missile base in Brdy. He argued that Brdy is a natural reserve and enclosed a book of photographs called Brdy poetické (Poetic Brdy) as a present for the American president. In preparation for the US presdient’s visit, many Czechs want to pass along gifts and letters to Obama during his visit to Prague next weekend, the Czech News Agency reported on Wednesday. The US Embassy recommended that people post gifts directly to the White House.

Like what you’ve read? Have tips how to make this feature better? Let us know!

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